Photo via CombatLifestyle.com
We were asked in a FanPost here on Cageside Seats why we've neglected to cover the incredible situation surrounding Nick Diaz and his planned title shot at UFC 137 on Oct. 29 against Georges St. Pierre. The reason, at least partially, is that we'd like to keep the site centered mainly around pro wrestling, considering the many other SB Nation blogs that cover MMA. However, in the event that happenings in the combat world can be tied into pro wrestling, well, that's our milieu.
And that's exactly the case with the theatrical treatment UFC President Dana White gave to this entire ordeal with his recently signed bad boy, Nick Diaz. Let's give a rundown of the situation in chronological order of the sequence of events.
- Nick Diaz is unhappy with Strikeforce, where he is the welterweight champion, and begins talking about a move to boxing so he can make more money and fight whoever will get him paid.
- He finds potential suitors, including former super middleweight champion Jeff Lacy, who signed a contract to fight Diaz in late 2011 on May 6.
- Diaz's manager, Cesar Gracie, makes remarks on May 23 claiming an opportunity of a lifetime had come along and his pupil would forget about boxing and focus solely on MMA. This was in stark contrast to every comment Diaz had previously made before it.
- It's announced on May 31 that Diaz was signed to UFC and he would challenge Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight title at UFC 137 on Oct. 29 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- It's announced on July 16 that B.J. Penn will take on Carlos Condit in a veritable number one welterweight contender bout on the very same night as St. Pierre vs. Diaz.
- Fast forward all the way to Sept. 6 and Diaz no-shows a press conference in Toronto. Tensions build and a general unease sweeps over UFC executives that maybe it was a mistake to depend on a man who reportedly has social anxiety and ADHD to promote a mega-fight.
- The very next day, Sept. 7, Diaz no-shows yet another press conference, this one in Las Vegas. It's at this press conference that White announces he tried multiple times and booked multiple flights to get Diaz to show up to these pressers and he went as far as sneaking out the back door of Cesar Gracie's house during his child's birthday party to get out of it. Because of that, he was out of the main event fight against "GSP" and Carlos Condit would step in, leaving B.J. Penn in the lurch.
- During that very same presser, White said he was working on something "huge" for Penn that would make fans say "oh my god." He also claimed he was probably going to completely cut ties with Diaz.
- Diaz releases a YouTube video saying "sorry I didn't make it to the beauty pageant" and that he's never ducked out of a fight in his life. The title of his video is -- "looks like someone didn't want me to win."
- Today, Sept. 8, Penn takes to Twitter and says "Dana made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Looks like I'll still be fighting on Oct. 29." Later on, White tweets the following: "This is crazy but here we go again! You wanted it so you got it. Penn vs Diaz Oct 29th in Vegas."
So we went from Nick Diaz coming close to entering the world of boxing with his handy-dandy Strikeforce contract that allowed him to double dip between combat sports to his being signed to an exclusive deal with UFC. Then he gets inserted into a welterweight title fight only to have it ripped away for failing to live up to promotional duties and threatened to be released altogether. Just a day later he's put back on the card in a slightly less prominent role in the co-main event against one of the top guys in the 170-pound division.
Allow me to take a page out of The Rock's book and say -- what in the blue hell is going on here?
Simply put, this reeks of Vince McMahon type pro wrestling style theatrics. First of all, was it really necessary for the UFC to hold a press conference in Las Vegas more than a month and a half away from the fight? Secondly, what's the point of making such a public example of Diaz by deriding him on a free streamed press conference in front of all the major media players, to the point of all but saying he was going to get cut from the promotion, just to turn around the very next day and insert him right back into the event but in a role better suited to him?
That's arrogance at its worst. That's the powers that be in UFC assuming they can do what they please and both fans and media will go along with it and no one will be held accountable. Sadly, since the announcement was made just hours ago, that's exactly what's happened. Most are simply passing off the entire incident as a series of wacky events.
I'm not sitting here with my tin foil hat on and shouting from the rooftops that it's a conspiracy. I'm simply saying this is all too convenient to serve the purposes of UFC. And while there is inherent drama in sports, there is also manufactured hype and behind-the-scenes politicians pushing their agendas, always cognizant of exactly how everything is perceived by the wider audience.
Let's look at this logically. It made sense for UFC to sign Nick Diaz and match him up against Georges St. Pierre. It's an easy to market fight that would sell huge with the "Champion vs. Champion" angle they built in and especially considering how "GSP" had effectively run out of challengers. But, at the same time, it was unrealistic for the UFC to ever believe Diaz would suddenly become someone he is not and start showing up to every media event they want him to so he can promote the fight. That was never going to happen, no matter who it was pulling the strings.
There's certainly no issue with wanting to switch Diaz out and put him in against Penn instead of St. Pierre and there's certainly no problem with wanting to punish him in some form for no-showing multiple press conferences of which he is contractually obligated to attend. Where the issue comes in is White's chosen way of handling the situation.
He blasted Diaz for not "playing the game" at the press conference and he even went so far as to answer Cesar Gracie's phone call while he was on stage and relay everything he said directly to the media. These aren't standard practices. This literally sounds like something that would happen at a WWE sanctioned press conference to promote one of its events.
There were many things that folks didn't like about the way the presser went down, like the fact that a video promo was aired during the presser that featured the new match-up between St. Pierre and Condit. Seemed a bit too fast, especially considering the fact that White was playing it like Diaz not showing up was the catalyst. But if that's the case, how did they already have a video ready to go? Then later in the presser he says he's got a new match-up for Penn that will make us say "oh my god." Again, rather interesting timing and a nifty little promotional tool.
Hell, even in the lead-up to the press conference, UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta was tweeting hints at Diaz being nowhere to be found and that everyone should make sure to tune in to find out what all the fuss is about. Every company-run twitter account was blowing up telling each of its followers to be sure to tune in because some insanity was on the horizon.
Was the entire ordeal orchestrated beforehand to drive interest? That's extremely unlikely. Sure, it could be a work, but like I said, I'm not shouting conspiracy here. What I am saying is the UFC and Dana White handled this situation with a distinct flare for the dramatic and all of it over a guy choosing not to show up to a couple press conferences that were unnecessary to begin with.
This was more pro wrestling than pro wrestling.