In politics, the subject of social security has been traditionally considered the third rail. It’s too hot button for most to debate about without the discourse deteriorating in pretty quick fashion. For those who may not have seen the 1984 classic film Beat Street, the third rail is the rail that provides electricity in a subway system. Touch it, and you catch more than just a bad one.
Few MMA fighters epitomize the third rail as much as Nick Diaz, but there are few fighters that draw the kind of attention Diaz does, few that carry that kind of charge, and few that are as dangerous.
Bret Okamoto of ESPN penned a Report Card piece for UFC 171 in which the front end of the article focused on Diaz and why Diaz is undeserving of a UFC title shot at 170 pounds:
If Diaz were to get a title shot ahead of Woodley, I mean, what are we all doing here? What are we watching at that point? Fun, marketable fights are one thing. Giving a title shot to a man with more retirements than wins in the past two years is another.
Tyron Woodley, also making the media rounds and politicking for a title shot, is even more frank in his assessment of Nick Diaz’s potential return to the 170 pound class:
He’s a great fighter and nobody can take that away from him, but outside the cage, he’s a moron. If you think you can retire coming off back to back losses and think you’re gonna jump right back into a title fight…he’s just playing off the fact that he might be a great draw.
I won’t argue Okamoto’s point. I think there are plenty of matchups at the 170 class outside of a title fight that could be very competitive and intriguing for Nick Diaz and for fight fans. However, I do take issue with the assessment of Tyron Woodley labeling Nick Diaz as a moron. I know morons. I can introduce you to no less than seven with whom I’ve worked in the past. I don’t know Nick Diaz from a ham sandwich, but Nick Diaz is no moron. I doubt he is any of the things most think he is.
The things he does outside of the cage—whether it’s no-showing for press conferences, showing up at weigh-ins to heckle competitors for missing weight, flipping off opponents—I don’t know if he does it to sell a fight, keep his name out there, or because he can. What I do know is that he’s hard to ignore on both sides of the cage.
Case in point, during the UFC 171 fight card, Nick sat cage side, next to Ronda Rousey, Cain Velasquez, Dana White, and Jake Ellenberger, and did something that went unnoticed to most in attendance. During the intros for the co-main event, Nick Diaz was on his feet, and as Bruce Buffer called out the names of each corner, Nick was clapping and giving both Woodley and Condit a warm ovation. He was into the fight. He was into the fighters. He was a fan. These are the things that get lost when people try to pigeonhole Nick Diaz.
By the way, I was only able to catch this moment because the fan sitting next to me said, “I think that’s Nick Diaz sitting ringside.” Within seconds, the people in our immediate section were craning their necks to see, proving once again, it’s hard to ignore Nick Diaz.