If Saturday night was the end for Nick Diaz, it came just the way we would expect it: in a jumbled, confusing mess. The enigmatic UFC welterweight star lost a close, controversial decision to Carlos Condit at UFC 143, and then, seemingly on the spur of the moment, decided he was done with mixed martial arts.
Never mind that it was his only loss in his last 11 fights. Never mind that he's just 28 years old. Never mind that he's as popular as he's ever been, to the point that the Mandalay Bay Events Center crowd booed Condit even after he won. The way Diaz phrased it, he wasn't leaving MMA; instead, it was the sport that was forcing him out.
"I don’t need this s---," he said in his post-fight interview. "I pushed this guy backwards. He ran from me the whole fight. He ran this whole fight. I landed the harder shots. He ran the whole time. He kicked me in the leg with little baby leg kicks the whole fight. That’s the way they understand to win in here. I don’t want to play this game no more."
Keep in mind that just seconds before that, he'd called Condit "the man" and said he was happy for Condit and his family.
Sure, the two statements don't necessarily jibe, but his off-the-cuff unpredictability is part of the reason that the fascination in Diaz has multiplied over the last few years. And that heat-of-the-moment outburst is symbolic of the fighting style that often seemed to conclude with fury overpowering reasoned tactics.
As he has in the past, Diaz refused to accept the decision against him, pointing out that he was the one moving forward throughout most of the five-round bout. But the judges ruled that Condit was the more effective fighter, likely due to out-working Diaz for cage positioning and then firing off his own offense.
According to FightMetric, Condit out-struck Diaz in the fight by a 159-117 count overall, and a 151-105 number in "significant strikes." Diaz suggested leg kicks won Condit the fight, and there may be some truth to that. In strikes to the head and body, Diaz landed 111 to Condit's 91. In strikes to the legs, it was Condit 68, Diaz 6.
in some way, he should be flattered that opponents have to dramatically alter their game plans to beat him. Condit didn't fight his normal style, but his planning and execution were excellent, and Diaz can't expect judges to simply ignore the many kicks he landed. Diaz doesn't get to rewrite the rules each fight to favor his style. But because he's not happy with the way the fights are scored, he's gone.
Have we actually seen the last of Diaz? Who knows?
At this point, would anything he does actually surprise you? If any 28-year-old fighter in his prime actually called it quits and stuck to it, it would somehow make perfect sense that it was Diaz, only because it wouldn't make any sense at all.
That of course, seems a long shot. Most likely, he will be back. He seems to be a man who needs fighting. It's something he's done for over a decade already and it's the way he measures himself. He didn't go to college to become a pencil pusher or to a trade school to learn how to install HVAC. Diaz quit high school to train martial arts so he could become a fighter.
And he's been world class at it for years now. In fact, one close loss aside, this is about as good as he's ever been.
Maybe when he gets home and sits down and thinks about it, that's the conclusion that he'll come to. But for now, no one knows what he'll do, maybe not even Diaz himself. The statement he made in the cage is the only one he's made so far. He declined an invitation to the post-fight press conference, leaving UFC president Dana White to speculate about his future.
"Nick Diaz is a fighter," White said. "I don't see Nick Diaz retiring, but who knows? This isn’t a sport where you want to be half in, half out, [saying,] 'I don't know what I want to do.' If that’s the way you feel, you probably should retire."
White said later that he'd be open to a Condit-Diaz rematch. Maybe that will lure Diaz back. He wanted the chance to fight Georges St-Pierre, and a win over Condit would make that a possibility once again.
Or maybe he'll do what he said he would and walk away for good, a complex character leaving us scratching our heads one final time. Then, years from now, you'll be sitting around wondering whatever happened to Nick Diaz, thinking to yourself that he was so good, so young, so confusing.