Photo: The Sports Session
Like in any sport, the bad boys get all of the media and fan attention. But in the world of MMA, are these bad boys helping or hurting the sport? One fighter that fits into the MMA bad boy category is Nick Diaz, who is fighting in the main event of UFC 137 against BJ Penn. Diaz has a history of bad boy behaviour. Some may think he is misunderstood and some may think he has some mental issues, but one thing for sure is the man who represents “209 Stockton, California” always comes to fight.Diaz, who vacated his Strikeforce welterweight championship belt recently, signed with the UFC. When Diaz signed on the dotted line he brought with him a lot of baggage. Back in his Strikeforce days, Diaz would miss press conferences from time-to-time just because he didn’t feel like showing up. He would also flip off the media, fans and his opponents prior to fights and was involved in the infamous brawl that ended up being Strikeforce’s last fight card on CBS. Diaz even threatened to slap a reporter because he thought the reporter may have been instigating bad things.
Whenever Diaz is in town to fight, people always flock to see what he will do or say next. They are accustomed to expecting the unexpected. When Diaz signed with the UFC, he signed to fight UFC champion Georges St. Pierre. A fight that many MMA fans were excited to see for years, including myself. When it came time to promote the fight and do a press tour, Diaz was nowhere to be found. Obviously, this didn’t sit well with GSP and UFC president Dana White, but after White got a hold of Diaz’s manager Ceaser Grace, he promised that Diaz would be at the press conference in Las Vegas.
When the press conference started in Las Vegas and only GSP and Dana White were present, you knew the outcome would not be good. Diaz again was a no-show, which was nothing new if you followed Diaz’s career. This didn’t go over well with White, whose job is to promote and sell fights. White pulled Diaz from that match, which made many people upset because this was a fight a lot of people wanted to see, but at the same time a fighter can’t just not show up to his job and not expect ramifications. White made an example of Diaz by pulling him from the main event. Diaz seems to blame everyone else around him for not telling him about the press conference instead of taking the blame himself.
With all of that said, Diaz is still one of the most popular fighters in MMA today and all of the issues with him missing the press conference is only going to make more people curious to see him fight. His name was trending on Twitter and he was the talk of the town on every MMA blog for weeks. The UFC came to its senses and didn’t fire him, but instead put Diaz in another fight against BJ Penn, but because of his antics, Diaz will lose out on a lot of PPV revenue he would have received from a fight with GSP.
Another bad boy fighter is Chael Sonnen, who was not really well-known until it came time for him to fight Anderson Silva at UFC 117. Even though Sonnen went on and lost the fight against Silva in a match-up that Sonnen dominated the majority of the time, he still came out the winner. Pre- and post-fight comments about Silva put Sonnen on the map in the MMA world. Comments like calling Silva a street thug, comparing Silva’s black belt to a Happy Meal, and comparing MMA to stuff you see in movies are but a few gems. They are a small example of the things Sonnen says to get under people’s skin and I don’t think Sonnen believes 95% of the comments he says. The man is simply one hell of a promoter.
People love to see “good guys” versus “bad guys.” The good guy is considered the company man, who does whatever the company says. The good guy has respect for their opponents and doesn’t say anything bad about them. The good guy is the sport’s ambassador, who will represent the sport to new fans and uneducated fans. The good guy makes the sport look good to the untrained eye.
However, behind every good guy, there has to be a bad guy. It’s just how the dynamic works and people love to see the bad guy. The bad guy is the one who gets booed and gets people worked up. The bad guy says and does what everyone else wishes they could say and do. The bad guy is the cool guy that everyone wants to be like whether they admit it or not. The bad guy draws attention away from the good guy and makes it all about them. The bad guy is every promoter’s dream.
Are guys like Diaz and Sonnen good for the sport of MMA? Yes and no. Yes because these guys will get people to buy the fights and can make the sport bigger by bringing in new people to watch. No because this sport is very young and not long ago was called “human cockfighting” by Senator John McCain. The early years of the sport had very little rules and it showcased one fighting style vs. another fighting style, to see which fighting style was the best.
Since Zuffa purchased the UFC about 10 years ago, they went on damage control and made MMA into a sanctioned sport like boxing. It has athletic commissions, unified MMA rules, weight classes, etc. Still, there are many people who believe this is a bloody barbaric sport. Take New York for example. The state still won’t sanction MMA today even though 47 other states have already done so. Senator Harry Reid is the biggest politco who doesn’t want MMA in the Empire State. To the people who are not educated in MMA, actions from Diaz or Sonnen may end up making uneducated people believe that MMA is bloody, barbaric, and devoid of any validity as a sport.
The people uneducated in MMA, probably due to a lack of exposure to the sport, should know that these are real athletes that train their butts off. There is technique involved and a deliberate strategy that needs to be followed in order to succeed. Professional football and basketball players have recently been training in MMA during the offseason to stay in shape. Mixed martial arts fighters are one of the most trained athletes in all of sports.
Mixed martial arts, especially the UFC, is a huge hit with the 18-34 year old demographic and like anything else in this world, if you don’t love it then change the channel and watch The Food Network or OWN. The sport is only going to continue to grow and will not go anywhere. In fact, the UFC recently signed a seven-year deal with FOX, which will air four UFC fights a year on the network. This is obviously a huge for the sport and should draw a brand new audience that never watched the UFC before.
With all of that said, MMA is truly my favourite sport to watch and Nick Diaz is one of my favourite fighters. Somehow I got my wife hooked onto MMA, which makes life easier on those Saturday nights when I want to order a UFC PPV.
Thanks for reading this week’s MMA blog post. If you enjoyed reading it as much I enjoyed writing it, please “like” it, share it on all of your social media networks, leave a comment, and pass this around to your friends and family. Don’t make me a bad guy to promote myself. You wouldn’t like it if I became a bad guy. Until next time. Peace!
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