With their performances Saturday night (March 16, 2013) at UFC 158, and the way the rest of the Welterweight division is shaking out (more on that here), Nick Diaz and Jake Ellenberger would be a fantastic next match for both mixed martial arts (MMA) veterans.
Especially as a five-round main event.
Assuming Diaz doesn’t retire, which pretty much seemed his statement in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan after getting swept 50-45 across the scorecards in a one-sided loss to Georges St. Pierre in the main event of the evening. Thankfully, the old Diaz fire was back by the post-bout press conference (watch the replay here), where he’d reverted to form, sounding pissed at an opponent for having the temerity to stick his gameplan, instead of Diaz’s, and take yet another decision, with Diaz’s mood even worse than normal.
There’s simply too much entertainment and awesomeness that Diaz brings to the sport for him to retire. And you have to hope that the long-embittered Stockton battler sees the folly in walking away from the game now, at 29, when he’s finally making the big money and a household name. After years of soldiering across various promotions, he’s become the industry standard as the one guy that doesn’t give a f*** about the sport, what the fans want, or the increasingly trendy scene of MMA stardom and posturing.
Diaz isn’t interested in what most fans expect fighters to care about, including the fans. He just wants to fight, and the consistent inability of people who beat him on the cards, particularly in the UFC, only seems to reinforce the fact that nobody can really beat him at his own game, which is fighting with your heart on your sleeve, ditching the "points first" approach, and letting it all hang out to see who the tougher guy really is.
Because nobody in recent years has really "beaten" Nick Diaz in the way that makes him feel satisfied that he’s indeed been beat. Diaz just runs out of rounds (or, in the case of the first K.J. Noons fight, gets stopped on a cut, which pissed him off as well). Yes, the scorecards reflected a one-sided fight, but ironically, it was St. Pierre lagging near the end, lingering in clinches as Diaz upped his work rate (far too late) to whack the French-Canadian in the ribs and outwork him.
Diaz wasn’t too happy with how Carlos Condit outpointed him either, dropping a five-round decision in a bout at UFC 141 where many fans, including respected fight game figures such as Pat Miletich, believed Diaz had clearly done enough to win. That’s the reason Diaz needs to keep fighting – to make someone beat him badly enough to convince him it’s time to move on.
Ellenberger would be one hell of a match because he’d come right at Diaz, winging big bombs and forcing exchanges. Diaz loves that kind of style and is exceptionally effective against it (see Paul Daley). He still has a relevant place in the division and the sport, and given the UFC’s burgeoning 170-pound ranks, he can provide a ton of promotional interest if he keeps going.
In an ideal world, Diaz would be able to retreat to his preferable interests, teaching Brazilian jiu-jitsu at his school in Lodi, Calif., competing in triathlons and various hard-core fitness events, toking up at his leisure and not having to worry about the hassles of press conferences, promotional responsibilities and the ever-nagging presence of drug testing providing more post-fight headaches than he already has.
It’s pretty clear that he’s never been too crazy about the fight game outside of the chance to fight. But, he’s got a ton of fight in him and it’s that kind of honesty that makes him such a refreshing commodity. I don’t want him to retire because when he’s at his best, there’s nobody more entertaining to watch.
And in a long career, outside of an early stoppage loss to Jeremy Jackson (whom Diaz beat twice in subsequent rematches), nobody has come remotely close to legitimately stopping him. That’s the reason he needs to keep fighting, if for no other reason than to give all of us a legitimate reason to support his exit.
Until then, he belongs in the game until someone can convince him – and us – that he doesn’t.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst