Nick Diaz was stripped of his chance to fight Georges St. Pierre at UFC 137 for the welterweight championship because he skipped multiple media events, culminating with skipping a press conference in Canada. Now, talking with MMA Junkie, Diaz explains that he didn't even know that it was a press conference that he would be missing. From the interview:
"I'm not trying to make all these little excuses," Diaz today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "If I'd have known the fight was going to be off, I would have [expletive] gone to the press conference, or I would have told somebody, 'Hey, if I don't make it to this stupid [expletive], I'm not fighting.' I think that people would have gotten me there. I think people would have come and gave two [expletive] and gotten me to that press conference."
"I didn't even know there was a press conference," Diaz said. "I thought it was some PR thing. People were trying to tell me, 'You're going to do this skit' and that I was going to be a part of some PR skit where I had this part where I was walking through a hall, kind of like that scene Jake Shields did. I was like, 'What the [expletive]? Are you kidding?' So I'm thinking, 'Somebody better come over here and tell me what I'm doing and get me ready to go do it so I don't look like an [expletive].' That's how I feel when you're coming to get me ready for something I'm not ready for."
If everyone else knew for days that there was a press conference, it is entirely on Nick and his camp's shoulders if he truly "did not know" that this was a press conference. It wasn't a super secret meeting in a back room, it was a media event. The UFC can be criticized for many things, but being disorganized in media relations is not on that list.
Diaz goes on to explain why it shouldn't really matter anyway:
"I just don't think it's that big of a deal. We make it like this huge deal, and I'm like, 'If it's such a big deal, then where the hell are all the people and the cameras?' It's not like there's people banging on my door trying to get an interview or something - snap pictures of me. Nobody gives a [expletive]. I can train all day long anywhere and everywhere, and nobody wants to film me. No one wants to come see any of that. I enjoy watching training. I enjoy watching good people sparring in the gym. I've never shut my door to anybody that wanted to come in and watch my training or film or anything like that."
Yes, for us as fans, watching a guy spar and seeing him in camp is interesting. But we're the people who will order a pay-per-view or buy tickets regardless. Your average undecided customer is not seeking out videos of guys sparring, they are enticed into buying tickets or a PPV by things like local media coverage.
The UFC would have eventually "come knocking" to get video of Nick in camp for use promoting the event on Countdown and YouTube, but what mattered at that time was the press conference and getting the media involved in talking about the fight early. The difference between 700,000 and 800,000 PPV buys is over $5,000,000 and press events, when done right, can be that difference. So, yes, it is "that big of a deal."
Diaz is also upset that Georges didn't fight harder to keep Nick in the fight:
"The bottom line is Georges is being a little bitch," Diaz said. "He didn't step up and say anything when the UFC pulled me out of this fight. I understand sometimes you have to do what you're told, but why wouldn't you tell the media you still want to fight me? If I was Georges, I would want to fight the best. I would have asked for the Anderson Silva fight. I would have asked to fight the Strikeforce champ. But he sits there like a robot and doesn't say anything at all, just like he's not going to say anything about me calling him a bitch now. If I saw B.J. Penn walking down the street and called him a bitch, we would be fighting right there on the spot.
"The truth is Georges doesn't want to fight me in the street or in a cage. He knows who I am, and he knows where I came from. I don't have the commitment? I'm younger than him, I have more wins in my career than he does, and I've worked harder to get where I am. He knows the truth, and he didn't say anything and won't say anything because he doesn't want to get his ass whipped by me the same way he got his ass whipped by Jake - the night we went to the press conference and Georges went to the hospital."
Throughout the interview, Nick constantly says that training is the most important thing and that he has given up everything to be a fighter and train constantly. Obviously training would be just as important for St. Pierre, and Georges was willing to make the sacrifice of his time to go to the media events.
Maybe that is why GSP thinks there is a lack of commitment on Diaz's part. That every other fighter who makes it to the highest level is able to sacrifice major parts of their life to the sport, and sacrifice parts of their training for the promotion of their fights. Everyone on a card is counting on the main event fighters to sell the event, to get the highest amount of eyeballs on the show. This isn't a matter of if a fighter is contractually obligated to do PR or not, it's that the fight game works a certain way, and that way demands that you do the PR expected of a main event fighter.
It's nice to say that you work hard in the gym, and I have no doubt that Nick does that. But he failed in his responsibilities as a main event fighter and paid much less of a price than he probably deserved, still getting a major fight with B.J. Penn.
If Diaz wants people to think he has the commitment to fight at the absolute highest levels of this sport and not just be top dog in second tier promotions, then he has to actually show it, just just talk about it.