"Nick Diaz obviously can't handle the pressure of a main event."
With those words, UFC President Dana White demoted Diaz, the Strikeforce champion, pulling him from a main event fight with UFC champion Georges St. Pierre and relegating him to the co-main event against the legendary B.J. Penn. Diaz, who no showed flights to two separate press events, was deemed too volatile to trust with such a major pay-per-view extravaganza.
The move cost the UFC tens of thousands of dollars. It cost Diaz hundreds of thousands, losing out on a main event payday against one of the sports most popular fighters.
The punishment was designed to teach Diaz a lesson about professionalism. To show the angry young man from Stockton how a fighter is supposed to comport himself in the big leagues, on the grandest stage of them all.
I hope it was a lesson Diaz learned with a quickness - because fate has intervened. It pointed its bony and shriveled finger at St. Pierre's knee and the champion promptly dropped like Donovan McNabb on his own goal line. St. Pierre is out; Diaz back in.
I admit I was disappointed in the UFC's decision to drop Diaz from the main event spot with St. Pierre. I thought the controversy would only strengthen the fight. Anything that angered the normally calm and docile St. Pierre was bound to make the fight more interesting. And, as a fan of the sport, that's really my sole desire - fights that intrigue me.
That's why I was able to reconcile myself so easily to the Penn-Diaz fight. It's an astoundingly good match-up between two fighters who both combine crisp boxing with stellar jiu-jitsu on the ground.
On paper, you'd favor Penn's pedigree. He's the multiple-time champion. He's the guy with the best tools, perhaps in the sport's history. But we've learned over the years never to count Diaz out. What he may lack in athleticism, he more than makes up for in heart, skill, and a furious intensity that is truly scary to behold.
Although it may flop at the box office without St. Pierre's name on the marquee, Penn and Diaz is a fight worthy of our attention. It's going to be an amazing showdown. And if we learned anything from the first run at "Nick Diaz: UFC Main Eventer" the press junket promises to be just as exciting as the fight in the cage. I can't wait.