Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
One thing can be certain after Thursday afternoon's UFC 143 press conference: Nick Diaz has a great deal of respect for Carlos Condit. Breaking custom, he even shook Condit's hand after the two posed for photographers at the conclusion of the event, held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. It was a noticeable change for Diaz, who has flipped off, shoved and otherwise attempted to menace several prospective opponents in the days before a fight.
But this Diaz was different: quiet, mellow and reserved. There were no outbursts or complaints about respect. There were no scathing criticisms of anything surrounding the sport. In fact, he saved his only prolonged oration to defend his opponent.
Yes, Diaz came to the side of Condit, after being asked about Georges St-Pierre overshadowing Condit in the lead-up to UFC 143.
"Yeah, I think it makes me sick," he said. "This is Carlos’ time to be here, and to be a part of this main event. This is ... half of the show is built up around me fighting Georges St-Pierre. But that's not [right]. I’m fighting Carlos Condit. So, I don't like it."
As Diaz observed, St-Pierre has been noticeably visible during event week, even holding court with reporters on Wednesday to offer a status update on his injured knee. Of course, he also spoke about the UFC 143 main event, saying that he "hopes and prays" Diaz wins, so that he eventually gets to fight him.
Because of that, along with the contrasting archetypes the two represent, Condit has been something of an odd-man out, even though he has the chance to play spoiler to the story line and capture the interim welterweight title in the process.
Diaz reiterated his belief that Condit is actually a more dangerous foe than St-Pierre is, meaning that quite literally. As in, Condit is much more likely to do physical harm in an octagon than St-Pierre is.
"You’re more in danger of losing a decision to Georges St-Pierre," he said. "I think you’re more in danger of losing your teeth if you're fighting Condit here."
Aside from those two telling answers, Diaz seemed a bit unengaged in the proceedings, asking reporters to repeat questions on at least two occasions. Contrary to his normal, digressive speaking style, he was short and concise, rarely offering more than a one-sentence response.
Of course, that's not that unusual for fighters who are making their final weight cut, but Diaz is facing a whole new level of scrutiny as he's ascended up the welterweight rankings and become seen as a real threat to St-Pierre.
All of that buildup will essentially be wasted if Condit pulls the mild upset (Diaz is about a 2-to-1 favorite). Condit has won 12 of his last 13 fights, so the suggestion that the fight is a gimme for Diaz is a ridiculous assertion.
Condit himself admitted that at times, it's felt that the St-Pierre vs. Diaz fight is being planned "before this one even happens," but likes his chances of playing spoiler. Regardless, he suggested that while fans may be clamoring for St-Pierre vs. Diaz, they may be missing a gem right under their noses.
"I expect a war," he said. "Honestly, Nick is probably the toughest dude I've ever fought. He's well-rounded, he has a pretty dynamic skill set. He's pretty similar to me. We both come to fight. No matter who wins, fans are going to win because it’s going to be a phenomenal fight."
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