One week ago today, UFC President Dana White stood in front of a media crowd in Las Vegas next to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre to announce that Nick Diaz wouldn’t be challenging St-Pierre in the upcoming UFC 137 main event.
Diaz, the now-former Strikeforce welterweight champion, was brought over from Strikeforce to bring a challenge to the longtime champion St. Pierre. He had fought previously for White and the UFC, as recently as UFC 65 in November 2006, where he defeated Gleison Tibau.
Since then, Diaz has fought for multiple organizations including EliteXC, Strikeforce, and a legendary matchup with Takanori Gomi in Pride. Throughout all of those organizations and all of those fights, Diaz has always been known as a brash and outspoken person. He always shows his emotions before and during a match, including famously flipping off Frank Shamrock during a pre-fight press conference.
During a fight, he waves his hands in the air to taunt his opponent. He talks with his opponent throughout, most of which I can not repeat here in print. Throughout all of this, he has always been respected by many fight fans because of just that, they are fans of fights. Diaz always supplies that, regardless of how interested he seems prior to fight night.
Dana White knew all of this. Not only has he dealt with Diaz in the UFC, as mentioned, but he has had to answer questions for years on Diaz. He was famously quoted as saying Diaz had to “play the game” in regards to media and pre-fight coverage. White himself respects Diaz and his abilities. It is obvious he just doesn’t respect his attitude. White is a businessman. And even though he himself sounds like he can have a similar attitude, he would never be one to not “play the game” and not sell his own work.
Diaz was scheduled to appear at a UFC 137 pre-fight press conference last week in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. White and the UFC paid for his flight from Sacramento, California to Toronto. Diaz did not show. St. Pierre had to appear at the press conference alone, repeatedly answering questions as to why Diaz was not there.
The following day, a press conference in Las Vegas was scheduled. The UFC again paid for a flight for Diaz out of Sacramento, and again Diaz did not make the flight. White mentioned that they had spent over $15,000 on transportation for Diaz to attend.
Once Diaz failed to show at the second press conference, White had clearly had enough. He then appeared at the press conference with St. Pierre, and announced Diaz was out of the title fight, and Carlos Condit was now the new opponent for St. Pierre.
White mentioned that he was not surprised by Diaz’ actions, and that he was beyond angry with him. He then stated that he was close to cutting Diaz from the UFC entirely.
Removing him from the fight is understandable. Diaz might see media coverage as pointless (many fighters do), but it is still a part of their job. White’s actions were justified.
However, just 24 hours after removing Diaz from the fight, White announced Diaz was back on the card, and is now fighting BJ Penn, who had been scheduled to fight Condit.
Just one day after going in front of a full crowd at a press conference that also streamed live online, White announced Diaz was already back on the same card he was removed from.
Which begs the question: what was the point?
What was the point of announcing in front of thousands of viewers that Diaz was no longer fighting for the title, and was in danger of losing his job, if he was to be back in the good graces of the UFC just 24 hours later? On top of that, why give him a fight with arguably the most popular fighter in the UFC on the exact same card he was just pulled from? If Diaz wins the fight with Penn, what is White to do?
White actually answered that, stating that if Diaz does win, he will get a title shot.
So he will put himself in the same situation that he just attempted to fix.
But that is not the only tough situation White can put himself in with this matchup. BJ Penn has already lost to St. Pierre twice. If Penn wins, what does a big win over Diaz do for him?
If you want to punish Diaz, by all means do so. Diaz’ trainer and manager Cesar Graice understood White’s decision to remove Diaz from the event.
This just puts a band-aid over a bullet wound, though. That wound could become an infection for White, when he probably knows that Diaz should not have gotten an immediate title shot when he brought him over to the UFC. Diaz should have been doing what he is doing now, fighting a top contender for the opportunity to fight for the belt.
That way, White would truly know whether Diaz is ready. Ready for not only the championship fight, but ready for the attention the UFC brings.