Outside of Barack Obama’s May 1, 2011 announcement that Osama Bin Laden was dead, or any pre-fight event involving Chael Sonnen holding a microphone, press conferences don’t get much better than the one that just wrapped up ahead of UFC 158 this weekend. Its two stars, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz, played their parts perfectly. Diaz flummoxed the ultra-serious champion with extended, rambling rants that flip-flopped between antagonism and paranoia, punctuated by moments of self-awareness and admissions of marketing acumen. St-Pierre, meanwhile, responded the only way a man that disciplined could in the face of that much disrespect: by silently fuming.
Nick Diaz is an original character. And that is the real reason why MMA fans and MMA journalists love him so much -- beyond his trash-talking and his brazen fighting style. Any human being on this conforming little earth of ours appreciates, even if only unconsciously, the manifestation of a singular and uncorrupted personality, even when that personality is something repugnant to them. Love him or hate him (and it’s easy to do both), Diaz is himself entirely and entirely different from anyone else. No person can resist that kind of defiance of social convention. It's in our DNA to respect it, even celebrate it.
After months, maybe years, of antagonizing St-Pierre – saying he was a malingerer who's afraid to fight, that he just takes guys down and lays on them to avoid getting hurt – Diaz turned the whole thing around today in a display of verbal judo any rhetorician would have to love. Diaz said that St-Pierre is preened and pampered then complained that the photo the UFC was using of him (Diaz) to promote the fight was old, when his hair was different; he said he wanted a “buttered-up, photoshopped” picture just like St-Pierre got. Diaz swore he had no interest in playing the victim card but he proceeded to list off traumatic experiences from his childhood as a counterbalance to the tales of bullying St-Pierre has often referenced as the motivating force behind his career. He accused the press of ginning up controversy. He accused St-Pierre and UFC President Dana White of selling wolf tickets and then chewed out the media for buying them. He attacked the champion for trying to create unnecessary controversy by calling Diaz disrespectful for calling him out and calling him scared. Then he admitted that he had only called him out in that way to get a championship fight.
And then he said there is toxic water in airplanes.
All in all, it was a masterpiece of paranoia and salesmanship, and no one could say with any authority where the truth ended and the act began. Fans and writers love to say that Nick Diaz is the realest fighter in MMA, that he’s always honest, that he's unfiltered. That may be true. But it’s also true that a man that multifaceted, that fully realized, that himself, may be capable of a lot more forethought and deviousness than we give him credit for.
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