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The Diaz Dilemma: MMA Isn’t a Beauty Pageant

Bellator Season 5 kicks off tonight with the start of their wide-open welterweight tournament. Strikeforce has a stacked card, top to bottom, and the continuation of the heavyweight grand prix set to go down tonight. UFC 137 is a month and a half away.

Guess which event stole the headlines this past week…

On Wednesday, Dana White announced that Nick Diaz was out of his UFC welterweight title fight against Georges St. Pierre after missing multiple media appearances. Taking his place would be Carlos Condit, who was originally scheduled to fight B.J. Penn on the same card.

UFC showed a lot of testicular fortitude in making this decision. They didn’t slap Diaz on the wrist for missing a couple of press conferences, they punched him in the face and knocked him down. They took away the biggest opportunity and payday of his career and said, “If you want to be in a big fight, you have to help us promote the big fight.”

On the surface, missing a couple of press conferences doesn’t seem like a big deal. But UFC made is a big deal by pulling Diaz from the fight. If he had just fined Nick, this would have all blown over and people would have just chalked it up to “Diaz being Diaz.” Instead, Dana had to rant and rave about Diaz being “unprofessional” and how he’s “never dealt with something like this before.”

UFC knew what they were getting themselves into when they moved Diaz over from Strikeforce to UFC. He held up Strikeforce more than once, whether he was unwilling to take a drug test on time or his actions in the last ever Strikeforce show on CBS or his lack of cooperation in trying to put fights together that the fans wanted. Even though we didn’t always know where Diaz was, we knew who he was. He was going to smoke weed, he was going to trash-talk opponents during fights, and he was going to be himself. That’s why so many fans flock to him.

In response to being pulled from the biggest fight of his career, Diaz posted a video of him driving around, cursing at fellow drivers, and apologizing for missing “the beauty pageant.” He acted like he failed to support his daughter on Toddlers & Tiaras. Not only did he offer no real apology, he had no explanation as to why he missed his flights to Canada and Las Vegas. He showed little to no remorse for his actions and made it very difficult for fans to feel sorry for him.

Except UFC did feel sorry for him. Just over 24 hours later, Dana announced that Diaz was back on the UFC 137 event. Not as a guest of Dana’s though. Nope. Dana wasn’t going to make him sit cageside the entire event as a way of saying, “You could have been in there tonight. Instead you’re sitting with me while I Tweet and yell with Joe Rogan.” Instead, Dana is putting Diaz back in the cage, in the co-main event, against Penn.

Diaz couldn’t be trusted to show up and promote the main event, but I guess he can be trusted to show up and promote the co-main event. I guess that makes sense. It’s not like UFC is going to do a Primetime series on the co-main event.

After showing the MMA world how big his cojones were on Wednesday afternoon, Dana quickly put them in Stephanie McMahon’s purse next to Triple H’s on Thursday night.

Maybe Dana and Nick reached an agreement that Nick could do all of his media appearances in his car via FaceTime or Skype. Maybe Diaz swore that, this time, no matter what, this time will be different. He’ll be on his best behavior and prove that he’s a changed man. He’ll put himself on gym arrest so everyone knows where he is at all times. Maybe he did the unthinkable and blackmailed himself, letting Dana know who provides him with his extracurricular substances and if he didn’t do everything asked of him, Dana could turn this man in.

Or maybe nothing changed. Maybe Dana just succumbed to the pressure from fans who spammed his Twitter demanding to see Diaz vs. Penn. It wouldn’t be the first time that Dana has changed a fight based on fan reaction. Or maybe Dana realized that he didn’t have a worthy co-main event because he so strongly dislikes Jon Fitch that he wouldn’t give him the opportunity to rematch Penn so just giving Diaz the fight was the only way to save the card and make Penn happy as well.

I hope Diaz learns from this. Not from UFC’s punishment, or lack thereof, but from his friends and his peers showing disappointment in his actions and from his fans, who were upset that their favorite fighter blew the opportunity that they helped create. I’m not so sure “Diaz being Diaz” or “Classic Nick” is going to cut it anymore. Next time he pulls this, UFC might put him in the opener instead of the co-main event.

We may never know what actually went down between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday night. What I do know is that after punching Diaz in the face and knocking him down, UFC helped up Diaz, gave him a free shot in return, and then slapped him on the wrist as punishment.


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