This is how Nick Diaz sees the world.
After beating B.J. Penn so badly on Saturday night at UFC 137 that Penn announced his retirement in the cage when it was over, Diaz said he was unhappy with his performance.
In a bout where he battered Penn with his accurate striking and outdistanced him with his limitless cardio, Diaz claimed his timing was off. In a contest where his game plan worked to perfection, he said he didn’t fight smart.
Training hadn’t gone well, Diaz said. He didn’t have enough money to pay the professional boxers he typically likes to spar with and he’d squabbled with his team throughout camp. Nobody wanted to help him prepare for Penn, because he couldn’t compensate them properly; people were too intimidated to train with him and, besides, they didn't want to come to Stockton, anyway.
At the postfight media conference, when a reporter tried to ask him if he could take any joy at all in this win Diaz cut him off mid-sentence to say: “No.”
It meant nothing to him, Diaz repeated again and again, because he wasn’t supposed to fight Penn in the first place. He was supposed to fight Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight title. That’s the fight he wanted, and so there was no glory in beating Penn, a guy who he'd looked up to and considered something of a friend.
If not totally unexpected, this was still an odd scene to witness. Here was Diaz just an hour or so after arguably the biggest win of his career, sitting up there on the podium stewing, claiming things hadn't gone his way and responding to every question as if everyone were out to get him.
It was sad, really. Just once you'd like to see Diaz gain the perspective necessary to see himself as the world sees him. Then he'd know that people view him as one of the most naturally gifted athletes in the sport, a charismatic guy and a person who seems genuinely likable in the rare instances when he bothers to reveal himself to us. He might even realize that the thing the world wants most is simply for him to be happy with his own success.
Unfortunately, it appears that will never happen.
Even when Dana White finally made his big announcement -- the one he’d been teasing since the start of the media conference -- confirming that Diaz’s victory over Penn had effectively leapfrogged him over Carlos Condit and back into a title match with St. Pierre, it only seemed to make Diaz angrier.
“See how I gotta come off just to get a fight?” he said, throwing up his hands. “I gotta be the bad guy, so you can point the finger and make me the bad guy. Now I’m the bad guy, now I get the fight.”
That unshakable bad attitude is one of the reasons Diaz is as much loved by his supporters as he is disliked by those who see him as disrespectful and thuggish. If popular opinion is split about him however, Diaz doesn’t appear to realize it, or even care.
His reaction to the news that he's once again the welterweight No. 1 contender perfectly encapsulated why a lot of fans love Diaz, why he’s simultaneously a promoter’s dream and nightmare and why he’s one of the most fascinating and frustrating stars in MMA. Even at the exact second the entire sport was bending over backward to please him, Diaz refused to see it. The instant he’d been granted the very thing that he wanted, it was as if he forgot he wanted it in the first place.
Now that he finally had the fight, everybody just wanted to see him lose, Diaz said. He was just the bad guy, the guy everyone wanted to see get beat up by the UFC's golden boy.
“The only reason why I’m getting this fight is because everybody wants to see me take an a-- whipping right about now,” Diaz said. “So alright, I’m ready, I’ll take my a-- whipping. I already worked for it. I’ll take my a-- whipping, I’ll take my money and I’ll go home.”
Another reporter tried to tell Diaz this wasn’t true, that there were plenty of people out there who cheered for him and who would probably like to see him upset St. Pierre for the 170-pound title.
“I see it as, people think it’s going to be a great fight ...,” she said. “I feel like maybe you’re misunderstanding that you do have a great fanbase that actually wants to see you excel, not see you fail.”
“I agree,” White chimed in.
Diaz made no response. He just sat there in silence for six full seconds, staring at them.
And the world stared back at him.