It was bitter cold in Montreal this morning on the way to the Bell Center for the pre-fight press conference for UFC 158. This did nothing to prevent challenger Nick Diaz from melting down shortly into the press conference.
Dana White quickly diverted initial questions regarding Nick Diaz’s recent no-showing of the UFC Experience Open Work Outs, but my question to Nick Diaz was simple. Given that Dana White has already said he will need to have a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting with you if you win, how do you feel going into a fight for a championship with an organization that doesn’t seem ready for you to its champion?
As always, Nick Diaz quickly lost the thread of the question. He began with a simple response that he’s been misportrayed and that given the opportunity he’d be a fine champion. However, he quickly diverted into a rant about his depiction in the UFC’s posters for the event – Specifically, his photos are not photo shopped to make him look ‘heroic’, as he feels GSP’s are.
The ensuing chaos was of epic proportions. Diaz demanded to know how often GSP has had a gun pointed at his head and how many of the champion’s friends have been shot or beaten. He implied on multiple occasions that GSP might be a steroid user, something that champion vehemently denied. He detailed a hotel confrontation in which he refused to give ground to the champion and accused GSP and Dana White of selling wolf tickets.
For those who don’t understand what the means, selling wolf tickets is when you attempt to avoid a real fight by threatening or intimidating a potential opponent into submission, the implication being that Georges St. Pierre, Dana White, and the UFC are attempting to bully Nick Diaz, to threaten him into being off his game.
Then it dawned on me that Nick Diaz seems himself as the victim. Like any great comic book or movie villain, he simply doesn’t get why he isn’t the hero and why people are siding with the ‘good guy’, when his point of view is so obvious to himself. It’s a fascinating dynamic.
On one hand, you have to have a certain amount of sympathy for Nick Diaz. He is after all a man who’s overcome adversity in the pursuit of his dreams, a man who’s deeply loyal to his friends and family, and a proud member of his community, where he enjoys teaching jiujutsu to kids.
On the other, it’s just so easy to portray Diaz as the villain with his swaggering bravado, his ‘street’ manners and lingo, and his general contempt for social norms.
One thing you can’t do is ignore the man. At a press conference in Montreal more questions were asked to Diaz that any other fighter, including GSP himself, who in his fight in Condit absorbed almost the whole spotlight. Ellenberger, Marquardt and even Condit went utterly ignored.
I can’t really full explain the strangeness of a Nick Diaz press conference. You have to watch it your own self to see a man break down and pour out his entire heart in a stream of consciousness diatribe while the entire press gallery explodes in titters and snickers.
In a way, you can’t help but feel a little sorry for Nick Diaz. He really does mean to be a nice guy in his own way. He’s just trapped inside of Nick Diaz and can’t really express himself in a way that isn’t a bizarre crescendo of real emotion, slightly paranoid insanity, and half baked tangents.
What really struck me though, more than anything else was the reaction of the other fighters as Nick Diaz took over the whole show.
Ellenberger was stoic.
Hendricks, the only man on the card who’s never been in a main event before, looked equally stoic until the one question he got asked was interrupted by Diaz, who launched into an unprompted salvo against GSP. As Diaz insisted he got the fight because he’s the best guy, Hendricks, the consensus #1 welterweight challenger in the world could only shake his head.
Veteran Nate Marquardt almost immediately leaned back in his chair, his expression initially flabbergasted and then settling into utter bemusement as he realized it was Diaz’s press conference.
Carlos Condit, who so recently sat in Diaz’s seat started out stoic but as the outpouring continued he went from annoyed, to baffled, to shocked, to mildly entertained. The kickboxing ace looked completely stunned as Diaz insisted that Condit beat GSP in their match, then just seemed sort of contemptuously amused as Diaz described the hotel confrontation.
The Champion, George “Rush” St. Pierre, despite all his protestations to the contrary, was visibly seething with anger.
It’s gonna be one hell of a fun night come Saturday.
Here is the full Press conference video, as published by UFC, all rights reserved.
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Photo Credit: per @stevejeffery, all rights reserved.