Failed test costs Diaz gained momentum
The old phrase “one step forward, two steps back” seems appropriate to describe Nick Diaz’s situation right now.
In a year’s time he’s gone from being the best welterweight in the world not in the UFC to establishing himself as among the top five in the world without question. Finishing Paul Daley (at the time arguably a top 10 fighter in the division) in dramatic fashion and then giving a beatdown to division stalwart BJ Penn in his UFC return, Diaz managed to establish himself as the most intriguing fighter in the division to the masses almost overnight.
And just like that he managed to nearly throw it all away with a positive drug test after this past Saturday’s UFC 143.
Right now the former Strikeforce welterweight champion teeters on the verge of losing his position that he had used every piece of leverage he ever had to get. And it’s absolutely crazy to think about it considering how far he’s come in the past year.
Despite losing one of the most argued decisions in some time, Diaz was poised to become one of the biggest fighters in the sport. He had always been an enigmatic fighter and had been in the UFC once already. It was his post-UFC run that gave way to more arguments about whether or not he could hang with the best in the world.
Many felt he was among the mythical top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Others thought it was skilled matchmaking. Knocking out Daley and delivering a savage beating to Penn gave him instant bonafides that made an interim title fight with Carlos Condit an easy sell.
After the decision loss to Condit that many felt he won, Diaz had established himself as someone to be reckoned with. The controversial decision made an instant rematch seem proper, despite Diaz’s insistence of retirement after the fight. Sunday morning after the fight Nick Diaz was in every fighter’s favorite position: the driver’s seat.
Like Michael Bisping after his UFC on FOX 2 loss to Chael Sonnen, Diaz managed to improve his position in defeat. He had even managed to get Georges St. Pierre, the absolute most professional person in the sport by a considerable margin, angry enough to want to vacate his belt just to fight him. To get GSP, a man with so much public appeal that companies like Under Armor want to sponsor him, that riled up is something out of the ordinary.
That’s something you can’t buy as an MMA fighter.
It’s crazy if you think about it. Plenty of fighters have managed to get under GSP’s skin and irritate him. One imagines that even a slight grievance was used as fuel by the champion to maintain the edge that has made him arguably the best fighter on the planet. For all the trash talk from guys like Josh Koscheck and Dan Hardy, no one has ever elicited a response out of him like Diaz has. GSP is not known for behavior that changes up cards or forces the UFC to alter their business plans, yet Diaz got GSP angry enough to demand to fight him no matter what.
GSP would walk away from everything that would obligate him to fight someone else just because he wanted to get his hands on Diaz in a cage. It’s ridiculous if you think about it, an emotional decision from a man not known for making rash, impulsive ones like this would be. And yet he would, and Diaz was poised to become the sort of star he always wanted to be.
That bad decision to risk being caught for a second time with a positive drug test has damaged his career something fierce. He has bragged about beating drug tests before and that he's been caught again for the same violation says something about his professionalism that will have a hard time going away. While the money he’ll lose in fines can be made up once the suspension, however long it ends up being, is over, the momentum he had coming out of the Condit fight is going to be long gone by the time he steps back into the cage. That’s if he makes it back to the Octagon; Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company, has let go of fighters for less in the past and this is his second offense when it comes to failed drug tests.
Even if Diaz steps back into the Octagon in 2013, his career has suffered far worse than it would have had he only suffered a loss. And it’s a shame.