UFC 158 is a study in contrasts. In one corner is UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. GSP is the sport's ultimate good guy, a smooth-talking corporate pitchman who always seems to say and do the right things.
Across the cage will be Nick Diaz. The former Strikeforce champ is GSP's polar opposite. Obscene, crude and socially unacceptable, Diaz abhors everything that surrounds the fight business. He barely even pitches himself, let alone products. Only the contest itself interests him in the least.
It's a battle that has been brewing for three years. Here's the unofficial rundown, detailing the history of one of the most anticipated welterweight clashes in years:
Leading up to his fight with Marius Zaromskis on Showtime, Diaz, then with Strikeforce, tells AOL Fanhouse's Ariel Helwani that he thinks he could beat the best of the best:
UFC president Dana White enjoys watching Diaz fight. But as he, prophetically I might add, points out to MMA Weekly, Diaz will have to learn to play the game before he can be trusted with headlining a UFC show:
"Listen, you have certain rules and guidelines, and last time Nick Diaz was in the UFC he got in a fist fight in the hospital with the guy that he fought here," he said, referring to Diaz's fight againstin 2006. "You can’t do that kind of stuff. The kid is very talented and he probably should be in the UFC, but that kind of stuff has got to stop."
St-Pierre decisions Diaz's teammate Jake Shields in a title fight in Toronto. Diaz was not impressed with GSP's performance: "Let me get in there with that guy...what do you think is going to happen when they put him in there with me?"
Diaz's manager Cesar Gracie is not messing around. Unlike most MMA fighters, Diaz has options—his Strikeforce contract allows him to pursue boxing, and Gracie pursues a fight with former boxing standout Jeff Lacy. Although Gracie maintains a straight face, it's clearly a negotiating ploy to get GSP in the cage, something Cesar all but admits to MMA Junkie:
"Barring something like Dana White telling us, 'Hey, we really need you to fight GSP at such-and-such a date and it conflicts with [boxing] - barring that, we're going to fight Lacy."
It works! Dana White announces via Twitter that Diaz will challenge GSP for the UFC welterweight title:
September 6, 2011
Diaz misses a press conference in Toronto to promote the fight. Dana White was furious. Even the normally unflappable St-Pierre had his feather ruffled:
"I'm a little bit mad, because it’s a little bit unfair," GSP said. "I missed days of training to come here...I think it’s not fair. He should do the same thing that I do."
September 7, 2011
Diaz misses another press obligation, this time in Las Vegas. UFC executive Reed Harris waits for hours at the airport for the fighter who never shows. Diaz is officially inducted into the Tyson Zone:
Diaz is the only MMA fighter officially in the Tyson Zone. Miss a press conference? Fight an opponent at the hospital after the bout? Flip off the world? Tell reporters that you smoke weed all the time but can beat the test, no problem? Fail a drug screening for marijuana and have the biggest win of your career erased from your permanent record?
September 7, 2011
Dana White has seen enough. He pulls Nick from the UFC 137 main event. Diaz is replaced by the relatively unknown.
September 9, 2011
White, it turns out, simply pulled a switcheroo, announcing he's booked a new fight for Diaz, who swaps places with Condit. Diaz will take on UFC legend BJ Penn, originally scheduled to face Condit, while Carlos steps into Nick's title shot.
September 9, 2011
Later that day, Diaz finally makes a public appearance, posting an incredible video to YouTube with his side of the story. While yelling at traffic and generally looking disturbed, Diaz stays true to his ethos: "Sorry I didn't show up to the beauty pageant."
September 14, 2011
Diaz admits to MMA Junkie that if he'd known that he was going to lose his title shot, he would have made it to the press events:
"I'm not trying to make all these little excuses," Diaz said. "If I'd have known the fight was going to be off, I would have [expletive] gone to the press conference, or I would have told somebody, 'Hey, if I don't make it to this stupid [expletive], I'm not fighting.' I think that people would have gotten me there. I think people would have come and gave two [expletive] and gotten me to that press conference."
October 13, 2011
White obviously still wants to see the Diaz and GSP fight. He tells the assembled media corps that a Diaz win over Penn will earn him a title shot against the GSP vs. Condit winner.
October 18, 2011
Georges St-Pierre suffers an undisclosed injury (later revealed to be an MCL injury) and is removed from the card. Penn and Diaz are now the main event.
October 19, 2011
Diaz is late for a media conference call. The UFC takes the hit for his absence. Diaz claimed to be unaware of the obligation when he joins the call in progress:
"I didn't even know about a call," he said. "I woke up, my phone was dead and my brother told me that I was supposed to be on the call. I didn't get any notice. I didn't hear anything about it until about fifteen minutes ago.
"When should I have known about this press conference? Somebody should have gave me a call. I don't know who's talking to who. I didn't hear about it. Just like anything, I don't hear about this (expletive) until way late. I'm not sitting here on my thumbs waiting for a call, I'm waiting for training. I'm training hard, harder than these guys and that's why. That's what takes up all my time, training, becoming the best in the world."
October 29, 2011
Diaz beats Penn easily. After the bout he calls out St-Pierre. "I don't think Georges is hurt. I think he's scared," he yelled. "What's up? Where you at Georges?"
October 29, 2011
White takes on the role of GSP spokesman and says St-Pierre is furious at Diaz. According to White, St-Pierre called Diaz "the most disrespectful person I've ever met." White cancels a scheduled bout between GSP and Condit and schedules the Diaz vs. St-Pierre fight for Super Bowl Weekend 2012. A depressed Diaz, in a memorably candid post-fight press conference, says he got the shot only because people want to see him lose.
December 1, 2011
Diaz is nominated by readers of The Stockton Daily Record as "Stocktonian of the Year":
“This isn’t about maturity or proper behavior and decision making. The Stockton mixed martial arts fighter has none of those. What he has is talent and presence and – if he can keep (or get) that head of his on his shoulders – the potential to be a Stockton athletic rallying cry, ala Dallas Braden. Perhaps this is a year early. If he can win a huge upcoming fight and learn to act like an adult, maybe we’ll have another Yaqui Lopez on our hands.”
December 7, 2011
St-Pierre blows out his knee. White announces that Carlos Condit will step into his place and battle Diaz for an interim championship.
February 4, 2012
Diaz loses a five-round decision to Condit. He is not pleased with the verdict and tells Joe Rogan after the fight that he's calling it quits:
"You know I don't need this s**t. You know what I mean? I pushed this guy backwards the whole fight. He ran from me the whole fight. I landed the harder shots. He ran the whole time. He kicked me in my leg a little bit. That was the way they understand to win in here, I don't want to play this game no more. I'll help out my team and my brother but I'm outta this s**t."
February 9, 2012
The Nevada State Athletic Commission emails Bleacher Report the results of the UFC 143 drug screenings. Of the 18 fighters tested, only Diaz tested positive, showing signs of marijuana metabolites. This is his second positive test in Nevada, following a 2007 suspension for marijuana use after his legendary fight with Takanori Gomi at PRIDE 33.
February 22, 2012
The Nevada State Athletic Commission temporarily suspends Diaz while it explores the medical marijuana issue. Diaz is prescribed the drug by a doctor, and his attorney Ross Goodman tells Yahoo Sport's Kevin Iole that he doesn't believe Diaz's use violated standard anti-doping protocols:
“WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) prohibits marijuana in-competition because they don’t want people fighting, or doing [expletive] under the influence of marijuana,” Goodman said. “Nobody can say – not the athletic commissioner, not [executive director] Keith [Kizer] – nobody can say Nick was impaired or under the influence of marijuana. Nobody.
“So let’s just talk street. Let’s just talk common sense here. Why do you want to punish him, basically for a metabolite that resulted from legal use eight days before the fight? Why? What did it do that you guys [the commission] are so concerned about, because contrary to what Keith is saying, we know it didn’t create a safety issue because everybody knows … that it’s out of your system in a couple of hours.”
May 21, 2012
After months of legal wrangling, Nevada suspends Diaz for a year and fines him 30 percent of his fight purse. Our own Damon Martin had the details for MMA Weekly:
Following a three-hour-plus hearing in which Diaz spoke to the commission at length about everything including his history with marijuana use, his medical marijuana card in California, his previous positive test from 2007, and his questionnaire filled out prior to his fight at UFC 143, the commission handed down similar punishment to that of other athletes who have tested positive multiple times in the state.
May 22, 2012
Diaz's manager Cesar Gracie disagrees with the Commission's decision, telling Just Scrap Radio that the commissioners were "cronies" who didn't care about the fighters:
“It was a joke really,” Gracie said. “I thought it was like a kangaroo court. They had in mind what they were going to do and they did it. The whole time it was more like everyone there was a prosecutor against Nick. It was pretty ridiculous.”
November 17, 2012
St-Pierre defeats Condit to retain his welterweight title in a five-round decision. Diaz didn't think much of the fight:
December 6, 2012
Dana White tells the media that St-Pierre is desperate to fight Diaz. While the UFC boss concedes that he hasn't spoken to Diaz yet, the fight seems all but official:
"Georges St-Pierre went on vacation," White said. "When he came back, we were talking about Anderson Silva. He said, 'I want Nick Diaz. Me and Nick Diaz have unfinished business. We were supposed to fight. That's the fight I want now.'
"Georges St-Pierre has been a phenomenal champion, a phenomenal human being and just a great guy to work with for us. He doesn't ask for things. If he wants to fight Nick Diaz, and Nick Diaz wants to fight him, that's probably the fight we'll make."
December 16, 2012
"It's time to make that big fight against Diaz," St-Pierre said. "I'm doing a favor for the fans. I think it's the fight that will sell the most. The UFC wants to put on the big fights. It's what people want to see."
March 7, 2013
After a tepid buildup to the fight, the claws came out during a media conference call. This was a remarkable piece of performance art by Diaz and a snapshot into a possibly deranged mind (transcript via MMA Mania):
Nick Diaz: You've got Georges and someone's powdering his nose and sending him off for a photo shoot. Someone's doing twitter for him. I don't know how it works out. I'm not in his shoes...My life's a mess. I'm not afraid to admit it. I work hard regardless through this sh*t. I don't have people handing me water bottles left and right. I have to do that sh*t on my own and every day I know that I'm doing it on my own and that's why I know I've got to do it that much harder. I don't have people taking care of my money and my financial obligations what have you. All that stuff that people say is important, f*ck that. I'm too busy fighting your fights.
...If I had that much money I'd be pampered the f*ck up. There'd be people showing up every hour to pamper me the f*ck out. Motherf*cker I'm not stupid. I can tell what's what.
Georges St-Pierre: Uneducated fool. Listen to me. You sound pretty smart right now. I've not always been like this. I've not always been rich. I started from the bottom. I worked really hard to be where I am right now. I know you don't believe this because you didn't succeed yet and maybe you didn't succeed I your life because I don't think you're smart enough to understand to reach this point. When you talk about people doing things for me, you need people to work for you to get the money rolling.
Nick Diaz: That sounds nice Georges. If I wore tight shorts and got a haircut and had people telling me what to do. You don't' know where I come from. Nobody wants to come out here. Nobody gives a shit. You got your sh*t right.
Georges St-Pierre: You're not the only guy that's tried to take from me.
Nick Diaz: I'm not jealous. You did the right sh*t you got to do. You had your fight and you won that fight. I was coming right behind you. I don't mean to be disrespectful. I don't have anything against you when it comes to what you're doing. I think you're doing a wonderful job for who you are and what you do. I don't have anything against that.
March 13, 2013
Diaz misses open workouts, a mandatory media event. My colleague Jeremy Botter is not amused:
Look, I get it. Nick's refusal to play by the rules is what endears him to his fans. And I have to admit, there's a little part of me that absolutely respects Diaz for playing by his own rules and doing his own thing even when it has caused him to lose plenty of money in the past.
Remember, we wouldn't even be here now if Diaz hadn't decided to skip media obligations over a year ago, back when this fight was scheduled the first time around.
However, there comes a point when it's no longer cute or endearing or "awesome," and Diaz has reached that point. It's not fair that St-Pierre, a huge star in Montreal—who would no doubt love to be sitting at home instead of parading in front of the fans and the media, repeatedly answering the same questions—was required to show up, while Diaz felt it was fine for him to just stay in his Sheraton hotel room.
March 13, 2013
St-Pierre tells Bleacher Report that he isn't happy with Diaz blowing off his press responsibilities:
“It’s getting old, after Saturday it will be over. It’s amusing sometimes, but right now it’s different.”
March 13, 2013
Poor Dana White is at his wit's end with Diaz, telling Jim Rome: “If he wins, we are seriously going to have to have a come to Jesus meeting.”
March 14, 2013
"I think it's healthy for you to laugh and be happy, but sometimes it's hard for me to do because it takes me so far out of that state of mind to where I'm thinking of being smashed with elbows, and all these different ways I can lose," Diaz explained.
"I try to cancel out every possibility of losing the fight, and this runs through my head all day long. I'm seeing myself become smashed in the face, cut, or being submitted or being knocked out in so many different ways all day long. That's just my job to train that in my head and when I'm back and forth in a happy mode or a training mode to a happy mode, like I have a really quick shock of anxiety right there and I don't like that feeling."
March 14, 2013
Diaz shows up for the pre-fight press conference and blames his absence at the open workouts on a need to rest up before the fight:
“Either I missed that or I missed (this press conference), but I was going to have to catch up on some sleep. I was on some later hours. I think it outweighed the repercussions,” said Diaz. “I’m sorry I didn’t put on a show for the fans, but I’d like to also put on a show for the fans on Saturday night, so I’m just trying to make the best decisions to make a showing at 100-percent.”
White tells Bleacher Report he can live with that decision:
“I don’t want to diminish the open workouts, but you pick and chose your battles, I would prefer him to miss the open workouts than the press conference. Everybody wants to focus on the open workouts, but I think he’s done a pretty good job leading up to this fight, considering he’s Nick Diaz.”
March 14, 2013
"I believe that he's is on plenty of steroids, and I don't think they test around here either. I doubt I'll be tested as well. I don't care what they say to the fans or the media, I don't think we'll be tested. And if so, he's probably got a bottle of piss in his pocket."
March 16, 2013
All the talk will be over. After more than three years, this fight will finally be in the record books. Stay tuned to Bleacher Report for up-to-the-minute updates on all the latest from UFC 158.