In a world where Nick Diaz is UFC champion, expletives are worth their weight in gold.
It’s a malevolent place, filled with middle fingers and taunts, smirks and slaps, and no one is ever safe.
Here, in the kingdom of the odd and the palace of the misunderstood, Diaz sits on a throne made of hemp, because the greatest of men wear jeans and a hoodie. In a world where Diaz is champ, the universal area code is 209, and the best time to show up for something is not showing up at all.
On Saturday night, there’s a possibility—however slight—that Diaz could usurp longtime welterweight figurehead Georges St-Pierre. If that happens, then what? We’d essentially be replacing the UFC’s clean-cut golden boy and the sport’s biggest pay-per-view star for that unscrupulous dude from the dark alley you never go down.
If this happens the UFC might burst into flames.
The repercussions of such a turn of events would be cataclysmic and far-reaching. If there’s anything we’ve learned about Diaz over the years, then it’s that he was born for battle, but he’s terribly unfit to rule.
Diaz winning would be great for the sport—for a while
MMA needs stability, plain and simple.
Fans have to be able to identify with the fighters and grow to worship them. The sport needs men like Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and St-Pierre who crush the opposition and dazzle us with unparalleled skill and athleticism. We don’t watch fights to see the average; we want to witness greatness and see something that has never been done before.
But the only thing that MMA needs more than stability is change, because the only thing fans love more than a dominant winner is an underdog.
And in direct reference to UFC 158, I think it’s time for a change.
St-Pierre is one of the sport’s three best fighters but by far the least spectacular of the bunch. Dominance is great, but not when it becomes stale and predictable. When you watch Silva fight, for instance, the end game is almost always a certainty, but you never know how he’s going to get there.
Sixteen fights into his UFC career, and he’s still amazing us, every fight feels fresh.
With St-Pierre, it’s like we’ve been watching the same fight on repeat for five years. He never finishes anyone, but what's worse, outside of the Carlos Condit fight, it never seems like he’s trying to finish anyone. We get double legs; we get jabs for 25 minutes, and I think it’s time we start expecting more from arguably the sport’s best athlete.
Remember when I said Silva is always incredible to watch? That wasn’t always true. Back when he was taking on Demian Maia and Thales Leites, Silva did more dancing than punching. He was bored and undisciplined, and the UFC didn’t know what to do.
But Chael Sonnen did.
He tore into the Octagon like a grumpy tornado, blasting into Silva relentlessly for nearly five rounds. Silva had forgotten what it was like to be in a real fight, and Sonnen happily reminded him, something that apparently reignited Silva’s dormant inner fire.
He’s been knocking people out ever since.
Diaz could be St-Pierre’s Chael Sonnen. He’s the guy, with his mouth and attitude and pressure that could bring out the beast in GSP. For all we know, maybe he already has. St-Pierre, as Dana White has noted, isn’t himself this week, and maybe that’s the first sign of change.
But let’s go a step further. What if Diaz actually wins?
No matter what happens the rest of the year (well, unless Silva loses in July), it’s the story of 2013 and would be one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. It’s front-page material in every sport section: The Stockton bad boy beats the greatest welterweight ever. Who isn’t interested in that?
Of course, then Diaz does the media rounds. He goes on ESPN and rambles and babbles and curses out his next opponent, and we all eat it up. St-Pierre becomes an unstoppable Molotov cocktail of wrestling and revenge, promising that he'll get his belt back no matter what the cost.
All of a sudden, we have the biggest fight in UFC history on our hands.
Diaz can’t remain king
As popular as MMA has become over the last decade, it’s still trying desperately to break into mainstream consciousness. The problem is that brutal violence is a hard sell to some demographics. The FOX deal was a step in the right direction to bringing in fresh eyes, but the hard truth is that it’s going to take lots of progress before some people are accepting of MMA’s core values.
To that extent, MMA needs people like St-Pierre: Good looking, well spoken (though muddled by his thick accent) and respectable. St-Pierre is maybe the one fighter that moms and daughters will sit down to watch. Diaz is the one that will make them hide in their closets and check under their beds.
Diaz—just like Sonnen—is good in small doses. Controversy always is.
But if the swearing and press conference no shows become associated with a longtime UFC champion, then it just becomes bad business. All of the progress the UFC has made to become a certified sport in this country will be undone one Diaz interview at a time.
Seeing Diaz as champ for a year and a couple defenses, maybe rematches against Condit and St-Pierre ? There may not be anything more intriguing outside of a Silva/Jones superfight. Pay-per-views sales would soar.
Will it happen? I don’t know. What I do know is that before Nick Diaz, I was never interested in watching St-Pierre fight.
And let’s just say that in a world where Diaz is the champ, fights against St-Pierre feature cussing and slapping and hatred.
And that’s something people very much want to see.