Back in April, Nick Diaz was the talk of the town. After dismantling title contender Paul Daley inside the first round at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley in front of over 7,000 onlookers and the Showtime audience, even UFC President Dana White couldn't repress his excitement over the prospect of Diaz making his way back into the fold in the UFC's welterweight division. "This kid's talented, he's well-rounded, I like his attitude and the way that he carries himself...to a point." stated White to MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani in an interview after the event.
The point that Dana White was referring to reared its ugly head Tuesday afternoon. Diaz was nowhere to be found for a UFC 137 press conference in Toronto. Diaz's manager Cesar Gracie insisted that Nick had passport issues, but he would be present for a second press conference on Wednesday in Las Vegas, a mere 350 miles away from Nick's home in Stockton, California. Diaz was a no-show once again.
Diaz was immediately stripped of the opportunity to fight UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre after his second absence in as many days. He squandered an enormous payday and the chance to rightfully prove his worth to a fanbase that adored him. In a video posted last night, Diaz, in typical Diaz fashion, cryptically muttered an explanation that painted him as the victim without ever actually telling us why he didn't show up in Las Vegas.
Classic Nick Diaz. Diaz shouldn't have to deal with "beauty pageants", he just wants to fight.
Fans love Diaz for that exact reason. He isn't a yes man, nor is he a puppet. He's a rebel. A man well-known for doing what he wants to do. A fighter who isn't interested in fake hype. His simplistic approach to fighting is clear. He signs a contract, answers any talk with true malice towards his opponents, shows up for the fight, and demolishes his opposition while simultaneously barking at his opponents. Many fans, including myself, can't get enough of how Diaz navigates a complex combat sports world as if it were easy.
But this is a business. Press conferences, no matter how outdated and boring they've become, still have some relevance in this era of sports media. Maybe they shouldn't. I could do without quote after quote of the same old boring cliches. Like any job however, if you're being paid to show up, it's in your best interest to do so.
This isn't the first time Diaz has skipped press obligations. Diaz's previous employers ignored his absences. Strikeforce never spoke a word publicly about any disciplinary action taken against Diaz, only confirming that Diaz hates the media. No slaps on the wrist. No fines. Nothing. That's just Nick being Nick. Why would Diaz expect anything more from the UFC?
It's also worth noting that Diaz has a medical history that's indicative of this type of behavior. He has proclaimed in the past that he has a prescription to use medical marijuana to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many fans believed it was Diaz finding a loophole in the system in order to get high. Social disorders including social anxiety are linked to ADHD, so it may not come as a surprise that Diaz feels victimized no matter what the situation.
Diaz has stated on numerous occasions that he simply wants to fight. He wants to get paid what he believes he is worth. Both of those desires sat directly in front of him. He was headlining what was perceived to be one of the most relevant fights of the year, probably set to make a high salary with the possibility of a pay-per-view cut, and two separate public appearances were large enough obstacles to stop him.
Even if Diaz is doomed to be anti-social and absolutely despises public appearances, it's difficult to see his logic, if there was any logic in his so-called apology. He could show up to a press conference catatonic, spouting off lines like "I just want to fight" and "I'd rather be training right now" over and over again. He would have fulfilled his end of the deal.
Despite my own opinion of this entire situation, I find it difficult to dislike Nick Diaz. The end product is what fans desire, but I understand the onus of "doing press" for an event. It's an opportunity for the UFC to add intrigue, even if some people within the media itself believe it's an ancient routine.
I liken the dilemma to the idea that college is no longer needed to produce a bright, young working class. That may be, but many employers will tell you that it's the commitment and follow through that are more attractive than the knowledge. Some jobs rarely require the knowledge a degree instills on a person. Most of your career is on-the-job training. Diaz wants to skip the preparatory period and get right to it. I can relate to that.
In the fight game however, it's an cycle that repeats itself with every fight. Diaz is now in the real world, and if he isn't even willing to take a couple of classes and do the work -- why should he get the degree that gets him the job? Talk the talk, so you can walk the walk.