When Thursday’s UFC 158 media conference call began, the moderator said that five of the six welterweights headlining the upcoming card March 16 in Montreal were on the line. That meant one was missing.
It didn’t take much to know which one it was.
“No shock we’re looking for Nick Diaz,” UFC president Dana White said.
Then we promptly heard a voice of someone who just joined the call.
It was Diaz. Sigh of relief.
What may have turned into another media event with the usual cloud over it as to whether Diaz will have to be pulled from the fight yet again turned into one of the most epic UFC pre-fight conference calls ever.
(Everyone remember that infamous Diaz rant at the UFC 137 post-fight press conference? That was nothing.)
What had up until this point been a pretty cordial setup to their welterweight title clash headlining next week’s UFC card at the Bell Centre returned to the same heated affair that it once was back when GSP felt disrespected on that memorable October 2011 night and Diaz was subsequently made into a villain. And it took less than an hour.
But Thursday’s heated exchange also showed that while Diaz may be a little misunderstood -- and certainly is not a "bad guy" -- he's just clueless when it comes to playing the MMA media game and truly lacks self-awareness.
You don’t constantly cut off a guy when he’s asked a question and go on a profanity-laced tirade, and then call him "out of line" or express dumbfoundedness when people suggest you lack respect.
Diaz also said he doesn’t mind doing media duties, he just wants to be aware of them more ahead of time, claiming he only knew about this conference call last night. I’m sorry, but I find it hard to believe he wasn’t given more notice (when the media knew about it for a week), and even still, that’s no excuse for coming on the call late (a habit with Diaz), when the five other welterweights were all there on time.
(Side note: In hindsight, the UFC probably should have known better than to have anyone but GSP and Diaz on the conference call. Co-headliners Carlos Condit and Johny Hendricks had three questions posed between them, while Jake Ellenberger and Nate Marquardt had to sit through the whole 45 minutes with not a one sent their way. To be sure, UFC 158 is all about GSP vs. Diaz, and it just got ever more real.)
It certainly seemed like the latest lippy-ness from Diaz got St-Pierre reaching into his "darkest place" and took all of his well media-trained efforts to restrain himself from going even further than he did in retort ("uneducated fool" is about as publicly insulting as GSP gets, and even that sounded elegant coming from the French Canadian.)
Speaking of which, St-Pierre was asked about the whole #GSPsDarkPlace Twitter meme -- a play off the typically super-friendly Canuck saying in a UFC 158 promo that Diaz made him reach into a "dark place." The champ made an admission that he likely should not have.
"I’ve never tweeted once in my life," St-Pierre said. "I have people doing it for me. I’m not into social medial at all, unfortunately."
At least he expressed regret that he does not personally interact with fans through social media, but his handlers probably would have preferred he not lift that façade. Diaz certainly called him on it.
"You’ve got to wonder how you’re coming off if you’re not paying attention to what people are saying on the Internet," Diaz said.
He actually went further, later retweeting a sarcastic critique by fellow UFC fighter Roy Nelson.
"@arielhelwani: GSP: I've never tweeted once in my life. I have people doing it for me. I'm not into social media at all." Wow love the fans
— Roy Nelson (@roynelsonmma) March 7, 2013
Only trouble with Diaz doing that is it’s a little hypocritical, considering his Twitter timeline shows only five tweets since Nov. 18, when he offered a memorable, and admittedly witty, commentary of St-Pierre’s win over Condit.
I am not impressed by your performance @georgesstpierre
— nick diaz (@nickdiaz209) November 18, 2012
But all of this just shows the pattern of disrespect to which Diaz is completely oblivious. It was on full display in Thursday’s conference call, and it has only taken their much-anticipated bout up a notch.
As Izzy Mandelbaum would say, "it’s go time." (Seinfeld reference. Had to do it.)
Diaz is lamenting the fact that he isn’t getting the same treatment that his much-more established champion does, but he doesn’t realize just what St-Pierre has done to earn it, not just in the cage, but outside it, by being available and accessible with the media always -- even though he despises it -- and acting as polite as he can be even when he might not feel like it. That’s not "bulls---"; it’s common courtesy.
Diaz needs to learn that, and not make constant comments that smack of bitterness. Instead, he essentially insults St-Pierre for getting his nose powdered (I guess he still sees these important media duties as a "beauty pageant.")
Near the end of the call, the two had one short exchange that basically sums up where we are now.
St-Pierre: "Do you seriously believe I’m afraid of you?"
Diaz: "You think I deserve to be beat down?"
St-Pierre: "I do now."
One final thought: Previous fighters to really get under St-Pierre’s skin with their comments were Josh Koscheck, B.J. Penn and Matt Serra. St-Pierre subsequently broke Koscheck’s orbital bone in a five-round beatdown, while the other two were the last two guys he’s finished in the UFC.
Perhaps Diaz should have kept his mouth shut.