There's not much that surprises in the world of Nick Diaz these days. But when Stockton's favorite son retired from mixed martial arts a second time, then subsequently decided to start his own fight promotion, WAR MMA, even the most hardened among Diaz's fanbase couldn't help but raise a collective eyebrow.
"The idea was to throw a show here locally, and the concept just grew and grew," Diaz's legal representative, Jonathan Tweedale, explained on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "Folks are interested anytime Nick is doing something, so this has become bigger than I think he originally envisioned ... in terms of the attention that's being put on it and as a response to that, the things that he wants to do."
For Diaz, this was just a natural step -- an idea he played around with in his head, and chiefly, a way to give back to the community that propelled him to become one of the most popular fighters under the UFC umbrella.
"The genesis in his thought," Tweedale explained, "was he was looking at a bunch of the guys around on the team and the in community that weren't on his team, and thinking about whether they had adequate opportunities to fight. The thought was that a new promotion would provide a much needed opportunity for a lot of these guys to advance their careers. So, in part, it's about giving back to the sport and to the folks around him that have helped him along the way, and, in part, it's a new project to build something for his own future."
"If this was solely about dollars and cents then, yeah, he'd be out there whoring himself around to the media. But he wants the attention on the fighters and the promotion. It's a different model from the UFC's model where Dana White is biggest star that the UFC has. That's not how Nick is envisioning proceeding here."
True to his word, Diaz has mostly remained out of the public eye since the project launched last month. WAR MMA's debut takes place June 22, 2013 at the Stockton Arena in California. The event is headlined by Diaz' teammate, former UFC fighter Daniel Roberts versus welterweight veteran Justin Baesman, and is expected to be streamed free on the promotion's website as well as any media outlet that wishes to embed it.
According to Tweedale, Diaz has a team consisting of eight to ten people helping to set everything up, plus additional contractors. But every decision, no matter how small, runs through Diaz first.
It's a strange turn of events for a fighter who seemed so adverse to the Dana White minutia-driven lifestyle that comes with being a fight promoter. Yet, in some ways, it's also inexplicably fitting. Take for example WAR MMA's modified ruleset, which utilizes a ring and disallows grounded elbows, two aspects for which Diaz has long advocated.
"These guys can actually use their technique," said Tweedale, echoing his client's criticism of the Unified Rules. "It's not just a matter of if I can hold the other guy down for five minutes, three times, then I win. We've got to remember, MMA is supposed to simulate, in some way, a fight. In a real fight, you don't win a fight by holding someone down.
"If you're making that distinction (three five-minute rounds), let's make some other distinctions so we actually ensure there's actually fighting here, not just holding. Holding is a foul in pretty much any other sport."
Tweedale refused to disclose whether Diaz is funding 100-perfect of WAR MMA's bill by himself, but he did acknowledge that at least of certain percentage of Diaz's own money is staked in the endeavor. Tweedale also ruled out the possibility of his client fighting under his own organization's banner, noting that early retirement doesn't exactly terminate Diaz's contract obligations with the UFC.
Nonetheless, it's clear that Diaz is looking firmly ahead toward the future instead of brooding about his previous public narrative -- the UFC 158 weigh-in controversy that dominated headlines and cast Quebec's athletic commission, the Régie des alcools des courses et des jeux, in a dubious light.
"As far as Nick's concerned, it's over, and it's up to the fans, the followers of the sport and the UFC to look at what happened on the basis of what's already being disclosed, and to determine whether they want to pressure the Régie to change their procedures. This was never about trying to obtain some kind of win or advantage for Nick," Tweedale explained, regarding the commission's last-second disclosure to discount decimals when weighing fighters for a title bout.
"The steps that we took after that fight, in fact before that fight in the case of the video, all of that was successful in shedding light on what happened. The fans that checked out what was made publicly available can draw their own conclusions. Nick went above and beyond the call of duty in shedding light on what happened. This was never about sour grapes. This was never about trying to say that this effected the outcome, but in his view and my view, the job was done successfully of showing the fans what happened."
Tweedale reiterated that thus far Diaz seems contented in his retirement, even if other fighters may not believe him. From Demian Maia to Tyron Woodley, there's been no shortage of welterweight contenders attempting to coax the 29-year-old back into the cage. Those calls, however, have been met largely by silence.
"Of course these guys want to fight him," Tweedale remarked. "Anyone would want to fight a legendary figure in the sport. The problem is, for them, he's retired, and unless there's a very good reason to step out of retirement, I don't see that changing."
What that very good reason is, remains to be seen. For what it's worth, Diaz's position, however farfetched, has remained consistent. He wants either a rematch against UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre or a title fight against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
All the same, even Tweedale can't say for sure if Diaz's retirement will forever hinge on those two unlikely goals.
"That depends on two things," Tweedale said in closing. "It depends on whether the fans really want to see him in a really interesting match-up, and it depends whether Nick is willing to come out of retirement and bring the fans a really, really big match.
"It's just difficult to imagine anything not involving one of those two fighters, at this point in time, that would be sufficient. But you're right, maybe in three years the landscape has totally changed. Anderson is long retired, GSP is retired, there's a new welterweight champ that's held the belt for a couple years. Who knows? You can never predict the future. But as of now, he's retired, and I don't see that changing anytime in the imminent future."