UFC

UFC 158: Is Diaz really the bad guy?

Image: Fighter Nick Diaz (© Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Life as Nick Diaz isn't easy.
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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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MONTREAL

Nick Diaz’s scowl was supersized on a poster not far from where the welterweight contender derided his image as “a villain” in the lead-up to Saturday’s UFC 158 title fight.

Diaz’s words in an often erratic news conference on Thursday did little to change that depiction, although he chided champ Georges St-Pierre for his talk about his dark side — words that have run on a loop in spots promoting the pay-per-view title fight.

“Georges likes to say I remind him of the bullies that picked on him growing up,” Diaz said. “I have to say, how many times have you had a gun to your head, Georges? How many of your best friends have been shot through the chest with a .45? How many of your best friends have been stomped (and) put to sleep in a coma?”

Diaz didn’t win any more fans, at least in Quebec, as he nudged St-Pierre with an elbow at Friday’s weigh-in. Both had to be separated, although no punches were thrown. It was the first non-verbal blow from Diaz toward the local favorite since Diaz alleged St-Pierre is on steroids (St.-Pierre denied he’s ever used performance-enhancing drugs) and chided St.-Pierre about the dark place in his mind.

“He’s saying he has a dark side and making Nick the bad guy,” said Nate Diaz, Nick’s younger brother and fellow UFC fighter. “Nick was just making a point. Why is (St-Pierre) trying to fake it? Why are (you) trying to be a bad guy? Just be who you are. You are a great fighter and a great person.”

While Nate Diaz may have bemoaned the severity Nick's bad-guy image, it’s hard to not to see how it was earned.

This week Nick skipped open workouts — a combination fan and media event — to rest and recover from what he said was toxic airplane water. This followed a conference call with reporters last week that was laden with profanity and often-rambling anecdotes, such as how a soccer mom near his Central California home of Lodi cursed him out at a stoplight and sped off.

“How do we portray them?” UFC president Dana White asked rhetorically. “In these various pieces and commercials, these are things that they have said. I didn’t (expletive) tell them to say that. We are not impersonating somebody’s voice and making things up. He says we are selling tickets, and that’s what we do.”

Diaz said the UFC is not only selling tickets — something the MMA sanctioning arm is doing well, as White expects Bell Centre to sell out — but selling “wolf tickets.” The term has varied meanings, although one interpretation is that somebody is selling a false story like the main character in the “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

“I don’t think Diaz is a bad guy,” White said. “The image that is projected is that, Jesus, this guy is a criminal. Nick Diaz has never been in trouble his whole life. He has no record. None of that stuff. He’s a mixed-martial artist. He is everything he says he is. He’s just a very unique personality. I have never come across anybody like him.”

He does have one record, at least when it comes to the state commissions that police combat sports. Nevada pulled his fighting license after a positive test for marijuana at UFC 143 in February 2012. This is his first fight back from what amounted to a yearlong suspension.

And Diaz said that he's continued to use marijuana, despite the fact the officials here in Quebec could test him. Another positive would not only invalidate a victory and result in another suspension, but White said it would likely lead to a dismissal of Diaz from the UFC.

“It’s not that embarrassing of a thing,” Nate Diaz said to FOXSports.com. “It’s from the earth. You plant it. You smoke it.”

But it just backed up the narrative, one that the entire family has attempted to tamp down. Diaz’s mother, Melissa, told FOXSports.com last May that her sons didn’t grow up in the mean streets of Stockton, Calif., but rather a mostly rural nearby town.

“I wanted to keep them out there so they couldn’t get in trouble,” Melissa Diaz said.

And her sons found mixed-martial arts instead of gangs. It should be a story of triumph and, maybe eventually, Nick Diaz will be able to rehab how he’s perceived.

“I would like to put off the best image as I could, if I was given the opportunity,” Nick Diaz said. “To be honest with, a lot of times they’re pretty much making me out to be a villain. I fit that description as an evil villain. He (St-Pierre) fits the description as a good guy. Can I get buttered up for one Photoshopped image on a poster? I have had plenty of ugly posters.”

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