Moments after Nick Diaz's hand was raised, he dropped an F-bomb. He called out Georges St-Pierre and insinuated one of the greatest fighters in the world was a sissy. He scowled, talked some more trash, mean-mugged the UFC 137 audience and scowled some more.
"I don't think Georges is hurt," Diaz said in the octagon Saturday night. "I think he's scared."
Diaz is a punk. A press conference-skipping, drug test-failing, mouth-running punk. He'll act like he doesn't care. He's indifferent to what the fans think about his antics. We judge, he just keeps on scowling. We decry every facet of his persona, he just runs another triathlon.
And it's great. All stories need villains, and all sports need characters. The NFL is better with Ochocincos and Jeremy Shockeys. Hockey's bolstered by enforcers. Most importantly, the UFC needs an anti-hero like Diaz. In the face of the ever-expanding, corporate-sponsor attracting, soon-to-be-on-Fox brand that is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is a 28-year-old repping America's Most Miserable City who doesn't come running when Dana White rings.
Rules? Pshaw. Diaz has never found any need for those. He's that guy at your work who always shows up late and takes two-hour lunches. He's a recluse who views MMA as a job.
Many of us obsess over the sport, devour every article and watch reruns of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike. For him it's a 9-to-5, a chore.
So he skips a press conference and gets bounced from the opportunity of a lifetime against GSP. Unforgivable, many said. We hailed that he was done. We opined that he'll never truly get it, wrote him off as a lost cause and a waste of God-given talent.
Nope. Instead, he got BJ Penn, and everything went his way. After Saturday's retirement-inducing destruction of "The Prodigy," Diaz is in the best position of his life. He'll fight St- Pierre on Super Bowl weekend -- a far bigger deal than it would have been before. Who said you have to follow all the rules to get what you want? The punk prevailed and spoke his mind when the microphone found his face.
Not that anyone should be surprised. Diaz has never played the other side of the fight game: marketing yourself for money. Flip on a flat-screen and there's Urijah Faber selling everything from energy drinks to K-Swiss shoes to the Marine Corps. Turn on HBO this month and there's Rampage Jackson in the A-Team. Chuck Liddell danced with the stars.
Could you imagine Diaz doing the tango or chortling with Kenny Powers? No, because he's never been that guy. He's always been his own person, played by his own set of standards. Now, he's in the driver's seat. And that's perfect, because Diaz's presence makes the UFC better.
Diaz is at the pinnacle of his career, and he reached it by being a rule-breaking antagonist. So people boo and hate. The fans on Saturday immediately started chanting Penn's name the second the bell rang. It all makes for great theater, especially when Diaz can shake it off and jab with such effectiveness.
So yes, you may hate Diaz. But it's hard to deny his ability to polarize.
Boo on, but appreciate the bad guy.