[Image via allelbows/Ether Lin @ Flickr]
A while ago, I asked if Nick Diaz (and by extension, the Team Gracie "Scrap Pack") had outwitted Dana White by flirting with a highly publicized move to professional boxing. After the bombshell announcement was made today that Georges St-Pierre would instead fight Carlos Condit at UFC 137, everyone's asking even more questions. Will Diaz be cut from the promotion? What's left for B.J. Penn with his original opponent moving up to the main event? How much will this hurt PPV rates for UFC 137 in the long run?
While all those questions are important, one more keeps coming back to the front of my mind — why did Dana White bury Diaz in the most expensive, extravagant way possible, with a massive press conference that likely took thousands of dollars in flights to cover?
If that's how Diaz got outed, I'd hate to see what Dana does to someone when he's really mad.
Now, I'm not defending Nick Diaz or his actions. Not one bit. Diaz knew the cost of having to sign with the UFC, and as fits his attitude, still decided that he'd push his luck with the most vitriolic MMA promoter in the business. That's where everything fell apart. In that one move, Diaz handed Dana White a golden opportunity to remind everyone why the UFC will always be bigger than the fighters.
As the UFC President, Dana White has every right to hold a live press conference for an announcement like this. But the fact is, he didn't need to. For all the anticipation, all the presentation, and all the extra pomp, this was an announcement that Dana could have easily made on Twitter or YouTube. In fact, it's a good thing that the UFC "locked" Nick Diaz into an exclusive contract — otherwise, a stunt like this would send the Strikeforce Welterweight Champion to the nearest triathlon or boxing ring. But exactly what did holding this public crucifixion at a press conference really achieve?
Well, that's the (evil) genius of it.
Dana White has long maintained that no fighter is an exception to the UFC's demands. Hell, even the famously anti-social Brock Lesnar — the UFC's biggest PPV draw — eventually got onboard with press tours, public appearances, UFC Countdown shows, and a stint on The Ultimate Fighter. But take Lesnar, subtract roughly 150 pounds and a few tattoos, and add five steaming galllons of petulant teenage aggression. What you now have is essentially a bigger problem on your hands called Nick Diaz.
Still, Dana White went ahead, knowing the risks:
We were talking backstage and it just makes no sense. I'd be a liar if I was standing up in front of you and I said I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I made this fight. I didn't expect this though.
This was life-changing money. Maybe he folded under the spotlight. This isn't out of left field. Who in the room is really shocked and horrified and can't believe that this is happening right now?
He's running and hiding from his camp and his team. I'd rather pull him out of the fight now than have him no-show the event. The last time he fought in the UFC was 3-4 years ago and he got in a fistfight afterwards at the hospital.
Hey, I'm sure that Dana White would have loved it if Nick Diaz played by the rules. But as he said himself, Dana 'wasn't surprised' that Diaz went missing-in-action when it really counted. Hence, he was prepared to launch this press conference, reminding the world why the Ultimate Fighting Championship is the big leagues:
1. No one is bigger than the UFC.
It's pretty clear to most fight fans that Dana White bent over backwards to keep Diaz out of a boxing ring. But the minute the Stockton bad boy signed a UFC contract, he became another face in the long line of welterweights not named GSP. That makes the message simple — even you were given a red carpet, you're not untouchable.
2. There's always another fighter.
Joe Silva and Dana White always have a backup plan. If Diaz had been a no-show or been injured during fight week, you can bet that Carlos Condit, B.J. Penn, or another fighter would have been waiting in the wings. Nick Diaz's track record alone means you need to have contingency plans. Smartly, things have already been nipped in the bud. With two months, Condit has more than enough time to adjust.
3. Even when you win, Dana White wins bigger.
For all the people, who think Diaz will be cut from the UFC, you're not looking at the big picture. Diaz is supposedly under lock and key in a contract, so he'll have to fight whomever the UFC puts in front of him given this turn of events. Right off the top of my head, I'd be excited to see Diaz fight Rory MacDonald, Charlie Brenneman, Anthony Johnson, Johnny Hendricks, and several other fighters. Fact is, Diaz is a UFC fighter who can headline a PPV event with many opponents. If he chooses to, that is. Regardless, it's a smaller profit for him, but potentially longer term profit for the UFC.
4. Resistance is futile.
As much as Diaz doesn't want to play by the rules, Dana's press conference is a clear message to every other UFC fighter. Get with the program or suffer the consequences. It doesn't matter who you are.
5. The UFC is not afraid to make you look bad.
If Dana White had simply posted the main event alteration on Twitter, broke the news with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani, or simply used a press release, it would have done far less damage to Diaz's image. Instead, Dana White gathered the most influential people in MMA media, plus some executives and GSP himself, for what was essentially a public stoning. And getting a ring from Cesar Gracie in the middle of the whole thing — well, that couldn't have been more perfectly timed for Dana, even if he had planned to wait until just then to take that phone call.
End results: Carlos Condit gets the chance of a lifetime, Nick Diaz loses a bunch of fans in fallout, and is publicly dragged through the mud, social anxiety issues notwithstanding.
So was the huge press conference really necessary?
Not in my opinion — but as I'm sure was intended, every UFC fighter and potential signee got the message.
[McKinley Noble is a staff editor at GamePro and an MMA conspiracy theorist. Follow his Twitter account for crazy talk, 1990s movie references, and general weirdness. Or you could just stalk him on Google.]