UFC 137 Roundtable: How Should the UFC Have Handled Nick Diaz?

Credit to Tracy Lee of Combat Lifestyle

Mike Fagan: It wasn't that people expected Nick Diaz to seriously challenge Georges St. Pierre at UFC 137. Diaz has garnered a reputation as a FIGHTER, though, and after a string of "boring" title defenses, fans salivated at the idea of Diaz forcing St. Pierre into a fight. Instead, Diaz skipped two press conferences last month, forcing UFC President Dana White to pull him from the fight and replace him with Carlos Condit. Diaz, with the spectre of a pink slip looming, was inserted into the co-main with B.J. Penn.

The point is near moot because St. Pierre ended up pulling out of the fight with a knee injury, but did the UFC handle Diaz correctly? Should they have left him in the main event? Should he have been rebooked on the card against Penn?

Fraser Coffeen: They blew it. This was a classic case of making a decision based on emotion and feeling personally slighted, not on what is the best business decision. Yes, Diaz blew off those events, and yes, that is frustrating. But that is also exactly the reason people wanted this fight to happen. Diaz is a loose cannon - an unpredictable whirlwind who can knock anyone out, but also seemingly crash and burn at any time. In short, he's the perfect foil to Georges St. Pierre's supremely unflappable and professional air. That clash of styles makes this fight great, especially for the growing number of fans who are weary of the GSP show. So of course Diaz blew that off - that's what he does, and that's why people love him. But taking him out of the main event for it is shooting yourself in the foot, and it's pointless. You're telling me the UFC production crew couldn't take footage of the Diaz-less press conference, add some footage of Dana or whoever on the phone trying to track him down, and make that into a compelling countdown show? It's the ultimate battle of professionalism vs. irresponsibility, and it's a great hook to sell a fight.

Matt Roth: Short answer? Put him on a leash. Long answer? They knew this was what they were getting into when they signed him. Short of picking him up in the jet and flying him everywhere, they are relying on Cesar Gracie who apparently can't ever ensure that he'll fulfill media obligations. Should he beat Penn on Saturday, he'll be rewarded for this behavior with a title shot once GSP and Condit fight. That actually brings up a whole separate issue which is: If Diaz beats BJ Penn, does the UFC take Condit's shot away and just do Diaz vs GSP?

Fraser Coffeen: I am a Carlos Condit fan, but if Diaz wins, I think they should, and I think they will.

Mike Fagan: I thought Dana already said they were waiting on GSP and Condit?

Roth: They have done this in the past though. Remember Karo? He lost his shot and never got it again. I hope they do Condit vs GSP because it sounds like an extremely fun fight to me. But I wouldn't be surprised if they just do Diaz vs GSP.

Tim Burke: Nick Diaz should have been removed from the card entirely, and likely would have been if they had another opponent ready for Penn. They did look into that, but they couldn't come up with anything credible so they were stuck. I've always hated the "you know what you're getting into when you sign Nick Diaz" spiel. Nick Diaz signed a contract, and his contract entailed him showing up to the things he blew off. He promised to play ball, and he lied. But once again, Diaz was enabled and given another spot on the card, because he's still someone the UFC can make money off of. I like Nick Diaz, but he should be sitting on the sidelines right now, hoping the UFC will give him another chance. Not getting another shot at a main event. 

SBN coverage of UFC 137: St. Pierre vs. Condit

Matt Roth: The craziest thing about this is that Diaz was what? 30 minutes late to the conference call? He said he didn't know about the call and that he phone was dead. And then he told everyone that he pays someone 100k to make sure he's doing his media. If that's Cesar Gracie, he's doing a terrible job. Seriously, at some point I'm gonna start believing he just has crappy advisors because though he's coughing a ton and apparently trying to clear his throat, his manager should be making sure he's on calls. Not saying "I'm trying to locate him." Nick should be at Cesar's house on a speaker phone. That's what EVERY OTHER MANAGER DOES.

Fraser Coffeen: Good point. Marketing 1001 tells you that saying "I'm trying to locate him" is a terrible idea. Come up with some sort of lie to stall. How about "He's on his way"? Or, "He's cooling down after a training session and will be on in a moment"? Is that so tough?

Matt Roth: It's not even marketing 101. It's the fact that you have a client who hates the media and doing media. If you know he has a history of this kinda thing, you take it upon yourself. Not "oh I'm trying to get a hold of him". You go to his house and put him on the phone. You pull him into your office. You don't just let him blow off obligations.Anyway, circling back. It seems that the UFC is rewarding Diaz. I hate saying that Burke has a good point but I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while, so I'll give him props when he does. He was put in a co-main spot. Then the main spot. Why are you allowing this behavior? It's like giving a dog a treat for pooping on the floor. You just don't do that.

Fraser Coffeen: You do if you bought a dog who was sold to you based on his ability to poop on the floor. I can't believe I just wrote that...

Tim Burke: No, no you don't. Nick Diaz came into the UFC based on his ability to fight, not his commitment to being an anti-hero.

Brent Brookhouse: This was the situation to get Diaz to understand that playing the game matters in the UFC. There really was not going to be that much more casual interest in a Diaz fight over a Condit fight. I see the traffic numbers, I see Diaz's numbers on Strikeforce shows and I don't buy this idea that people are in love with him beyond pretty hardcore MMA fans. He's great to watch and everything, but GSP was always the selling point of the show.

They could swap out Diaz and Condit and take a very minor hit to buys while securing their future with Diaz long term. You use GSP's drawing power now to buy time against Condit and the Diaz fight is there down the road still. If Diaz comes out and beats Penn now the bout against GSP is bigger and Diaz learns that he doesn't get to do whatever he wants. People also forget that the UFC was putting him in a title shot and should he have beaten GSP, the media appearance demands for the champion are much higher. It wasn't just about promoting this fight, it was about not risking having a guy as a focal point of your promotion that you can't count on to do the things necessary of a champion.

If you're going to try to put him in line you do it now before it's too damaging once he's too big of a part of your brand.

Matt Roth: The final word? I think it comes down to the fact that Diaz is surrounded by enablers. They enable his usage of marijuana and they enable his weird behavior. I'm specifically speaking about Cesar Gracie. I believe he's an enabler and this behavior would get worse should Diaz win a title. It's absurd that Diaz believes people should travel to him. That's insane. Yet, Gracie hasn't told him that isn't how the world works. Instead, he allows Diaz to continue to be the guy you can't depend on.

Tim Burke: For the first time in the history of the world, Matt Roth makes complete sense. Is this real life?

KJ Gould: The UFC could sell a fight with Georges St. Pierre versus a broomstick at this point. At a recent media scrum at I believe the UFC on Versus show in Washington, D.C., Dana White said that GSP was by far the biggest draw for them even when Brock Lesnar's name was brought up in conversation. Even if that's just a little promoter hype because of the unknown long-term career plans of Lesnar, it's not hard to believe GSP is at least their second biggest draw. Diaz wasn't needed for the pre-fight press conference.

Diaz not making the press conference isn't as big a deal as people are making it out to be. When Dana White says it's never happened in the history of him promoting over 1000 fights, he must be suffering from a Cro Cop shaped blind-spot. The Croatian was notorious for missing pre and post fight press conferences even back in his Pride days. He was never pulled from a fight in the UFC, even his first two fights in the UFC where he co-headlined against Eddie Sanchez and headlined against Gabriel Gonzaga.

Dropping Diaz from the main event was nothing more than an ego move. It was Dana White's or Zuffa's way of marking their territory, throwing their weight around and posturing. They wanted to make an example out of Diaz to serve as a lesson for other fighters, instead of doing what was best for business. The fight game is full of lunatics but they're lunatics that are allowed to fight and not straight-jacketed and put in solitary confinement when they act up. Having Diaz vs Penn as the new main event seems almost karmic now. 

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