Just what UFC 137 needed, more drama …
You might have assumed the UFC’s Oct. 29 event in Las Vegas had already filled its quota for tomfoolery after Nick Diaz’s antics got him bounced out of a fight against Georges St. Pierre and into one with B.J. Penn last week; especially after longtime scribe Dave Meltzer cited anonymous sources on Thursday telling his Wrestling Observer newsletter that Diaz was also considering withdrawing from his consolation fight against Penn as recently as Monday.
Unfortunately, the theatrics were not quite finished.
Witness Penn and the UFC swapping allegedly incriminating Internet videos these past few days, with first Penn, then the company president, then Penn again releasing short clips of the former multi-divisional champ either saying or not saying bad things about Diaz at the behest of UFC interviewers. Or, not at their behest. Depending on your point of view.
It started this week when Penn posted a YouTube video of himself sitting shirtless by a hot tub, telling a reporter from Shoot Media that representatives from the fight company had pressured him to bury Diaz during filming for an upcoming “Countdown” special. Penn said he was uncomfortable with the interview because he respects Diaz as a former training partner and didn’t want to trash him.
“It was crazy …,” Penn said. “At the end of the whole thing, they forced me to say, 'You gotta say Nick Diaz's name now, you gotta say his name.' And I was like, 'What?' They were like, 'Say you're gonna beat Nick Diaz. Say you're going to beat Nick Diaz.' And I said, 'I'm going to beat Nick Diaz.’ I wish, if I was really being more smart, I would have said, ‘At UFC 137 my hand will be raised ...’
“At the end of the day,” Penn added moments later, “we’ve got to fight. I have to do a fight at UFC 137 and I just don’t want it to be built up off BS.”
While we still don’t know exactly why those particular words bothered Penn so much (as a professional MMA fighter he does believe he’s going to beat Diaz, right?), hackles were clearly raised in the front office. UFC President Dana White quickly released his own video to the popular MMA Underground forum, showing “uncut” outtakes from Penn’s “Countdown” segment where an off-camera interviewer simply asks him to include the date of the UFC 137 pay-per-view as he monotones, “On Oct. 29, I will defeat Nick Diaz.”
After dropping that fairly innocuous statement, Penn cracks a smile and asks someone off camera: “Did you guys need that to make sure he signs the contract?”
So yeah, that little jab seemed worse than the "forced" trash talk Penn was mad about in the first place.
As if those two video releases didn’t read like some sort of subtle joke about the way the MMA news cycle normally operates, Penn’s people put out a third video on Friday showing a different interview, from a different fight (reportedly against Kenny Florian) wherein a UFC interviewer (jokingly, maybe) tells him to: “Hype the fight ... tell me you’re going to beat the s--- out of [Florian] and then kill Anderson [Silva] right afterward.”
To this, Penn laughs, albeit uncomfortably. And yeah, it comes off a little weird, though any statement implying Penn should call out the UFC middleweight champion can’t really be taken seriously. Did Penn’s people successfully underscore their point that the UFC occasionally massages the way fighters state things in the name of "hyping" a fight? Sure, but the sometimes painfully scripted black-and-white interviews that routinely kick off UFC PPVs have made that clear for years.
So what did we accomplish here? Not a lot. The entire video exchange was so strange -- and in many ways typical -- that it’s hard to tell who is right and who is wrong, or what they’re really even arguing about. If nothing else, the true irony may be that, in Penn’s desire to avoid any “BS” in promoting his fight with Diaz, this fracas sort of just adds another layer.