Nick Diaz must keep a lot bottled inside. All that pain, the anger and what feels like sheer terror of the world around him is carefully controlled and cultivated—a process designed to turn a soft-spoken Whole Foods shopper into a snarling beast by fight night.
Mentally it can't be healthy. And what isn't let loose in the cage is unloaded afterward into the microphone. Before a fight, when promotion is so important to everyone's financial bottom line, Diaz is nowhere to be found. Afterward? When the talking has been done in the cage? You can't shut Nick Diaz up.
Forget for a moment, Diaz's claim after the Georges St-Pierre fight that he had never paid taxes. That one may end up costing him, literally, everything he has. More interesting, for a careful observer of the fight game at least, was another startling claim—Diaz says he couldn't put together a decent training camp for his once-in-a-lifetime world title shot at St-Pierre.
"I felt like everyone knew I had it coming, like Cesar knew I had it coming, everyone knew I had it coming, and then as soon as I had it coming, no one was around to help me," Diaz said during the post-fight press conference.
"The only ones that came to help me was my sambo coach Gil Castillo. And you know, Jake (Shields) and Gil (Melendez), they obviously, they can't train hard right now, they have fights coming up. They've got stuff going on, and they need to have their down time when it's down time. I can't go roughing those guys up just because I need training."
Think about that for a second. This is a sport many claim will be the next big thing. Heck, it's already a sport featured on national broadcast television both in the United States and Brazil—a sport that creates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for those at the top of the food chain. And yet, in one of the most hyped fights of the year, the challenger can't manage to put together an acceptable training camp.
Putting together a world-class training camp isn't easy—or cheap. Here's an estimate I concocted a couple of years ago with several main-event fighters and agents breaking down the costs associated with the "perfect" training scenario for an MMA star based on a salary of $250,000:
Manager/Agent: $25,000High-level coaches (grappling, striking, conditioning): $15,000Dietitian: $7,500Travel: $10,000Housing: $10,000Additional Training Partners (Five): $3,500Rental Cars: $2,400Food for Training Partners: $2,400Flights for wife and kids to visit once: $1,500Food: $2,000Supplements: $1,000
Gear: $100Rehab Sessions: $600Massage: $225Gas: $800Taxes (18 %): $45,000Total Cost: $127,025
While many of those expenses don't apply to Diaz, a single guy who lives in the mecca of MMA—a place teeming with potential training partners—some of them are universal. For Diaz to run a proper bare bones camp, you're looking at expenditures of $25,000 at a minimum and a lot of hard work. It seems, based on his statements, that neither Diaz or manager Cesar Gracie put the effort or money into making sure that Diaz was properly prepared.
"I tried to bring some good sparring in. I got some great sparring with this kid Alan Sanchez," Diaz continued. "And I worked out good with Brandon Gonzalez. But I could of got a lot more days in with these guys and Kron (Gracie) came to help me too. Kron wound up in Gilbert's gym for a week. But he knew I didn't get the right type of training. He was all 'Who did you work out with for wrestling, or on the ground?' I was all...I was trying to come up with something to tell him."
Facing the best wrestler in all of MMA, Diaz couldn't find someone to work on his wrestling defense with. Frankly, that's more than a little embarrassing.
Imagine (if your imagination is even this fertile) a baseball team going into their 162-game season without spring training—a victim of cost-cutting. Imagine a football team trying to hit the gridiron without two-a-days. A hockey team without skates that fit right. All in the name of cutting costs.
It would be completely unacceptable. We expect, nay we demand, our athletes do all that is required of them to put their best efforts onto the field of play. If Diaz couldn't do that against St-Pierre because of monetary pressures, it says a lot about the UFC's paltry fighter pay.
In boxing, UFC's sister sport, a top fighter like Miguel Cotto is actually given a budget to run his training camp. For the Manny Pacquiao fight, it was in the neighborhood of $120,000. For many UFC main-eventers, that's more than they'll make for the entire fight, let alone to fund training.
In the main event of a show that will gross tens of millions, Diaz, though terms were not disclosed, was likely paid less than $250,000 in base pay with an additional bonus in the low six figures. It's an amount that would be wholly unacceptable in any other sport, where athletes and ownership routinely split the pie in a relatively even fashion. And the disparity showed on the field of play.
Diaz lost to Georges St-Pierre, in part, because he wasn't properly prepared to fight him. And that's a real shame, not just for Diaz, but for a sport that's trying to find its way into the athletics mainstream.