My job is to fight, so I have to fight when I’m told to fight, and that’s what I do well. Everything else is just gonna be a whole other task.” - Nick Diaz
With that greeting, welterweight contender Nick Diaz arrived for the UFC 137 media teleconference Wednesday afternoon. Keeping in line with his reputation, he was 45 minutes late to the call, which also saw his October 29th opponent, BJ Penn, and co-main event combatants Matt Mitrione and Cheick Kongo speaking with the media, but in a twist, he actually showed up, which wasn’t the case when he no-showed two press conferences to promote a main event bout between himself and UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Those misses cost him a shot at the belt in his first UFC bout since 2006, elevating Carlos Condit – who was scheduled to fight Penn – to the championship fight. Diaz landed on his feet and into the Penn fight, but when St-Pierre injured his knee and withdrew from the Condit fight earlier this week, it was Diaz vs. Penn moving into the headline slot.
Confusing? Crazy? Welcome to the world of Nick Diaz, whose every move has been watched since it was announced earlier this year that he was vacating his Strikeforce welterweight title and returning to the Octagon. And if most fighters get their share of media ink by actually talking to the media, the strategy of “Nick being Nick” has made the Stockton, California native the talk of the MMA world without him uttering a word.
But he was talking on Wednesday, seemingly calm in the eye of the storm swirling around him over the last couple months.
“I just try my best to not focus on what’s going on and try to live every day like it’s really not a big deal,” said Diaz. “I don’t know what’s gonna happen with me, but it’s not gonna make a difference whether I whine or cry about it or panic to get things done. I’m just gonna do what I always do and train, and when it’s time to fight, I go fight. And it’s really about me, it’s not about whatever’s going on in the world or who I’m fighting or who I’m not fighting. I’m not gonna really have a choice on that. My job is to fight, so I have to fight when I’m told to fight, and that’s what I do well. Everything else is just gonna be a whole other task.”
How he deals with “everything else” leading up to the bout a week from Saturday will be telling, yet strangely enough, it was Penn – who has dealt with his own share of media controversy over the years – sitting in the pole position as the seasoned vet, the man who has been there and done that, kind of just overlooking the whole situation with bemusement.
“Nick is Nick, he’s gonna do what he does,” said Penn. “I enjoy watching the stuff that Nick Diaz does. He doesn’t change, he’s always himself and that has nothing to do with me. He always shows up to the fight and fights, so I don’t think we need to worry about that stuff.”
So is it much ado about nothing, or is Diaz’ apparent lack of comfort with the media and what he has called the "beauty pageant" of promoting his own fight going to stress him out to the point where he doesn’t perform up to his world-class level on October 29th? If you’ve watched him over the years, you know the answer to that question. Diaz is going to show up in Las Vegas, make that walk to the Octagon, and he’s going to fight Penn in one of the most intriguing bouts of the year.
So whether good or bad, like Penn said, “Nick is Nick.” And after seeing his name trending on Twitter Wednesday and hearing the growing buzz about the fight, walking to the beat of his own drummer seems to fit him just fine.
“People want to see good fights and good fighters, and that’s what I’m trying to bring to the table,” said Diaz.