Long one of the most divisive, controversial and by turns endearing and frustrating characters in top level MMA, Nick Diaz finally gets his long awaited shot at the UFC belt and long time champion Georges St-Pierre this weekend.
Love him or hate him, Diaz is a compelling character.
Having won gold in Strikeforce, the WEC and the IFC and having only been stopped twice (with one of them being a bit controversial) in a 36 fight career to date, he is an undoubtedly legitimate, world class contender in the cage on sheer stats, without even the glowing praise his boxing, jujitsu and cardio abilities deserve.
Prior to his (disputed, but fair) decision loss to Carlos Condit he was riding an 11 fight win streak, including comprehensive demolitions of legends like BJ Penn and Frank Shamrock and top even strikers like Paul Daley, Marius Zaromskis and KJ Noons.
On the other hand, Nick seems to despise the media work that comes hand in hand with making money from MMA and his tendency to use middle finger salutes, curse words and generally show a lack of respect or even concern for the opinion of others
Oh yeah, and he’s TWICE failed drug tests for marijuana – whether you agree with that being on the banned list or not, it’s a breach of professionalism to take something that’s on such a well publicised list of prohibitions.
So we have a good and reliably entertaining fighter, who speaks his mind, makes no bones about his modest upbringing and wears the chip on his shoulder as a badge of honour.
So, is Nick Diaz – as he himself implied in the UFC 158 conference call – the working class hero, standing up for the true spirit of martial arts, no frills hard work combined with natural talent and generally keeping it real?
Well, yes and no.
On one hand, Nick has the skills and work ethic to do well in boxing or jujitsu and his preference for aggressive, stoppage seeking MMA is both popular and very much in the spirit of competitive combat sport.
On the other hand, failing drugs tests, slapping opponents, getting involved in pull apart brawls and refusing to acknowledge the validity of calculated game plans aren’t exactly covering Nick, or the sport of MMA in glory and credibility.
To one viewpoint, MMA is about in-cage skills, not your willingness and aptitude re: handling the many and endless media commitments that come with headlining major pay per views. From this side, Nick’s apathy for press conferences and lack of reverence on conference calls are a sort of virtue, all their own.
From another side, Nick’s willingness to call out Georges, play the game by accusing St-Pierre of being scared, pampered, arrogant or whatever, to post YouTube videos of his rambling conspiracy theories and persecution complex etc. could look, to a cynical mind like someone who WAS being media savvy and playing a heel/anti-hero (depending on your take) card to inveigle himself into a title shot…
…especially when it works, and double so when it works despite coming off a loss and a drugs ban.
Either way, I doubt I’ll convince anyone to change their mind either way.
For my money, Nick is in many ways an admirable human being, an excellent martial artist and a serious threat to GSP’s title.
However, he’s also a sharper promotional operator than he gets credit for, and you’d better believe he understands that incidents like his little outburst on the conference call and his carefully maintained thug cum underdog image will only help him make ‘GSP money.’
Whatever your take on Nick, you can’t stop talking about him, and you’re interested in his fights, aren’t you?
Anyways, what’s you’re take on Nick?