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Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Why Nick Diaz' latest no-show is a big deal

By Brett Okamoto

Nick Diaz
Nick Diaz would much rather be doing this in the cage than handling promotional duties outside of it.
B.J. Penn showed up on time for the UFC 137 conference call Wednesday. Cheick Kongo and Matt Mitrione did, too.

Nick Diaz -- surprise! -- did not. For the first 45 minutes of the call, he was a very notable absence. When asked, UFC officials admitted they were "trying to reach him" and had expected him to join on time.

The 28-year-old mixed martial artist did eventually make the call. In his defense, he said his phone was dead and he hadn't even known a call existed until just then.

So what? -- you ask. People pay to see Diaz fight, which he does incredibly well. They don’t pay to see him talk. Who cares if he misses a media conference call. Journalists, you say. And that’s it.

Well, in a way, you’re right. But then, you’re absolutely 100 percent wrong.

The sport of MMA, like it or not, requires fighters to promote unlike other sports. If you play for the Los Angeles Lakers or the New York Yankees, you still, as an employee of the organization, are obligated to such things -- commercial filmings, photo shoots, etc. -- but really, it’s not a significant part of the job as it is for fighters.

A conference call, like Wednesday’s -- and news conferences, like the two Diaz missed last month -- is designed by the UFC to build interest in its product. It’s provides exposure to a large body of media outlets in one quick hit.

To employ a fighter like Diaz, who routinely skips these things, is bad for UFC business. That’s why he was pulled from the main event last month and that’s why nearly missing Wednesday’s call is a big deal.

Now, why does this happen to Diaz specifically?

Ultimately, it’s because he just doesn’t understand these obligations are important. To him, fighting is enough. Promoting should be left to the UFC.

“I’m doing what I always do -- train,” Diaz said. “My job is to fight.

“I’m not sitting here by my phone, waiting for a [conference] call. I’m waiting to train. I’m trying to become the best in the world -- that’s what you’re dealing with, here. This is the whole world out there. Ain’t nobody can beat me.”

That attitude has built Diaz a very loyal following in MMA, but it will also hold him back from ever becoming as financially successful as he potentially could be.

According to Diaz, he relies on (pays others) to handle, completely, the business side of his career. Those people, he says, have obviously been letting him down.

“I have people who are supposed to take care of stuff,” he said. “I have a lawyer getting paid a ridiculous amount of money. I have all these business people around me trying to make deals that I don’t know anything about.

“For that much money, you’d think I’d have somebody standing around telling me, ‘Hey, you can’t miss this press conference. It will void the contract and you’ll be out.’ If I had read that s--- myself, I would have been a little more cautious. I probably would have showed up at that press conference.”

Listen to yourself, Nick. You’re giving yourself good advice. You’re a tremendous talent. Now grow up. Pay attention to the business side of your own career. Brock Lesnar hates giving interviews. Georges St. Pierre admitted last month he “despises” news conferences. But they do it -- to help the UFC brand and their own careers.

The funny thing is, Diaz is a great promoter in his own right. He’s refreshingly honest when you get him going and he has that air about him of, “I’m the best fighter in the world. I’ve put in the time and I deserve to say it.” Similar to the air of Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“I didn’t make any mistakes as far as training,” said Diaz, when asked if he regretted anything about the last two months. “I’ve been there putting in 100 percent. I’ve always thought that’s what important.”

It is important. But so is the other stuff.