I don't know about the rest of you guys and girls, but I sure missed Nick Diaz.
It's one of those situations where you don't realize how good you had it until the thing you had went flying out the window, much like an old flame that you reminisce about on a cold winter evening. You sure had it good back then, you think to yourself, and you wonder why you ever thought you'd be better off without her in the first place.
That's how I feel about Diaz now.
In case you haven't heard, Diaz showed up to the UFC 158 media conference call and quickly became the star of the show. Actually, it's fair to say that Diaz was the star of every show, because this was easily the most entertaining UFC media call I can remember, and that includes the epic one featuring Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson prior to UFC 114 back in 2010.
Ever since his year-long suspension for failing a marijuana test early in 2012, Diaz has been mostly silent. Sure, he turned up here and there, but mostly he focused on training, eating right and competing in triathlons.
The Diaz we'd come to know and love over the course of his career, the one who vocalized whatever feeling that passed through him at any given moment? That guy was gone. The new guy was boring.
He talked about retiring, for crying out loud!
But after Thursday, we are certain of two things: Diaz is back to being himself, and he's made the UFC a lot more fun and unpredictable than it usually is.
I don't even know how to parse all of the craziness—and by craziness, I mean awesomeness—into a single story. There will be countless others who do that for you, and I strongly urge you to listen to the full conference call if you have a few free moments.
Hell, even if you don't have a few free moments, you need to make some time.
Pick up a pizza or throw some popcorn in the microwave or grab a bottle of your favorite craft beer, and then sit back, press play and just listen. Because it's well worth your time.
Instead of trying to give you a full picture of everything Diaz said, I'm going to offer you some of my favorite quotes, followed by my own commentary. I'm sure you will have your own thoughts on these various soundbites, and I urge you to leave them in the comments below. And before you start, no, Diaz did not beat Carlos Condit in his last fight, so let's not even go there.
Here we go:
I'd like to be thought of as someone who keeps it real. I don't like that I'm made out to be this evil person, who needs to be shot down and conquered. If anything, I'm the superhero coming in with the anti-bull****.
This is my favorite quote of the entire media call, and there's a lot of truth to it. Diaz is so beloved because he does exactly what he said he does: He's the superhero but more in an antihero way.
He's like Steve Austin, the WWF/WWE wrestler who helped lead the professional wrestling organization to unprecedented heights in the late 1990s. He does what he wants and says what he wants, and that's the opposite of St-Pierre, who has cultivated a clean and positive image that is incredibly appealing to sponsors.
This is mixed martial arts some boring a** s*** we're watching. I like Georges. I'm a fan of Georges St-Pierre. I appreciate everything he does, and how he does everything to win, and it meets the scoring criteria that sucks. It really f****d it up for everybody, makes it especially about the strong wrestlers.
This comment will only make Diaz more loved than he already is. Because the major criticism of St-Pierre isn't that he's not a great fighter; he clearly is. The major criticism of St-Pierre throughout the past few years is that he doesn't fight with fire and doesn't go for finishes. Diaz is just voicing the same opinion that many fans hold.
And then, the real fun started. Diaz constantly interrupted St-Pierre's attempts to answer questions from the media, and the welterweight champion finally had enough. He exploded on Diaz, and that led to this exchange:
St-Pierre: Let me tell you something you uneducated fool. I haven't always been like this. I haven't always been rich. I started at the bottom. As much as you don't believe this, because you didn't succeed yet, and maybe you'll never succeed, because I don't think you're smart enough to know what you have to do to reach this point. When you reach a point for your business, you need a team to make the economy, and keep the money rolling.
Diaz: That sounds nice. If I had someone buttering me up, maybe I'd have worked out. You don't even know where I came from. Nobody wants to come out here.
St-Pierre: You don't know anything about me. You think I was born rich? I've worked really hard. You have no idea.
Diaz: You've worked hard on your backflip.
When I was at my old employer back in 2011, we visited Dana White's office at UFC headquarters. On a big conference table, standing in the light of the biggest window in the entire building, there was a poster for the original St-Pierre vs. Diaz bout. That poster is the same one being used for UFC 158, and I'm glad the world was able to finally see what I saw that day.
The poster is the best artwork Zuffa has ever produced for any of its fight cards, and here's why: It encapsulates everything that is so great about this singular fight.
St-Pierre, the epitome of the modern athlete in mixed martial arts, stands at the bottom. Diaz, the opposite of St-Pierre in every single facet of his entire life—save for the fact that they are both mixed martial artists—looms above him.
It's a vision of what mixed martial arts has become against what it used to be, and it's something to behold.
And for a while there, I thought we were heading for a disappointing buildup to a fight I've looked forward to for a long time. Diaz was boring, to be frank. He was talking about respecting St-Pierre and exhibited none of the angst that made him so beloved. It felt like every other fight, and that was a bad thing. Because this is not every other fight.
But now, we're back. After 45 minutes of the Diaz Show—and St-Pierre responding with a kind of candor we've come to expect him to avoid—the fight feels like it has some weight, some meaning.
We've got ourselves a grudge match, and I couldn't be happier.