"And everybody's mad at the tiger, talking about the tiger went crazy. That tiger ain't go crazy. That tiger went tiger." - Chris Rock, on the tiger that attacked a member of Siegfried and Roy during a performance.
I don't fault the UFC for removing Nick Diaz from the main event of UFC 137. Diaz, according to UFC President Dana White, promised he would meet his media obligations set by the UFC. The company bought Diaz three tickets for three separate flights, and Diaz failed to board any of them. Diaz directly cost the promotion money, and at some point you have to say enough is enough.
That said, the UFC knew what they were getting when they got back into the Nick Diaz business. Whether you believe Diaz suffers from debilitating social anxiety or whether you think he's just a selfish asshole, no one can claim they were surprised to hear that Diaz stayed at home (or, rather, escaped out Cesar Gracie's back door) instead of making trips to Toronto and Las Vegas.
White expressed the sentiment at yesterday's press conference. "I knew what I was getting into when you get Nick Diaz," White said. "I didn't expect this, but I expected some problems and some headaches over the next couple months."
The UFC sticking Nick Diaz in the main event of a major pay-per-view and being surprised when he doesn't show up for media appearances is like letting your mooch of a brother stay at your house and feeling outraged when he doesn't earn his keep even though he promised to chip in every month.
As a result, I can't find it in myself to feel outraged. Where Josh Gross chooses to scold Diaz for not being a professional, for not showing up to press conferences, for acting like a child, I choose to ask, why schedule a press conference at all? And why does the media feel entitled to unmitigated access to the athletes it covers?
I don't believe an athlete has an obligation to do media*. If an athlete wants to do media, that's great. It's a bonus. It's part of their marketability. The athlete's only responsibility, in my eyes, is to show up on gameday and perform. That's what they're paid to do.
Because, if we're being honest, the majority of athlete-media interaction is trite and banal. Georges St. Pierre is a perfect example. Had we Diaz shown up either of the past two days, would anyone have turned down a bet that GSP said something about Diaz being the "toughest opponent he's ever faced"? Or that this will be the "best Georges St. Pierre you've ever seen"?
It's the promoter's job to drum up interest in the fight, and the UFC failed as much as anyone here because they expected Diaz's square peg to fit into the UFC's round hole. The last two days could have been accomplished in a single conference call, a situation that Cesar Gracie, Diaz's trainer/manager, could coax his fighter into.
Diaz isn't blameless, of course. He promised something, he failed to deliver, and he's facing the repercussions. But why was he even put into that position in the first place? Why do we expect our athletes to perform, in Diaz's words, in a beauty pageant? The only thing I wanted to see from Diaz is what he offered Georges St. Pierre on October 29 in Las Vegas.
* - I'm talking about inherent obligations of being a professional athlete. I'm not talking about contractual obligation. Diaz, as noted, is at fault here for promising White and the UFC that he would live up to expectations.