The Dark Place: Nick Diaz’s Persona, Ability to Get Under GSP’s Skin Led to Title Bid David Massey March 15, 2013 News Nice guys finish last. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. These are sayings that define some of the unfair ways of the world. They also apply to promotion in the fight game. Case in point: George St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz at UFC 158. Diaz is a guy that gets everybody talking. Seriously, they don’t shut up. And he’s not even necessarily an inspiring person. He’s a veteran fighter for whom “keeping it real” outside of the cage has worked well for his career. People are attracted by his divisive attitude and pre- and post-fight smack talk (he would call it plain honesty), which he backs up with his skills in the cage. It’s kept people talking and interested in watching him fight since his run in Strikeforce, and it works out pretty well for his promoters too. All they have to do is put up with the baggage that his rough, enigmatic attitude brings to the table. His taunting was enough to goad a rarely (if ever) seen side of UFC welterweight champion and poster boy St-Pierre to the surface. We’ve probably all seen the commercials for UFC 158 by now. You know, the ones where GSP describes his dark place. The commercial centers on GSP’s quote: “People have no idea how dark I am inside my head sometimes.” The line inspired a Twitter meme, tagged as #GSPsdarkplace, that is humorously used to describe St-Pierre engaging in harmless activity, where those activities take on a comically dark undertone for St-Pierre, for example: “reads several magazines at a book store, but doesn’t buy them. #GSPsdarkplace.” Many fans and media don’t take seriously this dark portrayal of GSP by the UFC in hyping up his fight with Diaz. Most see him for the polite and clean-cut persona that he has put forth all these years. Though there may be some truth to the champion’s frustration with his opponent, should that lead us to believe he is tortured by demons inside his head? He’s always come across as a nice and successful person, and it is easy to see why GSP presented in this way is met with humor and a belief that it is simply hype. So, where did that anger come from, and how real is GSP’s desire to give the “uneducated fool,” Diaz, his just deserts? The answer takes us back to 2011. That year, the two were set to meet in October at UFC 137. Diaz had vacated his Strikeforce welterweight belt after three defenses and a perfect run of 6-0 under the banner. He showcased a superb boxing style with slick jiu-jitsu and trash-talking skills to boot. Hardcore fans and even a small bit of the general public were happy to see him moving back to the UFC to face the consensus No. 1 welterweight in the world. Diaz had earned his place on the gravy train with biscuit wheels, and it was his time to fight the best in the world of 170-pounders. Yet, Diaz failed to show for two consecutive press conferences and was pulled from the match, with UFC President Dana White announcing Carlos Condit as a replacement to challenge GSP at the event. However, GSP sustained a knee injury in training for the fight with Condit and would be out of action for almost two years. In the meantime, Condit and Diaz fought for a newly created interim welterweight title—and to determine the next challenger upon St-Pierre’s return. Condit won the match by points, though it wouldn’t have mattered if Diaz had won anyway, since he failed a post-fight drug test for marijuana metabolites and was suspended from competition for a year by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Still, St-Pierre wasn’t content to let go of Diaz’s trash talking. It appears as though Diaz has gotten into the champ’s head. GSP was the one that pushed for the match for a variety of reasons, and the UFC was more than happy to oblige, even with the fact that Diaz was coming off a close loss and a year-long drug suspension. Then again, the promotion knows how popular Diaz is—just take a look at any Internet MMA forum—and he brings a very sellable fight to the table. St-Pierre has long been among the top pay-per-view draws for the UFC. His last fight with Condit brought in a healthy 700,000 buys, and this fight at UFC 158 is expected to do even better. Despite many fans growing bored of St-Pierre winning most of his title defenses by points, a grudge match against someone with the abrasive personality of Diaz is welcomed, even more so for the promise of a possible finish. And, at the very least, Diaz will provide more drama than other contenders have been able to muster against GSP. Giving Diaz the title shot is not fair to the rest of the welterweight contenders, but it is a contest that many fans won’t complain about seeing. Someone like Johny Hendricks has more than earned his spot to fight for the title, but he doesn’t get nearly the amount of attention that Diaz does. Hence, the UFC chose against giving him a title shot. For many, Diaz acts like a simple thug. They see his title shot as an undeserved gift, given how he regularly misses appearances and fails drug tests. But then, take a listen to last week’s infamous conference call with St-Pierre and you’ll understand why he interests so many people. It’s not a question of right or wrong, but of dollars and cents (or, maybe more appropriately, sense). More people would rather see a guy like Diaz fight than someone like Hendricks, and those fans will be more likely to open their wallets for the grudge match. Hendricks will be fighting on the same card at UFC 158 against former title challenger Condit, and if he wins, maybe then he’ll have secured his title shot. If he loses, don’t expect him to get the same treatment as Diaz. Hendricks is learning the hard way that nice guys do finish last, or at least have a longer road and tougher time getting to the top in this sport. That’s one of the drawbacks of hype in the promotional world. A guy like Hendricks can be respectful and professional—and can even knock out guys regularly, as he has done—and still come up short against guys like Diaz when it comes to career advancement. Photo: Nick Diaz (R) taunts Carlos Condit (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting) Robby Collins It can’t always be about maximizing profit, otherwise the UFC will end up draining the sport dry.