The long, strange journey of Nick Diaz got infinitely weirder this week.
Already regarded as one of the oddest ducks in MMA’s very odd pond, Diaz’s unstable and often antisocial behavior reached a fever pitch on Tuesday and Wednesday, when he no-showed a pair of prefight press conferences to promote an upcoming UFC welterweight title bout against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 137.
Consequences – as they so often are in the UFC – were doled out swiftly. Diaz was removed from the bout on the spot by UFC President Dana White and replaced by fellow 170-pound contender Carlos Condit, who had been scheduled to take on BJ Penn at the same event. Condit, we were told, cried tears of joy when he heard the news.
The story, which broke at around 4 p.m. EST on Wednesday when White announced it at the very presser Diaz skipped, capped an unusually busy and odd week for the UFC. What followed were a couple hours where reports alleged on-and-off that Diaz was missing, that his plane had crashed, that trainer Cesar Gracie had him sequestered in his home and that he’d failed to board three separate flights – set up by the UFC, assumedly — within a 24 hour period.
There were brief concerns for his safety, but later in the evening Diaz surfaced, posting a typically bizarre YouTube video during which he appeared physically well, if totally unwilling to except any responsibility for the events of the previous few hours. In fact, the tenor of the video was that of an innocent bystander, a man that bad things just keep happening to while he coasts along trying to do his job. It was, in short, classic Diaz.
“Now it looks like they [the UFC] get to save money and I don't get paid and I'm locked in a new contract,” Diaz said, in a video filmed while driving on the freeway between San Francisco and his hometown of Stockton. “All these dealmakers making deals. All I know is I'm ready to fight. I'm sorry I didn't make it to the beauty pageant, but, you know, I've never not showed up to a fight. I've never backed out of a fight in my life, that's not what I do. So I just wanted to throw that out there.”
Even Diaz’s longtime coach, Cesar Gracie, has essentially been left in disbelief by the events of the last 48 hours. In the moments following Diaz’s dismissal from the bout, Gracie told MMA Junkie.com he wasn’t sure the jiu jitsu blackbelt had a future with his team and saying he felt Diaz suffered from some kind of social anxiety disorder that probably needed professional attention. As if, after 11 years, he was just figuring that out now.
"I've stuck up for Nick, even when he was wrong before," Gracie said. "But he's let a lot of people down. He's let his team down. We all bought plane tickets to Vegas. We got hotel rooms booked, paid for. We've got all that, and Nick just decided not to go to something he's supposed to … If I were him, I would be begging Dana White to get my job back and work your way up to a title shot at some point."
Gracie’s stance – at least about potentially kicking Diaz off his team – appeared to soften a bit as word began to trickle out that the UFC would not in fact release the fighter. Diaz remains a UFC employee and there have even been unconfirmed rumblings that he could be inserted into a fight against Penn, who now obviously needs an opponent. To what end, however, seems unclear.
White went on record during the press conference saying Diaz had lied to his face about fulfilling the prefight commitments for the GSP bout. The prez said the UFC would never be able to trust Diaz again. That makes it seem very unclear why the company would want to keep him around. Why retain a well-known former champion from another organization, if the feeling is he can’t be trusted to fight for the title, let alone hold it?
At this point, Diaz’s future is as unpredictable as the man himself. He remains a marketable and popular attraction, so it wouldn’t be a great shock to see the UFC use him in some form or another, but it’s also easy to imagine his time as a force in the 170-pound division might well be over.
Whatever happens, you can bet it won’t be normal.