UFC focused on bigger picture, overall message
As a fight fan, I’m disappointed that I’m not going to get to see Georges St-Pierre meet Nick Diaz in the Octagon on October 29 at UFC 137. I was holding onto that bout—and that event as a whole—as an early birthday present to myself; I turn 33 the next day if you want to send gifts.
Stepping back from my fandom for a second and looking at this strictly from a business perspective, what else did people expect the UFC to do in this situation? Take out the names, take out the fact that we’re talking about mixed martial arts or a professional athletes altogether—strip it down to the bare bones—and you’re left with the following:
An employee failed to show up for a required work function on successive days. He offered no explanation and made no efforts to contact his employer to tell them he wouldn’t be there. Furthermore, he did all this after accepting a lucrative opportunity and agreeing to take part in these exact functions.
Without the names, without the fact that we’re talking about the UFC, Nick Diaz and mixed martial arts, the employer had every reason to penalize the employee.
The trouble is that a lot of people want to give Diaz a pass and say the UFC should have known better than to expect Diaz to suddenly change his ways and become a line-towing, press conference-attending model employee.
There is certainly something understandable in the latter part, some validity to the “did you really expect any different?” line of questioning directed at UFC President Dana White in the fallout of yesterday’s press conference.
But White did expect things to be different, not because he’s naive or had a blind faith in Diaz to suddenly change his ways; he expected Diaz to turn up to these functions because he said he would when he signed on the dotted line to face St-Pierre for the welterweight title and return to the UFC.
Now Diaz hasn’t lived up to his end of the deal and people want the UFC to just give him a pass. It’s just Nick being Nick, right?
For whatever reason, we hold athletes and the organizations they work for to different standards and rules than we do everyday companies and regular workers. Because we benefit from the entertainment they provide and contribute to the company’s coffers, we feel an investment in what they do and want to see things play out the way we’d like them to.
We’re interested in Diaz vs. St-Pierre, so despite the fact that Diaz broke promises that he made when he was handed this opportunity—without having to work his way there through the UFC welterweight gauntlet—we still want what we originally wanted.
I understand it from the fan perspective, but ultimately, this is about much more than Diaz and the fans. This is about business.
Let’s get one thing clear here, too: as much as I’m interested in the new fight, the old fight captivated me more, and I’m sure there are a number of people who feel the same. St-Pierre vs. Condit won’t do the same kind of numbers Champion vs. Champion would have. They’ll still draw a bunch of fans who want to see Diaz face B.J. Penn, but it doesn’t hold the same amount of intrigue for the casual fan as Diaz facing St-Pierre did.
That’s why I think anyone suggesting the UFC should just let this slide and leave Diaz in the main event isn’t living in the real world. At the very least, they’re not looking at this in real world terms.
Fighting in the UFC is a privilege, not a right.
For whatever reason, all kinds of people hold the organization out as the villain in this—and various interactions between employer and employee—when it really is a pretty simple case of Diaz not living up to the expectations and obligations he signed on for when he accepted this bout.
You want the championship fight, the money that comes along with headlining a pay-per-view, and all the different attachments that come from competing on the biggest stage of them all in this sport?
No problem. You just have to hold up your end of the deal, and that includes things like taking part in media engagements that you’d really prefer to avoid.
GSP is a complete gym rat; all the man wants to do is train. You think he wouldn’t rather be at TriStar in Montreal, rolling at Renzo Gracie’s or hitting pads with Phil Nurse at The Wat?
Of course he would — he said just that on Wednesday — but he knows that these things are part of the job. Doing this week-long media tour is something he is obligated to do, and so he breaks camp, puts on a suit, and answers the same 872 questions over-and-over because that is what he has to do.
At the end of the day, ail this stuff is part of his job. He may not like it, but he likes all the perks and positives that come with being under the employ of the UFC, so he’s there every time they expect him to be, without fail.
Here’s the other part: the UFC has to send this strong message. There has to be some cost to Diaz for no-showing numerous engagements or else they set themselves up for a great fall down the road.
If Diaz still gets to fight for the welterweight championship after skipping events that were scheduled and he was obligated to attend, why would anyone else with something better to do not do the same? Taking no action sets a dangerous precedent, and that’s not something I can see the UFC being keen to do.
We want to blow it up and make it about so much more than it is, when really this is a simple case of an employee not doing their job.
There is more to being a fighter in the UFC than simply stepping into the Octagon on the night of the event. Nick Diaz knew that when he signed up for this fight. He knew attending these media events wasn’t optional, and gave Dana White his word that he’d be there.
If you don’t want to be forced to do media tours and show up to press conferences, you can find plenty of shows that don’t come with those expectations. They also don’t come with the bright lights and big paychecks of the UFC. You want the fame, you want the celebrity, you want the money? This is what you have to do.
He didn’t show up — didn’t do his job as he was expected to — and these are the repercussions. He has no one to blame but himself.