Last week saw two of the most confusing and head scratching days in the Zuffa era of the UFC. Wednesday afternoon, we heard the news that Nick Diaz had been bumped from his main event with George St Pierre at UFC 137. As the story developed, we found out that Diaz had failed to appear at two scheduled press conferences and therefore was removed from the card by UFC president Dana White. White was upset and who could blame him. Diaz had given his word to be in Toronto and Las Vegas and failed to show up in either place. While I was disappointed as a Diaz fan by the decision, I respected Dana White’s explanation. I did until Thursday arrived and we found out the BJ Penn (who needed an opponent for 137 after Carlos Condit got bumped to the main event) would still be in action fighting….Diaz.
That’s right. Just 24 hours after Dana White told the world that Diaz was out, he was right back in. Not fighting GSP in a battle of champions, instead facing Penn in the co-main event. I like Dana White and I think 99% of what he touches turns to gold, but not this time. I understood his frustration with Diaz, but there were a couple of points that needed to be addressed. The first was the fight was still six weeks away when Diaz was yanked. If the fighter from Stockton flaked in the two/three weeks prior to the fight it would make more sense than getting an itchy trigger finger SIX weeks out. I have been to countless press conferences and trust me, you learn nothing. Fighter A “He is tough and I will have to be at my best”. Fighter B “This is going to be a great fight and I hope all the fans come out” Take a couple of pictures, drink a warm soda, shoot the s**t with the other guys in the media and you go home.
Point 2: This fight was easily one of the most anticipated fights of the year and it was taking place in Las Vegas instead of a new market to the UFC where you need to get out and hustle to promote the fight. When Diaz fought Paul Daley in San Diego, they had to do everything because there was no guarantee on ticket sales..that would not be a problem here. Tickets were set to go on sale this past Saturday, and most experts expected an easy sellout.
Point 3: White knows he has something good in Diaz and that’s why the decision to bring him back makes sense. It makes no sense to put him back on 137. If Diaz and Penn were to fight a month later, nobody says a word. In fact I think most people would applaud the UFC for giving Diaz a second shot and would look forward to a great fight. Now it just looks bad. It reminds me of the classic quote from boxing promoter Bob Arum “yesterday I was lying, today I am telling the truth”.
I like Condit and I think he is a worthy challenger for the belt, just not right now. The right fight was (and still is) GSP vs. Diaz with the winner of Condit/Penn in line for a title shot. It would be another example of the UFC doing a perfect job of storytelling and building excitement for a card down the road.
I wonder what the hit will be to PPV buys. The UFC cards are not cheap ($55.00 for HD) but more often than not you get your money’s worth based on the match making skills of Joe Silva. It’s hard to remember a recent card where at least 3 out of the 5 main card fights didn’t deliver positive results. You could have had 4 waiters fighting 4 cab drivers on the GSP/Diaz under card and I still would have bought it. It was a super fight whether Dana White wanted to use that term or not. White has been on quite a roll recently and deserves the benefit of the doubt; I just wish we didn’t have to lose Diaz vs. GSP in the process.