MONTREAL -- One day late, but with an apology to fans and an explanation for his absence, the Nick Diaz show came to town, captivating most of the sport's observers but perplexing the continually beleaguered champion Georges St-Pierre. In another tour-de-force performance, Diaz managed to own the spotlight, move the division's titleholder into the background, and render the other four men sharing the stage practically invisible.
From the moment he stepped into public view for the first time at the Bell Centre, wearing a black "Stockton" sweatshirt, It was vintage Diaz.
Flanked to the right of UFC president Dana White at a UFC 158 press conference, he answered questions not meant for him. He interjected his opinion at will. He continued to pick away at GSP's squeaky-clean image. And regardless of what the champion said, he got underneath his skin.
While St-Pierre claimed that he wasn't mad at Diaz, his body language said otherwise. In several instances, he picked up the microphone while Diaz was in the middle of the diatribe, but refrained from rebutting whatever he had said. At times, he couldn't stop himself from shaking his head, either in disagreement or disgust. Other times, he just looked down to the ground, focusing elsewhere. It was as if after all this time, he still couldn't believe what Diaz was coming up with.
Finally, at one point when Diaz accused St-Pierre of saying derogatory things about him in order to "pump the fight," St-Pierre could no longer resist the urge to interrupt.
"I didn't say nothing bad," he said, his voice rising. "You started the whole thing."
While he may have technically been right -- it was Diaz after all who first called out St-Pierre -- his incredulous tone while making the accusation gave off the vibe of a child blaming his sibling for the start of a pointless argument.
And Diaz, as he does with his fight style, kept picking away and picking away. He told a story of nearly getting into a fight with St-Pierre at a hotel. He insinuated St-Pierre was on steroids. Later, he basically lampooned St-Pierre's assertions of being bullied as a child by going into his own past.
"I want to say like, How many times have you had a gun to your head, Georges? How many of your best friends have been shot through the chest with a .45? Or how many of your best friends have been stomped, put to sleep into a coma?" Diaz asked. "We all have to deal with these things in life. How many kids put gum in your hair growing up? Should I go further back? I mean, we have to deal with these things. It's hard times for everybody. And a lot of times, that's what makes us fighters."
Before it all came Diaz's mea culpa for going missing on Wednesday. While the Californian said he was "sorry for the fans" and that he would have liked to participate in the event, he made the decision to skip it in order to rest his body.
Diaz said that he always tries to sweat out the "toxic water" from airplanes, and that after arriving at midnight, he underwent that process before resting. He needed a good night's sleep, and that cost him the time necessary to make the event. He said that was the difference in getting five hours of sleep vs. possibly getting just two.
"Georges lives here, and he’s trying to say it’s not fair that he had to do it? You live here, bro," Diaz said. "You got to do an open workout. I would have liked to do an open workout. I would have liked to do it, so I’m sorry I didn’t make it."
UFC president Dana White said that while Diaz's no-show was a headache, there would be no repercussions for his action. So it's onward to Saturday night.
When the two finally stood face-to-face for the traditional staredown picture, they never came within three feet of each other. Diaz stood with his hands extended in his punching stance, while St-Pierre remained more compact. They held the pose for eight seconds before standing side-by-side, directed towards the media. Diaz wore his traditional scowl, but he somehow looked happier than St-Pierre, who seemingly couldn't wait to take the belt off his shoulder and hand it back to White. One burden off his shoulders, St-Pierre has to live with Diaz there for at least two more nights. From the expression on his face, that's not nearly fast enough.