What a surprise. Nick Diaz went and screwed up his career, again.
Even though Diaz is MMA's most chronic abuser of fans, his followers just cannot help but to ask for more—despite knowing it's just a matter of time before they get another shot to the back of the head. This would leave any other athlete in any other sport a pariah. Diaz fans, though, are the first to come to his defense and the last to realize that he is not somebody to put stake into.
It is sad and painful to watch.
While there are many reasons to hate Diaz, it should be framed in why people like him.
He is an exciting fighter. Plain and simple.
Diaz is a serious threat anywhere in the cage, and always looks to finish a fight—a serious change of pace from the distance-focused fighters like Georges St-Pierre and Jon Fitch, who dominated the welterweight division for a long while. From 2008-2011, in 11 fights, Diaz only made the judges earn their paychecks twice.
That, though, is the extent of his likability.
Diaz is consistently disrespectful to his opponents in and out of the cage. He and his brother, historically, are possibly the best in the business at instantly hating somebody for no reason other than having to fight them.
This turns into vitriolic smack-talk before fights, moronic taunting during and, if he happens to lose (or sometimes, even if he wins), nonsensical complaining after. He is also no favorite of the press, typically coming off as disinterested or confused during press conferences and conference calls.
Is Diaz's suspension at all surprising?
Okay, so he could use some work on his verbal skills. He still is a total professional, right?
Well, no. As previously mentioned, he is not especially savvy with a microphone in his face. But a bigger problem than that is how he tends to not show up to media obligations. His highest-profile misstep was his bout with Georges St-Pierre. What was easily the biggest fight of his career, and one of the biggest fights for the UFC in 2011, got nixed because of his absolute refusal to attend required promotional and press events.
So his people skills are not great. Professionally? Eh...not so great there, either. At least he behaves himself.
Ha! Nope. That would actually be his biggest downfall—with a lengthy history of self-control problems and one of the longest rap sheets in MMA history.
He threw a shoe at Diego Sanchez before they fought at the TUF2 Finale.
He picked a fight with Joe Riggs at a hospital after losing to him in the cage.
He has repeatedly failed drug tests due to his frequent use of marijuana; and probably would have failed at least one more if he did not skip a drug test before a title fight with Jay Hieron.
He was the central figure in a post-fight brawl at Strikeforce: Nashville that got the promotion kicked off of network television.
All that and he is still one of the most popular figures in MMA. Why? Why do his fans put up with this?
I'm not a psychologist, but it seems pretty clear Diaz has some type of fear of success. He has, after all, cheated himself and his inexplicably loyal fans out of three (four, technically) title fights between Jay Hieron, Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit (twice, really, because even if he beat Condit, the bout would have probably turned into a no contest, and then his positive test would have stripped him of the chance for an immediate rematch).
Worst of all, he has a Josh Barnett-like allergy to taking responsibility for his actions. There is always an excuse—whether he thought the weed would be flushed out of his system, he was just getting his boy's back or he perceived something that somebody did as disrespectful. He never simply made a mistake.
There was a big hubbub just a week ago about Diaz truanting a BJJ event he was headlining. Cesar Gracie, Diaz's manager/trainer/babysitter, was quick to defend him, giving a nonsensical explanation about how his would-be opponent, Braulio Estima, came in overweight and lied about the nature of his MMA training.
Estima came out and ripped Cesar Gracie, dismantling his argument piece-by-piece. Gracie flip-flopped and tried to deflect the criticism toward Nalty Junior, the event's marketer. Ultimately, though, this is entirely irrelevant. The bottom line is that fans paid to see Nick Diaz and did not get their money's worth; for reasons nobody really knows—possibly not even Diaz himself.
This seems almost an eternity ago now, however, with Diaz officially being suspended for a year by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for again testing positive for marijuana metabolites.
Diaz's handlers and fans are obviously disappointed, but the case his lawyer was trying to make was never logically sound or likely to succeed (he tried focusing in on a technicality in the wording of the rules). Diaz now has to wait until February 2013 for another fight. In all likelihood, he has denied his fans the opportunity to see a rematch with Condit, a bout with Georges St-Pierre or anything other than BJJ events he may, or may not, attend.
Whether or not you disagree with the suspension is irrelevant. This is not some unfortunate misstep by Diaz. This was not supposed to be a huge, transcendent event where everyone figures out that weed is whatever you think it is. This was Diaz's “trial." They were supposed to determine if he broke the rules (and he did), and determine how harsh his punishment should be.
Most of all, though, Nick Diaz did something stupid and put his career at risk. It's something you saw coming; admit it.
Nick Diaz is a 28 year-old man. He is, in all likelihood, as mature as he is ever going to be. To be a Diaz fan is to embrace the fact that any given accomplishment will be followed by disappointment and ridicule.
Diaz fans, you can do better.
Lose that zero. You can put that enthusiasm behind his brother, Nate, who is probably going to be fighting for the lightweight belt later this year, or in early 2013.
You can get behind Carlos Condit, who has demonstrated knockout power alongside an ability to game plan and adjust during fights—which he used to beat Diaz in lopsided fashion in February.
If you are looking for somebody with a bad attitude and arm-snapping skills, Ronda Rousey can use more fans.
Either way, you can do better than Nick Diaz. You are only setting yourself up for more disappointment.