The UFC may well be the most powerful MMA company on earth, but it remains to be seen if that gives Dana White and Co. any jurisdiction at all over Planet Diaz.
As the first “major” Strikeforce show since the Zuffa, LLC. takeover, there were plenty of bizarre sights during Saturday night’s “Daiz vs Daley” card. For starters, there was White in a black “Strikeforce” T-shirt taking in the action from cageside, just as he does during UFC shows. There was company co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta and newly-crowned UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz sitting nearby, too. There was Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker his Showtime broadcast team soldiering on as if nothing had really changed.
Yeah, it was weird.
None of it however could compete with the always offbeat Strikeforce welterweight champion. Nick Diaz began his latest tour de force of weirdness a week earlier, when he blasted Strikeforce for making him “fight too much” in a live interview in his hometown during a Challengers broadcast. That outburst sort of paled in comparison to his performance during fight week.
Right off the bat, Diaz conducted what can only be described as one of the most awkward video interviews in recent memory with AOL’s Ariel Helwani. Even for a guy like Diaz, who seems to excel in cutting uncomfortable interviews, this one was a doozy. Diaz began the exchange by telling Helwani he wouldn’t have done the interview if the new UFC-controlled Strikeforce PR team didn’t force him to do it. He went on to accuse Helwani of being an instigator who tries to stir up trouble between fighters.
“Where I’m from, people like that get slapped,” Diaz said, grinning into the camera and looking, frankly, the happiest we’ve ever seen him. Helwani forged on with the interview but not until after telling Diaz he hoped they could enjoy a mutual respect and the fighter responded: “I see how you are.”
From there, things only got stranger. When he finally took to the cage on Saturday night, Diaz engaged in the game plan most everybody agreed was the wrong one against Paul Daley: He slugged it out with the British bomber. As a result, the champion suffered a pair of close calls, especially when Daley dropped him face-first to the canvas with a left hook midway through a wild, back-and-forth first round. As he always seems to do though, Diaz seized control as things wore on, dropping Daley with a punch down the stretch and finishing him with strikes on the ground just before the bell to end the first. Daley later complained it was an early stoppage and maybe he had a legitimate gripe.
In the wake of the fight, Diaz did his usual mouthpiece throwing, chest pounding “this is my house” style routine in the cage. Good on him, he deserved it. We could only assume that after defeating Daley he must have been pretty happy. Right?
After the bout, Diaz cut an equally disgruntled interview with Helwani where he said he felt like Strikeforce was trying to set him up with fighters they thought would beat him as a way of getting “rid of him.” Odd, not only because Diaz appears to be the company’s biggest star but because Daley also accused matchmakers prior to the fight of “setting him up” by putting him against Diaz. Diaz also made numerous assertions that he expected to be “suspended” after the Daley fight, though he wouldn’t/couldn’t explain why. For their part, the California State Athletic Commission said it doesn’t expect to take any disciplinary action against the fighter.
“I don't even know why I do this,” Diaz told Helwani at one point.
Later, Helwani asked White about Diaz and the boss said he thought the fighter would have to “tone it down” if he truly wants to be a superstar in the Zuffa-controlled MMA landscape. That logic may work on this planet. Who knows if the message will be received on Planet Diaz.