When the UFC helped nudge Georges St. Pierre out the door for an indefinite hiatus, they got what they deserved. The fact that Dana White spent Saturday night in Sacramento deflecting claims that he tried to prevent GSP from attending the post-fight UFC 167 press conference should tell you how deep the PR damage has been.
And on the subject of the way UFC has handled public relations for GSP, no fighter was more critical for the hype surrounding his bout last March in Montreal than one Nick Diaz. Diaz charged the UFC with manufacturing heat between him and St. Pierre, accusing UFC of selling “wolf tickets” in one of those only-Nick-Diaz-would-say-that comments. Diaz lost in one-sided fashion to St. Pierre. Diaz received the match with GSP 13 months after losing to Carlos Condit by unanimous decision. UFC even ran a web site poll asking fans about the judging for the fight.
The irony of UFC now turning to Nick Diaz to help sell wolf tickets, now that GSP is out of the equation, is pretty thick.
I get where the UFC is coming from. Nick Diaz appeals to the hardest of the hardcore fans. He’s a great talker in his own sort of way. He really hates the way Nevada regulates MMA and drug tests. He thought he got robbed in his fight with Carlos Condit nearly two years ago. People still talk about that decision to this day. With Matt Brown out of the picture due to herniated discs, there isn’t anyone on the table for Condit to fight until the winner of Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler. So, why not go to the well once again and see if Condit can beat Diaz decisively?
According to UFC, Nick Diaz doesn’t want the rematch. However, he supposedly indicated a possible return in May of 2014.
Which should signal to everyone that Nick Diaz has leverage and the UFC knows it. They may not want to acknowledge it, but Zuffa understands that Nick Diaz is a box office attraction. Any time a fighter has leverage over the UFC, they freak out. But UFC is running out of alternatives to replace GSP at the box office and Nick Diaz is still a more appealing box office attraction than most of the Welterweights on UFC’s roster. Carlos Condit has his fans but isn’t a major box office attraction (yet). Tyron Woodley needs a couple of more impressive wins to really get the ball rolling.
Perhaps we wouldn’t be having this conversation if Rory MacDonald had beaten Robbie Lawler. Rory pummeled BJ Penn in Seattle and everyone thought the sky was the limit. Then MacDonald became his own worst enemy and basically game-planned himself to death, which gave Lawler the opportunity to seize the moment.
With MacDonald needing to go back to the drawing board, Diaz’s value still is important to the UFC. Which is why the more he rejects their overtures, the more desirous UFC is to hunt down Mr. 209 and get him in a high-profile PPV bout. They’re going to need all the help they can get in 2014. The idea that UFC was even entertaining Nick Diaz vs. Michael Bisping should tell you where the company’s mindset is right now.
The UFC and Diaz both need each other — and they know it. There’s money to be made. If the UFC is smart, they’ll position Diaz in a match or two that he can win and then set the stage for the Condit rematch in late 2014. Who knew that UFC, after nudging one of their most loyal company icons ever out the door, would have to turn to one of the most unpredictable and uncensored Welterweight draws of all time in order to help keep their PPV business steady? Hope Wolfie has a fight manager when it’s time to hear UFC’s offer because he wants “Anderson Silva” money.