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Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Diaz a complicated fighter

By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com

Whoever said that 80 percent of success is simply showing up was somewhere in the range of 100 percent right. If Nick Diaz shows up to the pre-UFC 137 press conferences, we’re all pleasantly bemused that he puffed out his chest at Georges St. Pierre right now, and he’s still scowling on the poster as the main event. At best, it would have been “same old Nick.” Just as likely, we’d have also already forgotten the whole thing by now.

Turns out he didn’t show up, and we’re still talking about it. This was an updated version of the “same old Nick.”

The biggest difference is that the choruses have changed a little bit to genuine concerns of psychiatric issues, neuroses, paranoia, phobias and social anxieties. Diaz has, at one point or another, exhibited all of these things. What he hasn’t and isn’t about to exhibit is anything close to regret, even after being yanked from his title shot against GSP. You only have to refer to John Morgan’s fascinating interview with him at MMA Junkie for evidence of this. The thing is, if he has any of the deeply rooted psychological problems people suspect he does, it hasn’t dawned on him yet.

And in a roundabout way, that’s the crux of his appeal.

Diaz’s actions are often so audacious -- from the the pot bust in the wake of Takanori Gomi to the Nashville brawl to the free-flying middle fingers that he transmits from the 209 -- that they border on innocent. There’s something compelling about a guy who doesn’t pay attention to the consequences of his actions, nor has any inkling to apologize for what might be perceived as irrational behavior. That’s one of the reasons we like to watch Diaz fight. He doesn’t always fight smart, nor stick to a game plan, nor balk at fighting straight into another fighter’s strengths. He’s predictably unpredictable. And that’s why some people are upset at not seeing him fight GSP, who is predictably predictable.

The same applies to him as a person. Forget about the reasons why (or how) it happened, but Diaz ultimately swapped places with Carlos Condit at UFC 137. It was a bizarre 24 hours for everybody. He loses out on two-thirds of his purse by not showing up to a couple of silly press conferences. Instead of fighting for the UFC welterweight belt, he’s fighting just to fight. Some people are calling that match-up more appealing than the Condit/GSP fight that is now for the title. It’s a lot to digest.

Yet, through all the dust he kicked up, Diaz is upset not so much at missing the chance at a belt or for skipping out on the presser (which he claimed to sort have not known about), but that GSP sat up there chuckling at him. In other words, Diaz took a small piece of the whole -- GSP’s reactionary comments in a strange, impromptu situation -- and took offense. That’s a far cry from what you might call contrition.

“I would have at least said, ‘I don’t agree with canceling my fight because of some dumbass [expletive],’” he said in the interview. “Instead, [St. Pierre] sat there and said, ‘He doesn’t have the commitment to be a champion.’ What is that? I obviously have the commitment to throw my life away. I’ve thrown my life away and sacrificed everything so that I can fight. I did that. I threw my life away so I could work hard and train and fight. That’s commitment.”

There’s no question he’s committed to fighting. Diaz has been fighting professionally since he was teenager. It’s more about his lack of commitment to conforming. Are some of his antics reprehensible? Maybe. But the real word we’re fishing for when talking about Diaz is incorrigible. We’re not going to change him. And that sort of has its own set of merits.