Everyone loves the rebel until they don’t. That’s a lesson that Nick Diaz is going to learn at some point during his career.
Right now Diaz is a hot product, and the UFC tolerates his behavior and idiosyncrasies because he makes the promotion much more money than he loses. His bad-boy stance and me-against-the-world attitude fill the seats.
Let’s face it: It’s not every day a fighter coming off a loss and a drug suspension waltzes into a pay-per-view main-event title fight.
The Nick Diaz show was on full display on Thursday when he participated in a media call for the upcoming UFC 158 fight card. Arriving fashionably late to the call, he left us with meandering answers to questions posed to him and even some that were posed to St-Pierre.
Diaz contradicted himself, ranted and raved, condemned St-Pierre for being pampered and then admitted he was a fan of the champ—he did a lot of things during that 45-minute call. Most of all, he left us talking about the March 16 fight.
We’re days removed from the call, and we’re still talking about what went down.
That’s why Diaz is tolerated by the UFC. That’s why, even though UFC president Dana White claims Diaz missed three tapings of UFC Countdown leading up to UFC 158, costing the UFC a “sh**tload” of money, the UFC deals with him. He leaves us all talking about him and his fights.
Depending on your stance, you want to see him fail miserably or succeed to the top of his profession.
His skills will erode, his drawing power will fall off, his me-against-the-world attitude will begin to ring hollow and then what?
What happens when Diaz’s ability to talk himself into a title fight evaporates? What happens when the UFC doesn’t tolerate him missing media obligations, the same obligations that every other fighter in the promotion grits their teeth and works through?
What happens when the fans says, "Enough of the woe-is-me attitude, this dude is pulling down $200,000 a fight"? What happens when his star falls from a main event on a pay-per-view card to third or fourth billing?
Make no mistake, these things will happen to Diaz. When they do, it’s hard to tell what will happen, but it’s almost guaranteed not to have a happy ending.
There won’t be a UFC vice presidency or anything waiting for Diaz when that time comes. There won’t be sponsor meet-and-greets and autograph signings to keep the income rolling in.
Attempting to tell Diaz that his life has not always been one of privilege, St-Pierre answered those charges with: “Let me tell you something uneducated fool, listen to me. I haven't always been like this; I've not always been rich. I start from the bottom, I make myself, I work very hard to be where I am right now. I know you don't believe this because you didn't succeed yet, and maybe you'll never succeed in your life because I don't think you're smart enough to understand how you should do to reach that point. When you talk about stuff people are doing for me, it’s called passive income, when you reach a point for your business you need a team to work for you to make the economy to keep the money rolling."
Later, St-Pierre was more succinct in his take on Diaz’s situation, saying, “If you are where you are right now and I am where I am it’s because of you, you did not succeed. It’s because of you.”
One would hope that those words sunk in a bit for Diaz, because like it or not, they ring true. Sure, Diaz has had a tough hand dealt to him, but at this point in his career, he should have the means to move out of the place he describes as “a small town full of people that hate me,” if he feels that is holding him back.
In his last five fights, Diaz has pocketed a reported total of $850,000. Granted he had some of that taken away when he tested positive for marijuana metabolites following UFC 142, but let’s face it, that’s a lot of scratch to pull down in less than three years.
I know money can’t make all the issues go away, but it can help ease them a bit. There’s no reason that Diaz doesn’t have at least some of the types of handlers that St-Pierre has.
In some kind of strange way, it seems as if keeping it real (whatever that means) is holding Diaz back from becoming what he could be: a huge star.
The clock is ticking for Diaz. If he loses to St-Pierre, where will he be? He'll have two losses in a row to cream-of-the-crop opponents, which will bring the whispers of "gatekeeper," "overrated" and "unrealized potential." It will also bring a decline in fight-card placement and the tolerance level for his rebel stance from his bosses.
Diaz probably won’t admit it, but one way or another, UFC 158 will be a huge turning point in his career. Win or lose, he would be well served to let some of St-Pierre’s unsolicited advice creep into his mind before it’s too late.
Because everyone loves the rebel until they don’t, and once they don’t, the end is never pretty.
**All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted.