Mixed martial arts (MMA) mole hills are getting molded into massive mountains in record time thanks in large part to Jonathan Tweedale, legal counsel for Nick Diaz.
By now, most fight fans should be well aware of "Weight Gate," a bizarre situation that revealed an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) official, Mike Mersh, relaying a message to Diaz from the Quebec Athletic Commission that he was permitted to weigh up to 170.9 pounds for his Welterweight title fight against division champion Georges St. Pierre.
Mersh, who was unknowingly videotaped by a member of the Stockton, Calif.,-based fighter's entourage, described it as an "off the record type of thing." The timing, and circumstances, that surrounded Mersh's eleventh-hour communique flew in the face of the Canadian province's combat sports rules on record, which Tweedale highlighted in a statement last night (read it here).
It was pretty clear that a mistake was made; however, rather than owning up to it, now it appears that Mersh and the commission are seemingly working in concert, pretending that no rules were broken, bent or overlooked at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, on March 15, 2013.
And Tweedale, who tonight released correspondence between counsel via text message (via BloodyElbow.com), continues to ratchet up the "decimal" impropriety.
Check out these text exchanges that took place shortly after the UFC 158 weigh in (JDT = Tweedale, Diaz's attorney and MM = Mersh, UFC Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs):
JDT: "Hi Mike. Nick is curious about the .9 pound allowance at today's weigh-in for his championship bout. He doesn't want to be a nuisance about this, but he's a bit confused. Can you shed any light?"
MM: "I don't know what you're talking about. All parties weighed in appropriately according [to] the Quebec Commission."
JDT: "Of course. You're right, and he knows that. He just wanted to know why the Quebec Commission was okay with a 0.9 pound weight allowance for a championship fight. Nick's not going to make an issue of it, but it's been gnawing at him since it was explained to him at the weigh-ins, on an "off the record" basis or otherwise. I just want him to stop thinking about it, and thought you could provide some insight."
MM: "I have been told everyone made weight so there's nothing to make an issue about. He might want to focus on how he's going to win the fight rather than spending the night making excuses about why he lost."
JDT: "C'mon Mike you're just going to stonewall on this issue? We're reaching out in a discreet manner, as appropriate in the circumstances. Meet us half-way."
MM: "Huh? The Commission determined both fighters weighed 170 or less. What am I supposed to do about that? I would think Nick would be excited to compete for the UFC Welterweighttitle. Seems like he's focused on the wrong issue."
JDT: "No one wants you to *do* anything. If the answer is simply "the Quebec Commission permits a promoter to request that .9 pounds be rounded down in a championship fight (unlike, e.g., the Washington commission for Nate's fight), and Zuffa made that request here", then pls confirm. Far better to reach out this way than the uncooperative Twitter/media way."
MM: "How would I know what the Quebec Commission does? I was informed everyone made weight like everyone else at the weigh in. Zuffa made no requests for anything from the Quebec Commission. Good luck to Nick with the fight."
Chances are that at the time this conversation took place, Mersh had no idea that there was video-taped evidence to the contrary being uploaded to YouTube.com, which his department later had removed under the shaky auspices of copyright infringement (you can still watch it here).
Open mouth, insert foot, overreact.
Here's the deal: The decimal issue alone, while concerning, was insignificant. St. Pierre went on to dominate Diaz in the UFC 158 main event the next night even though he was sick and injured, cruising to a unanimous decision that demonstrated he is far and away a much more superior fighter than Diaz even on possibly his worst night.
However, everything that has trickled out since continues to cast a long, dark shadow over the commission and now a high-ranking UFC attorney, who apparently shared misinformation (for whatever reason), pretended he was clueless when confronted about his very real, recorded statements (he was clearly not being truthful with Tweedale via text) and then seemingly stretched the laws of infringement in an effort to erase the compromising footage from public record.
I think it's fair to say that Diaz is an annoyingly talented liability for the UFC. He's the pot-smoking, paranoid, against-all-odds boy who cried wolf tickets. One who, despite all the headaches, managed to help UFC 158 top one million pay-per-view (PPV) buys after the chaotic dust settled. However, I'm speculating here, but those headaches (not unintended box office success) are probably the reason Mersh responded to his legal contemporary, Tweedale, in the manner in which he did.
In other words, Mr. Tweedale your client is a pain in the ass who is lucky to be in the position he is in, how dare you continue to pepper us with nonsense ... just be thankful and win. Enough is enough!
If that't truly the case it's easy to understand. And he's probably right to think that after everything that Diaz has put the company though over the last year, complaining (more) -- especially over DECIMALS -- is viewed as nothing more than Diaz just being Diaz.
Unfortunately, Diaz didn't do this to the UFC nor the commission, both of which need to put their heads together, which might not be the first time, and issue a more coordinated, honest and detailed statement that explains their bungling of the decimal issue.
Diaz doesn't deserve a rematch against St. Pierre. However, at this stage, he does deserve an honest answer about "Weight Gate" and the chain of communication that now appears to be broken and disingenuous at best. Anything less would be a black eye on the sport ... even if we're just splitting decimals and dealing with Diaz.
It has snowballed into an alarming issue that has now become way bigger than .9 (with shorts on). And it shows no signs of losing chilly, shady layers unless Mersh, the UFC and the Quebec Athletic Commission do something soon to set the record as straight as they possibly can at this late, and unfortunate, stage.
Honesty is the best policy.
Be sure to head over to BloodyElbow.com to check out more of the text exchange between Tweedale and Mersh, as well as Tweedale and Michel Hamelin, director of the Quebec commission -- Regie des Alcools des Courses et des Jeux (RACJ) -- right here.