Johnston on UFC: Diaz shows rare emotion

Nick Diaz (CP/Graham Hughes)

MONTREAL — The main soundbite from the heated UFC 158 pre-fight press conference was a typically calm Georges St-Pierre responding aggressively to Nick Diaz suggesting he was scared.

“Do you really think I’m afraid of you?” St-Pierre said. “You think I’m afraid of you? Are you crazy in your head, man? I’m not scared of you man. You’ll see Saturday if I’m scared of you.”

There you go. Fight sold. No more promotion needed. Everyone who has even the slightest bit of interest in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is now looking forward to this fight if they weren’t already.

But although GSP had the most memorable quote of the day it was Diaz that stole the show.

While answering questions Diaz was his typical self for the most part, going off on tangents, making disjointed statements and interrupting others. However, we also caught a glimpse of a side of Diaz we have seldom seen.

When asked if it bothered him that this fight was being billed as good guy vs. bad guy, and the UFC was portraying him as a villain, Diaz began his response by saying: “They like to make me look like the bad guy. Georges likes to say I remind him of the bullies that picked on him growing up that he had to deal with.”

Clearly the talk of bullies triggered something in Diaz because what followed was some raw emotion you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see at a pre-fight press conference.

He turned to St-Pierre and said: “I wanna say like, how many times have you had a gun to your head Georges? How many times has someone put a gun to your head? How many of your best friends been shot through the chest with a .45? Or how many of your friends been stomped, put to sleep in a coma?”

When he asked GSP if he’d ever had a gun to his head, it sounded — for a split second — like he could have broken down in tears if he let himself. His voice was weak and his body language shifted as he recalled what must have been a traumatizing moment in his life.

He continued: “How many kids put gum in your hair? Should I go further back? I mean we have to deal with these things (growing up). It’s hard times for everybody. A lot of the time it’s what makes us fighters.

“If it wasn’t for what I went through, who knows if I would have made it through life? Who knows if I’d be who I am today?”

Diaz is a 29-year-old that has clearly seen and been through a lot in his life and he carries his experiences with him and wears his emotions on his sleeve.

Those life experiences have certainly led to him becoming defensive and somewhat territorial, not always trusting those he’s unfamiliar with.

Earlier in the week UFC president Dana White revealed that following Diaz’s win over BJ Penn at UFC 137 in October 2011 there was nearly an incident between Diaz and GSP in a hotel both fighters were staying at in Las Vegas.

“First of all I don’t think he had business being there. He was coming out of an elevator or something and I stand my ground. He’s gonna try to walk through me and he’s not going to walk through me. I’m going to stand there with a hard look on my face and he’s going to have to edge his way against the wall to get by and that’s that.”

In the wild, that is called alpha male behaviour. Protect your territory and be prepared to fight for it. That appears to be the mentality Diaz employs.

Following the press conference while Nick was filming several one-on-one interviews before leaving, I spoke with his younger brother, UFC lightweight contender Nate Diaz, who shares the same territorial type frame of mind as his brother.

“If people are with us they’re with us,” Nate said. “If they’re not with us they’re going to get weeded out real quick.”

Nate added that he and his brother even prefer not to fight someone from their home state of California.

“The whole world is out there to fight, so why should we fight around the corner?” he said.

And even when a notable fighter from another camp asks if they can do some training with the Diaz brothers, Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields and the Caesar Gracie team, they usually aren’t brought in.

“People are like ‘we wanna come train’ and I’m like aren’t you at Greg Jackson’s? “Just stay where you’re at,” Nate said.

The Diaz brothers often train with fellow California-based camp Team Alpha Male though — somewhat fitting considering Nick’s behaviour during that hotel incident with GSP.

Perhaps it’s this territorialism that has contributed to Nick becoming such a successful fighter.

Whatever Nick Diaz has gone through in his life has made him the person he is today. Fortunately for fans, his past has contributed to the way he fights – aggressive, in your face, non-stop.

Diaz is often misunderstood when he speaks at press conferences, but when he steps into the Octagon at the Bell Centre Saturday there will be no misunderstanding his intentions.

Whether he wins or loses Diaz is extremely exciting and whether you’re a fan of Diaz or not, if you tune into UFC 158 you’ll be happy Diaz is the way he is.

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