He didn't know it at the time, but Dana White packed his event-saving UFC 137 parachute back on Sept. 7, 2011, when he made the bold decision to replace Nick Diaz with Carlos Condit opposite Georges St. Pierre in the main event of the evening.
The drogue began to flutter yesterday, with the shocking news that "Rush" injured his knee in training and would be unable to punch Condit in the face inside that Octagon at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, in less than a fortnight (Oct. 29, 2011).
With the pay-per-view (PPV) event so near, the promotion was forced to push the co-featured fight of the night, B.J. Penn vs. Nick Diaz, to the top of the marquee. St. Pierre and Condit will settle their score at a later date, most likely sometime in early 2012 when the Canadian is completely recovered from his boo-boo.
Meanwhile, in an ironic twist, Diaz is once again one-half of the headliner.
The same Diaz who looked White right in his face and lied to him six weeks ago, promising to meet his promotional obligations and then going AWOL and missing two very important, mandatory appearances. The same Diaz who reportedly missed four flights, costing the promotion $15,000 in travel expenses and untold amounts in production and marketing investments. The same Diaz "who obviously can't handle the pressure of a main event."
What a difference one "bad" medial collateral sprain can make.
Yet, what a fantastic storyline for White to now embrace. Clearly, the loss of the promotion's "biggest box office star" is going to hurt PPV sales and, ultimately, the bottom line on the Sunday after when Zuffa executives tally their Halloween-weekend haul.
But it could be worse.
Had White traveled down the practical path and booked Penn against another deserving contender not named Diaz, where would he be today, or next weekend for that matter. Penn and Diaz, friends and former training partners, apparently lobbied hard to avoid being locked inside a cage together for 15 minutes.
White not only resisted their overtures, but allegedly made them offers "they could not refuse," which flew in the face of conventional wisdom at the time. Throwing good money after bad on a fight that involved Diaz, as well as essentially giving him a mild spank, didn't make much sense ... or cents.
But in White's mind it was a gamble worth taking, a fight that would compliment a great main event and perhaps even be good enough to outshine it. Or maybe in the dark recesses of his brain, those that remember other recent championship catastrophes that have recently claimed big-money fights that involved Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones and Frankie Edgar, White knew that he had to pack a parachute for "Sin City" just in case.
Diaz, the star-crossed goat heading into UFC 137, now has the opportunity to emerge as the hero. And Dana White has a ready-made storyline in the can that he can gush about at the post-fight press conference when all is said and done.
He just needs Diaz to deploy.