Fighting has always been more than a glorified occupation for Nick Diaz. The mandatory media appearances, superfluous hype and desensitized presentation have created the façade of a modern-day sport. But deep within the convoluted mind of Diaz, fighting has never been a game or sport. It’s exactly what the bare word entails—a fight.
Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, the consummate professional, lived his MMA career by a different code. He simply saw fighting as a friendly competition between opposing athletes. Competing in the octagon wasn’t anything like a bare-knuckled brawl on the streets. St-Pierre embodied the sport with a wide grin, fitted suit and fight-specific game plans.
And MMA fans adored him for it.
The juxtaposition of St-Pierre’s UFC reign and Diaz’s reign as Strikeforce champion left the world longing for a superfight that most thought would never come to fruition.
St-Pierre owned the pay-per-view market. He was the one making millions of dollars with his face plastered over every viable form of media. Meanwhile, Diaz was the same mean-mugging, middle finger-flicking controversial star he had always been. A huge cult following arose out of his journey to the top of Strikeforce’s welterweight division.
But Diaz never got the respect he deserved. As the wins kept piling up and Diaz’s talent grew, the brunt of the MMA world was too enamored with St-Pierre to even care. Being the big fish in a small pond kept Diaz buried in the headlines, and his only means of escape was to set sail on the ocean to capture the white whale.
So Diaz joined the ranks of welterweight killers in the UFC with the intent of nabbing an immediate shot at St-Pierre. The bright lights suited his talent but not his personality. He was pulled from a scheduled title bout with St-Pierre at UFC 137 after missing several flights and mandatory press conferences. Carlos Condit stepped in against the champ, and Diaz was demoted to a co-main event fight against MMA legend B.J. Penn.
But after an unforeseen injury suffered by St-Pierre in training camp, Diaz vs. Penn was promoted to a headlining pay-per-view spot, the first of Diaz’s career. Diaz dominated the former multiple division champion in the second and third rounds in stunning fashion to cement himself as the top contender at 170 pounds. But at the root of it all, even with Penn standing across from him, Diaz’s focus remained on beating St-Pierre.
“Where you at Georges, where you at m———-r?” Diaz screamed at the camera after the fight.
Diaz believed being the villain was the only means of him getting the respect he deserved. He made a conscious decision to be the guy yelling obscenities into cameras and calling out one of MMA’s most beloved icons.
The post-fight antics worked in Diaz’s favor, and he was once more awarded a fight with St-Pierre. But the bad luck would continue for Diaz, as St-Pierre suffered another injury in training. Condit agreed to step in as the replacement and defeated Diaz in an interim title bout.
With his 11-fight winning streak snapped and St-Pierre gone indefinitely with a torn ACL, Diaz shockingly announced his retirement from MMA. The knee-jerk decision to call it quits hardly mattered anyway, as the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Diaz for a year after he tested positive for marijuana in a drug test.
At 29 years of age, it appeared to be the end for Diaz—until St-Pierre returned.
The longtime UFC welterweight champion overcame a torn ACL and defeated Condit in his first fight back. The itch to get back into the cage intensified as Diaz sat on the sidelines watching St-Pierre’s dramatic comeback. Visions of an entire ocean and a disappearing pond in the distance propelled Diaz to give fighting another shot.
Luckily he did because he was given another opportunity to fight St-Pierre, and this time the bout would come to fruition. It was one of the greatest buildups for a fight in combat sports history.
Diaz looked at St-Pierre as a spoiled champion. Life had always been a struggle Diaz, who had to scratch and claw for everything he earned. He didn’t see that same struggle in St-Pierre, and he let him know it every chance he got.
But all of the trash talk in the world wasn’t enough to deter the focus of arguably the greatest fighter in MMA history. Even against Diaz, St-Pierre did what he’s always done. He shut out the noise and stuck to the game plan for another victory.
The white whale had eluded Diaz the same way it had so many other great fighters over the years. Diaz is currently fighting a five-year ban handed down by the NSAC due to him habitually failing drug tests for marijuana usage.
Nearly three years has passed since he lost to St-Pierre, who is semi-retired from fighting, and Diaz still refuses to let it go. When appearing on Chael Sonnen’s You’re Welcome podcast show, Diaz accused St-Pierre of being on steroids and missing weight in the first fight:
“Georges St-Pierre was on steroids when I fought him. …He missed f—–g weight. He f—–g missed weight. He didn’t make weight. How is that not news? That’s why they wanted that fight over there [in Canada], so he could f—–g cheat. I would have knocked that m———-r out. He was not as good as me. There’s no way that guy’s as good as I am. There’s f—–g no way. He held on the whole fight. In Pride FC and real rules, in real fights, you f—–g didn’t fight the whole fight. I’m over here trying to fight. Neither of us are fighting, you’re f—–g holding onto my leg, holding onto me around the waist the whole fight and any time you’re not, you’re getting punched up.”
St-Pierre’s lofty position in MMA is something Diaz always envisioned for himself. The acceptance and notoriety that comes from being perceived as the absolute best at your craft is something few individuals ever experience.
“I want to go against the best fighters. That’s why I’m always calling out Georges St-Pierre,” Diaz admitted at the UFC 137 post-fight press conference. “I don’t have anything against Georges St-Pierre. I think he’s a great fighter.
“I think he’s a nice guy just like everybody else, and he’s a great role model. I would love to be that too if I was in that position. I just unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity and the right people behind me to push me to be that type of fighter or that type of role model.”
Diaz may never get that opportunity.
While Diaz ages on the sideline dealing with endless appeals, St-Pierre has happily settled into a life outside of fighting. But through hell and high water, Diaz will continue to chase the white whale in hopes of one day having his time in the sun.