Red-hot Diaz ready for St. Pierre
LAS VEGAS – Nick Diaz was an angry, bitter and confused man in the waning hours of Saturday night, moments after he battered B.J. Penn and possibly sent the legendary Hawaiian into an early and unexpected retirement at UFC 137.
Diaz captivated a crowd of 10,313 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and a worldwide pay-per-view audience with a brilliant performance in defeating Penn. Diaz busted him up like he had never been before, winning a unanimous decision and establishing himself as a serious threat to the long title reign of UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
It was so overwhelming, and St. Pierre was so angry at the insults Diaz hurled toward him, that UFC officials switched plans and gave Diaz the fight he thought he had in the first place.
In a dramatic move, after walking off the dais of a post-fight news conference that began without Diaz, UFC president Dana White returned and announced that Diaz would fight St. Pierre for the belt, likely in February on Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas.
It figured to be one of the greatest moments of Diaz’s life, but the rail-thin welterweight from Stockton, Calif., who competes in triathlons in his spare time, was anything but happy when he finally arrived at the news conference.
Diaz proceeded to captivate an awestruck audience of media, fighters and UFC officials squeezed into a tiny room in the bowels of the massive hotel with a stream-of-consciousness rant in which he expressed disappointment with his performance, complained that he can’t find proper sparring, lamented that his sparring partners aren’t paid and moaned that he’s forced to act like a bad guy in order to get the fights he wants.
It was stunning, it was breathtaking and it’s why Diaz may now be challenging St. Pierre as the sport’s biggest star.
[ Related: Blog: Why Diaz-Penn fight was a classic ]
No matter whether you admire his superior conditioning and high-volume attack or loathe his rebelliousness and disdain for the rules, you can’t not have an opinion about Diaz.
For years, while Diaz was fighting in PRIDE, Elite XC and Strikeforce, White said he’d like to have Diaz back in the UFC if only Diaz would “play the game.”
Diaz wasn’t playing a game when he took Penn apart Saturday and he didn’t play the game that White wanted when he dominated the news conference to an even greater degree than he did his fight.
“I’ve never backed out of a fight in my life,” Diaz said angrily. “You show me someone else who hasn’t done that, pulled some [expletive] about an injury. I’ve been injured all these last fights, even this one. I didn’t pull out, you know? I had no reason to fight. I’m depressed about this whole not fighting [St. Pierre], not getting paid what I wanted to get paid. I could have pulled out with any of these injuries. My knee hurts. Oh, my hamstring. My hamstring … I’ve got the same issues, man. I go running all the time out of my neighborhood, out of the bad neighborhood into the good neighborhood where I like to run. I run by hundreds of these nice huge houses with these big yards, and fountains everywhere. They have their picnic-patio little side yards with a pool. All this stuff, right?
“Then I take a little circle around and go back into my neighborhood, where my car gets robbed, there’s a dude out in front of my house looking for cigarette butts, hoping some friend might have left some. It’s ridiculous.”
White tried to create some levity when he interrupted Diaz.
“Let me tell you,” White said from the podium to Diaz, “I don’t know how much houses cost up there in Stockton, but bro, let me tell you, you got enough money to move. I guarantee you that.”
Everyone in the room laughed except Diaz. He bit his lip and looked down.
He said he can’t do the things he wants to do because his training schedule is so intense. He wasn’t going to back down, and he spoke back to White.
“Not when I’m fighting every two months, every three months,” Diaz said. “I’m going to take a few fights off. My brother moved and you know, it’s like, phew. It’s a long story, man. You laugh, but I don’t know how to go buy a house in the middle of all this training. I didn’t go to school for that.”
Diaz may not express his emotions too well, but he is a star and he’s only going to get bigger.
The fight against St. Pierre, one of the biggest draws in the UFC, should be off the charts.
“He blew up out of nowhere,” White said. “People love real fighters and this kid is a real fighter.”
He’s also a real character. He was originally scheduled to fight St. Pierre for the belt Saturday, but when he missed press conferences in September in Toronto and Las Vegas, White first yanked him off the card entirely and replaced him in the main event with Carlos Condit. Then, a few days later, White paired Diaz against Penn in the co-main event after giving Diaz a big pay cut.
[ Yahoo! Sports Radio: St. Pierre on injury, Diaz]
Diaz wasn’t happy about fighting Penn, whom he considered a friend, and was exceptionally angry at St. Pierre. When St. Pierre was injured in training, the fight with Condit fell off the card and White moved Penn-Diaz to the main.
Diaz, though, was angry he was meeting Penn and not St. Pierre. He shouted to St. Pierre from the cage after the bout ended.
“I don’t think Georges was hurt,” Diaz said. “I think he was scared.”
St. Pierre approached White moments after the fight. The UFC’s ultimate good guy was angry that Diaz continually disrespected him and questioned his injury.
The champion requested that White make the fight with Diaz. White said Condit was gracious and agreed to step aside.
“This is what I wanted since the beginning,” St. Pierre said. “Let’s do what was supposed to be done originally. I’ve always wanted this fight. Now, I want it even more. I can’t wait for Super Bowl weekend.”
Diaz rattled on for nearly a half hour. At one point, he noted that boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. makes $25 million a fight and said, “He can’t stop the double leg.”
He was angry that he felt White would make him fight his friends and he complained about that.
He had the audience in the palm of his hand. Everyone, including White, was riveted by his every word.
No one knows what his long-term future holds.
At the moment, though, there’s no question what he is:
He’s the hottest fighter in MMA. With the tickets, pay-per-views and merchandise he’s going to sell for the St. Pierre fight, he’s not just going to be able to afford to buy a house in Stockton. The guy is going to be able to buy the entire neighborhood.
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