As much as the NFL or other “mainstream” athletics organizations shy away from controversy regarding their respective sports, the UFC oddly seems to embrace it. Some fighters fail drug tests—both of the performance-enhancing and recreational varieties—while others run their mouths as if they’re going to lose their vocal abilities at the end of their next sentence. While neither are catastrophic events, both are definitely controversial in nature.

The repercussions of the failed drug tests tend to take the form of suspensions from the athletic commission who sanctioned the fighters’ tainted contests, but often receive little to no backlash from the promotion itself. Meanwhile, fighters born with the gift of gab get rewarded with title shots.

One can’t be overly surprised when guys like Chael Sonnen or Nick Diaz find themselves with title shots or extra attention from their bosses—this is fighting after all. If a fighter has the ability to sell his fights with both his verbal skills outside the cage as well as his physical abilities inside of it, he can easily become a much hotter commodity. This very issue is currently impacting the welterweight division after the UFC named Nick Diaz as the division’s next title contender.

Diaz is coming off a year-long suspension for recreational drug use. Yes, he has a medical marijuana card in his home state of California, but unfortunately for him his fight with Carlos Condit wasn’t held within the boundaries of the Golden State. This isn’t a debate over whether the drug should be legal or not—and it’s certainly not a performance enhancer—so the fact he smokes in general isn’t the issue, it’s that he knowingly broke the rules and got caught.

If hitting the bong was the 29-year-old’s only indiscretion, the issue wouldn’t really be as big of a deal. His problems don’t stop there, however. He routinely bails on his commitments to things as simple as showing up at pre-fight press conferences and arriving at the airport in time to catch a flight. These shouldn’t be difficult things for a grown adult to do, particularly if said adult’s job requires him to do so.

If your average citizen didn’t show up for work on a few different occasions, wasted their company’s money and got caught violating its substance-abuse rules, that person would likely be out of a job. Yet Diaz somehow finds himself up for a promotion—a matchup with St-Pierre for the welterweight title. Should Diaz pull off what no man has been able to do in more than six years and upset the French-Canadian on his home turf, the demands for media and attendance at press conferences will become that much greater. What happens then? Will UFC President Dana White and Co. continue to make excuses for a habitual offender? How will they allow Diaz to get away with his degenerate behavior while scolding fighters that have traditionally abided by the rules?

Taking it one step further, Johny Hendricks has been told on two occasions that a win would make him the No. 1 contender. Now, Hendricks finds himself on the same card as St-Pierre and Diaz, but pitted against non-champion Jake Ellenberger.

Hendricks made easy work of perennial contender Jon Fitch and won a split decision over recent title challenger Josh Koscheck to go along with his recent knockout of Martin Kampmann. The credentials are there. The 29-year-old wrestling prodigy deserves his shot and apparently the only thing missing is a delinquent attitude and a sharp tongue.

Back to the case at hand.

White said as recently as this past weekend that Diaz doesn’t return his text messages or answer his calls and that he only deals with Diaz’s manager Cesar Gracie as a result. Those don’t sound like the actions of a man who has adopted a new philosophy during his forced layoff.

White may be able to justify Diaz vs. St-Pierre by saying the champ asked for it and he’s never asked for anything before, and that’s fine. GSP is the polar opposite of Diaz. He represents the company well and seems to transcend the sport’s typical demographic. Therefore, he does deserve a favor every now and again. Whether one likes it or not, though, MMA and the UFC are still businesses, and rewarding employees for bad behavior is not a business practice that reaps rewards in the long run.

Photo: Nick Diaz (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.

  • Robby C.

    Agree with you completely on Diaz. Not sure I like your “typical demographic” implication though. In fact, I like to think of MMA as not really having a typical demographic, but I could be deluded.

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