A lot of good stories on Nick Diaz have been written in the lead up to UFC 143, making it difficult to find an angle that hasn't been discussed. We've heard about his fitness regimen and the effects it has on his mental game. We've heard about the incredible ability of Diaz and his opponent Carlos Condit to pursue the fight despite the physical consequences. As far as his outside the cage exploits, we've had reaction to the UFC Primetime series featuring Diaz and Condit, both in the negative, in the positive (see the comments section of the aforementioned post) and in question form, (has Nick gotten to GSP?).
Something I haven't seen covered is the noticable lack of fire coming out of Nick Diaz towards Condit, at least as of yesterday evening. It is the second consecutive fight that Diaz has been respectful to his opponent in the lead up; against BJ Penn he said or did nothing that could be construed as disrespectful, instead leaving it to Penn to restore the natural order of a Diaz fight by instigating a tense staredown at the weigh-ins. You see, since starting up with Strikeforce, when Nick Diaz fights a big name, the fights have followed a pretty strict pattern:
1. The fight is annouced. Diaz insinuates that he's better than his scheduled opponent and should be fighting someone better, perhaps GSP or Anderson Silva.
2. Opponent responds by saying that Nick is disrespectful, not as good as he thinks he is and they are going to prove it in the fight.
3. The verbal jousting continues through fight week and comes to a head during the weigh-ins. Middle fingers or perhaps physical contact between the fighters sets the tone for the start of the fight.
4. Diaz's opponent charges out of the gate, looking to make him pay for his ridiculous antics.
5. Diaz eats whatever punches he has to and moves forward, eventually forcing his opponent's back onto the cage
6. Diaz forces his opponent to cover up and unleashes flurry after flurry on them, alternating beautifully between the body and the head.
7. The opponent begins to wilt, while Diaz seems to get stronger.
8. Overwhelmed and gassed, the opponent succumbs to the onslaught, or does just enough to make it to the judges scorecards, where they lose by decision.
We saw this exact pattern when Nick fought against Frank Shamrock, KJ Noons, Paul Daley and BJ Penn. It happened to a smaller degree against Zaromskis and Cyborg (not as much was said pre-fight but the fights themselves very much followed the pattern). It has become something of a calling card for Nick: Rile up the opponent and get him to fight at a higher pace than they would otherwise be comfortable with. I was quite frankly shocked to see BJ get his mean mug on at the weigh-ins after avoiding the "Diaz trap", as I call it, in the month leading up to the fight.
Nick has had so much success getting into his opponents head that it has lead some to theorize that it is an act. GSP called him "fake-crazy" during the second episode of Primetime. I myself have expressed my belief that his pre-fight persona is a creation, with the goal being to induce a brawl that largely favors Diaz and his excellent conditioning. Nick responded to these suggestions during his media scrum at the open workouts this week.
Nick Diaz: People tell me I'm crazy, or they say I act like I'm crazy, I think it's what a lot of people are saying. I'm not trying to put on no act, I'm just going out there trying to fight my fight, and try to win the fight. I'm not happy by the time I walk out to fight, you know? What do you want from me?
If this is the case and what you see is what you get from Nick Diaz, then what we are seeing and what we are getting from him this week is cause for concern, at least for those who are picking Diaz to win the fight tomorrow night. He has gone out of his way to be complimentary of Carlos Condit whenever he's been asked about him. He called Condit a more respectable martial artist than Georges St. Pierre. He told the press at the pre-fight press conference that the focus on GSP made him sick; for Condit.
Nick Diaz: It makes me sick. This is Carlos' time to be here and to be a part of this main event. Half of this show is built up around me fighting Georges St. Pierre but I'm fighting Carlos Condit.
And then, during the staredowns that follow each pre-fight press conference, the unthinkable happened:
After the pose-off, Condit extended his hand towards Nick, an offer to engage in a time honored display of respect: The handshake. It was the perfect chance for Nick to let everyone know that he wasn't playing. An opportunity to show that despite the niceities, he was still Nick Diaz, and Nick Diaz doesn't shake no hands before the fight. Instead, Nick Diaz looked down at the hand, hesitated briefly and then accepted Condit's invitation.
Maybe this is a new Nick Diaz we are watching, one who no longer feels the need to intimidate and threaten his opponent before the fight. This will be his 34th as a professional mixed martial artist. He is no longer the disrespected (in his eyes) and disrespectful (in most everyone else's eyes) "big fish in a small pond" that he was during his run in Strikeforce. Have the years of training as a triathalete given rise to a cool confidence that was never there before? It's entirely possible that the way he has approached both the media and his opponent during this fight week is a reflection of new found maturity, brought about by the serious endurance training.
Or perhaps Nick truly feels a little bad for his Condit. After all, the hype for a fight between Georges St. Pierre and Nick Diaz is over-shadowing this match. Here is a link to a media scrum that GSP did this week. I've already posted the one that Diaz participated in. I found no such video of Carlos Condit. In the biggest fight of his life, Carlos Condit has been an afterthought. It was sadly ironic that he was the only fighter at the pre-fight presser who had the class to put on a suit. So I guess I could understand if Nick felt a little bit sorry for him, especially since he fully plans on making Condit's week even worse on Saturday night.
Whatever the reason for Nick Diaz's kinder persona this week, Carlos Condit is not a man to give sympathy to. No matter how many miles you've ran, or biked, or swam, no matter how many hours you've spent in the gym, fighting Carlos Condit requires you to be at your cruelest and most merciless. He is the "natural born killer" for a reason. If Nick Diaz is not on point from the moment the fight starts to the final bell, he will find himself finished in brutal fashion.
Of course, the official weigh-ins are just about to get underway, so if Nick gets crazy, the concerns I've laid out here will be rendered all but moot. If he doesn't act up though, the question remains: Does Nick Diaz feel badly for Carlos Condit? And if he does, will his sympathy cost him on Saturday night?