Last week, Luke Thomas (@SBNLukeThomas) and I (@KidNate) shot a video discussion about the relationship between pro wrestling and MMA triggered by the news that Chael Sonnen would be accompanied to the cage by WWE star CM Punk at UFC on Fox 2.
The transcript of the third segment and video follow. In this segment we discuss whether or not Nick and Nate Diaz are trying too hard to hype their fights or if their antics are a uniquely honest expression of anxiety and alienation.
Luke Thomas: This whole Donald Cerrone/Nate Diaz fight at UFC 141. Here was a perfectly good fight between top contenders that was ruined for me going into it, I couldn't even enjoy it properly, because the whole time we had to manufacture some sort of significance around two donks not liking each other at a staged workout. Really? How old are we? And this is reported on in the media ad nauseam!
The tones of language devoted to an act of nothingness promoted by each competitor over an act of nothingness completely distracted from what you were going to get anyway! If they had never even seen each other before, never even interacted before and just had to face one another, you probably would have gotten the exact same fight. You would have gotten the exact same fight and you wouldn't have had to swallow, "He knocked off my cowboy hat! This guy! You don't have to be from Stockton to be tough!" Word? Word?
You don't have to be from Stockton to be tough? I hadn't known. I didn't know you could be tough and be from Quezon City. Maybe I'm in a unique position. I'm willing to admit that but there are pretty clear cases to me where it's a crutch to keep audiences we already have and they don't really expand the scope of MMA promotion to get audiences that we don't.
Nate Wilcox: That was a pretty good segue to the next thing I wanted to talk about which is Nick Diaz as an alternative to pro wrestling and I actually like to argue that the Diaz/Cerrone feud had nothing to do with pro wrestling. I think what it has to do with is the Diaz brothers and their discomfort with the phoniness of playing the game.
Luke Thomas: But they both admitted to it. "Hey man, I was just doing that for the camera." Well don't! Don't. Just show up on fight day.
Nate Wilcox: I'm not surprised by Cerrone doing that but I'm a little surprised by Nate admitting that.
Luke Thomas: I don't think Nate is nearly as bad. I've seen him backstage talking to people and I don't think he's nearly the basket case that his brother is.
Nate Wilcox: No, I agree that Nick seems a little bit more tightly wound but to me, it gets into some interesting issues like, I think it gives some context to a fight if you can say, "These guys don't like each other." One of the formative experiences of my life was growing up as an Oakland Raiders fan and when they played the Steelers or the Bronocs or the Chiefs, that was a big deal because those teams hated each other and they hated each other because they got together once or twice a year and they beat the holy crap out of each other for four hours but the pregame smack talk, I mean the Steelers were pressing criminal charges against George Atkinson and Jack Tatum at one point and filing lawsuits. That had nothing to do with pro wrestling. That was actual drama. Sure it's frippery and nonsense but that's what people like to talk about.
Luke Thomas: Yeah, but that's a real human element.
Nate Wilcox: I think there's a real, human element to Nate Diaz not being comfortable. I think his explanation of why he didn't want to talk to Donald Cerrone a few months before it was announced they were gonna fight was kind of interesting because he said, "Hey, I met Josh Neer at a fight event, got to be pals with him and the next thing they call me up and say, ‘You're gonna fight Josh Neer.'"
Luke Thomas: Yes, but the thing is, they lean on them to metastasize that thing. Here is an incident that they probably both would have forgotten about but they were forced to make this something it wasn't and in that sense, it was a totally phony, manufactured thing.
Nate Wilcox: Yeah, but that's us you're talking about there.
Nate Wilcox: The Diaz/Cerrone thing, that fight shouldn't have been a co-headliner in the first place. That just shows you how watered down the cards at this point. Obviously they had the Brock Lesnar fight so they didn't need much of a card but they've got pretty thin gruel with Cerrone and Nate Diaz as a co-main event.
Luke Thomas: Great fight, though.
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Luke Thomas: Let's circle back to your point about Nick Diaz being the star who never quite did the pro wrestling model as we typically understand it.
Nate Wilcox: This is a guy who has bucked the system. He's deeply uncomfortable with interviews. He's deeply uncomfortable with press conferences and he lost a title shot last year because of skipping out on press conference so he's not thinking hype first. He seems like a genuinely sensitive person who's deeply uncomfortable being in the spotlight.
He loves to fight and he's good at it but it doesn't seem like he enjoys doing interviews or talking to the press et cetera. He's extremely volatile but they're about to do three weeks of Primetime with Nick Diaz on FX. FX is a big channel. The time slot might not be ideal but a lot of people that haven't been exposed to MMA, their first exposure is gonna be Nick Diaz and what a character. You've got this kid from Stockton, California and the Hispanic community in Stockton is very gritty, urban, dystopia almost. If you've ever been to Stockton...
Luke Thomas: The poverty and foreclosure rates in that area are shocking. They're really, really high.
Nate Wilcox: Through the roof and the history of why Hispanics are in Stockton is they were brought up there to harvest crops. The Anglos chased the Hispanics out and brought ‘em back to work in the fields. That's what it's about.
It's gritty and it's tough and it's mean and the Diaz brothers came up on those streets and in those schools and fought their way through it but at the same time there's this sort of new age aspect. Not only is he a jiu-jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie which is something we more associate with upper middle class like B.J. Penn who's wealthy and privileged in the US and gets the training and opportunity. I'm not completely familiar with the story of how the Diaz brothers hooked up with Cesar Gracie and got into jiu-jitsu but it's pretty atypical and that segues into one of the things I'm looking forward to with the Primetime is seeing more of the real Nick Diaz, the guy who runs, competes in triathlons all the time. The guy who only shops at Whole Foods and Trader Joes because he only eats organic food. The guy who's very health conscious. His best friend is a vegetarian or vegan or whatever Jake Shields is. There's a lot more to Nick Diaz than just an angry, young Hispanic man. This is a guy who's a master of a traditional martial art and a master of traditional boxing. He's a true mixed martial artist who's, I don't want to say a health nut but being a triathlete...
Luke Thomas: He's got sensational discipline. It's rather remarkable.
Nate Wilcox: You're never gonna have to worry about Nick Diaz gassing out in a fight. This guy is gonna be in shape for five rounds. I think that his persona is anything but an artifice and it's almost painfully raw and ironically, the fighter it reminds me the most in that way is Brock Lesnar, who wasn't ever a great performer in the WWE. He was great in the ring, he was a great wrestler and that showed, but he wasn't entirely comfortable giving the shtick in the WWE where you saw Brock Lesnar really explode as a public figure was really after the Frank Mir fight at UFC 100 when he just went completely unhinged, spitting at the camera.
Luke Thomas: People were talking about how that was just antics. I bet you a thousand dollars that wasn't. I bet you he was out of his mind excited that he had crushed a rival in the most dramatic way.
Nate Wilcox: A guy he really hated. A guy that was everything Brock Lesnar stood against.
Luke Thomas: That was real. That was really, really real.
Nate Wilcox: That was unchained. Lesnar was never like that as a performer in the WWE and if you look at the contrast with Lesnar, maybe Nick Diaz on Primetime is gonna be a flop because if you look at Brock Lesnar on The Ultimate Fighter, he was calm and professional and boring honestly on The Ultimate Fighter and Nick Diaz might be just as restrained. Nick Diaz might not be the crazy Nick Diaz that fans want to see. They want to see angry Nick Diaz and not mellow Nick Diaz. It could be as big of a bust as Brock Lesnar was on The Ultimate Fighter. Anyway, it should be fun to watch.
Luke Thomas: It should or it could have the effect where we want it to have. Maybe if there's a way where you can really be a wallflower with Nick Diaz, he can show you enough to make you care. Whatever he's doing is working so maybe he knows a little more than we do about it.
Nate Wilcox: He's definitely got a chance to break out as a superstar. A part of it is his fighting style, a big part of it is his fighting style and Condit and Diaz, that's gonna be a scrap at UFC 143. Those are two tough, very skilled, very formidable individuals. That's gonna be an incredible fight. Remember Condit when he came back in the third round to beat Rory MacDonald, that was willpower.