MONTREAL -- I've spent a lot of time over the last few years trying to figure out Nick Diaz, long enough to know it's a pointless exercise. Diaz is just wired differently than most. He has different life experiences and motivations than most. He sees the world in a specific way, and expresses himself in a unique style. A novelist couldn't make this guy up and sell him as a character. He'd seem too over the top.
Those traits all blend together to make him a magnetic personality. We may not always agree with what he says; sometimes, we don't even understand it. But the way he verbalizes things, sometimes taking us to some deep, dark places in his past, other times just scratching the surface, but in ways others haven't explored, well, it's riveting.
In this business, you hear a lot of feedback from readers and viewers, and many of them are quickly angered when they feel an athlete is being pushed upon them. That often leads to a backlash. It was like that just weeks ago with Ronda Rousey, when you couldn't click on a mixed martial arts website without being inundated with news about her. Even if it was deserved, for some, it was just too much. But no one ever seems to complain that there's too much Diaz.
He walks into our lives a few times a year, stirs up a heaping bowl of controversy, and then disappears, leaving us to eat it up all on our own.
I'm not going to pretend to know what makes Diaz tick, but I do know this: he wants his respect as an athlete. He wants fans to know that he didn't take any shortcuts to success, that he doesn't cheat, that he is the hardest worker no one knows about. And I may not ever truly be able to figure him out, but I do know that the more you hear from him, the more you realize he does care what other people think about him. After being beaten down by life for so many years, I guess it makes sense that you'd want people to understand that you pushed back, and that maybe you won. That you came from a place where hope is a flickering flame, and that you sparked it into a raging fire. That's the path he took, so win or lose on Saturday night, Diaz is a story of success.
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After years of cultivating a squeaky clean image, Georges St-Pierre is a magnet for blue-chip sponsors. He counts Under Armour, Gatorade, Google and Coca-Cola among them. Yet when St-Pierre made his first official appearance for UFC 158 fight week, he wore none of their logos. Instead, he wore the red-and-white jacket of the Montreal Wrestling Club. Was that supposed to be a message to Nick Diaz, a reminder to himself, or just a favor to one of his training gyms?
Probably a bit of all three. Everyone knows that St-Pierre's best weapon is Diaz's biggest deficiency, and the jacket is symbolic of St-Pierre's expected margin of victory.
After years of a nightly bonus structure that was largely dependent on the venue gates, the UFC has shifted to a more uniform approach, settling on $50,000 awards for the best fight, knockout and submission of the night.
UFC president Dana White said the change was made to make things more equitable for fighters competing on non-pay-per-view cards, where gates tend to be smaller.
"Nobody ever complained about it," White said. "The bonuses are a gift, so it's like someone getting a Christmas present and saying, 'I didn't want this, I wanted a f---ing car.' It was fair to keep them straight all the way across so no matter what card you fight on, it's the same bonus."
White added that he had the discretion to increase that $50,000 number based upon his own whims. For example, 2011's UFC 129 -- which drew a record $12 million gate, led to bonuses of $129,000 apiece.
UFC 164 set for Milwaukee
The UFC announced an event for August 31 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the home base of major sponsor Harley-Davidson. The event will function as the latest in UFC's "Hometown Throwdown" series, which in 2012 took place in Sunrise, Florida.
This will be the promotion's second trip to Milwaukee. The first came in 2011, when Chris Lytle defeated Dan Hardy in the last match of his career.
White bashes Riddle
Matt Riddle was recently cut from the UFC after failing his second drug test. Riddle then went on the offensive, saying in an interview that the UFC was "just looking for a reason to get rid of me" due to his grinding wrestling skill.
Of course, UFC president had a reaction to that that didn't exactly paint his former employee in a favorable light.
"We're not cutting wrestlers, and everybody's going to have an excuse on with why they're cut," he said. "Matt Riddle did an interview before that fight where he said, 'I smoke weed so that I don't beat my children.' Then he tests positive for it. He's a f---ing moron. That's why he's not here. He's a moron."
Despite cuts, UFC still looking to hire
White made headlines recently when he announced that 100 or more fighters could be on the chopping blocks in the coming weeks as the UFC pares down its roster. When fighters as accomplished as Jon Fitch get cut, that's understandably led to some trepidation about employment in MMA's premier organization.
However, White said there is no hiring freeze in place when it comes to their roster, and that if some desirable talent became available, they would pursue him or her.
"We're always looking for the best guys in the world," he said. "[The cut's are] not going to stop us."
After weeks of madness leading up to the fight, here are the champion and challenger actually saying some nice things about each other …
"I fight for the legacy, not to be champion. Diaz has an awesome pedigree, so for me, it's a great challenge." - St-Pierre
"I think I’d like to be recognized as an opponent. I’ve been saying George’s name for a long time because he’s the best fighter in the world. That’s a compliment. Georges never considers me something important, and maybe he shouldn't. That’s fine." - Diaz
Notable words from the others on the card …
"I could easily do that, but I don't want to be that kind of douche bag." - Johny Hendricks on whether there is temptation to add trash talk into his repertoire.
"I'm still not over it. Part of me is still disappointed, but I used it as a learning experience, motivation. I'm ready to come back with a vengeance on Saturday night, get back in there, get back in title contention." - Carlos Condit on his recent welterweight title fight loss.
"I have him figured out. I know I can beat him." - Jake Ellenberger, talking about his original UFC 158 opponent Johny Hendricks
"Being in Strikeforce felt almost the same as UFC, but now being back in the UFC, it's bigger. A lot bigger." - Nate Marquardt, talking about his brief exile from the octagon.
"The UFC made a pretty clear message with all the cuts they made a month ago. They say they're going to cut more fighters in the future. The message is pretty clear that when you step in the octagon, you have to deliver and give a good show. It's nothing different for me. It's the same thing. I have to go there and perform." - Patrick Cote on the pressure of his welterweight debut.