When the UFC shocked us all with its out-of-the-blue purchase of Strkeforce a few weeks back, you could argue nobody should’ve taken a closer look at the new landscape of the MMA world than Nick Diaz and Paul Daley.
After all, Diaz and Daley both seemed to leave the Zuffa, LLC. family on less than stellar terms – Diaz when he chose to sign with the ill-fated Gracie Fighting Championships back in 2006 and Daley when he was fired for punching Josh Koscheck after the bell at UFC 113. Now that both have been taken back into the flock (by force, you might say) it remains unclear what the future holds for either.
Conventional wisdom holds that future will be brighter for whomever emerges from their Saturday night scrap with the Strikeforce welterweight title, but with the fate of the organization itself also looking somewhat murky it’s tough to say how much job security holding the lame duck belt will offer.
As long as he wins (and maybe even if he doesn’t), Diaz is probably in the better shape of the two. The Stockton malcontent is one of the few fighters to have flourished in his post-UFC career, essentially going 10-1, if you discount a victory over Takanori Gomi that was overturned when Diaz tested positive for marijuana. His lone loss came on cuts to KJ Noons back in 2007 and in the wake of it, Diaz had plastic surgery to make sure it didn’t happen again and avenged the defeat with a fierce five-round beatdown last October.
Diaz has become something of a headache for MMA analysts who aren’t sure how to how to view all this recent success. Sure, it looks great on paper but Diaz hasn’t exactly been facing top-flight competition, something he probably won’t do again regularly until he’s back in the UFC. To that end, company president Dana White says he’d “love” to have Diaz back as long as he could “learn to play the game, even a little bit.”
Good luck with that. Diaz seems loathe to play any kind of game except his own. He’s chronically late and openly hostile during media obligations. Last weekend during a live interview on a Strikeforce Challengers broadcast he openly criticized the promotion for making him “fight too much.” The event was in Stockton and the hometown crowd obviously ate it up. Still, exactly what Diaz will do from moment to moment is something only Diaz himself knows, so you can’t blame the UFC for being wary of him, despite all those wins.
You also can’t really blame the UFC for being unsympathetic to Daley. The bombastic Brit is perhaps the only man in recorded history to emerge from a feud with Koscheck looking like the bad guy and now — even as other employment options dwindle – he remains steadfast in his claim that he won’t “kiss ass” for the UFC. Meanwhile, White is on record saying Daley will never for him again.
It’s hard to know what to think about Daley’s almost masochistic opposition to the UFC at this point. On one hand, it’s sort of inspiring to see someone stand up to the swelling Zuffa empire. On the other hand, you kind of want to nudge him and tell him to just shut up.
Daley has publicly said he thinks the company is trying to “set him up” in this bout against Diaz, but that he plans to spoil their plans by seizing control of the Strikeforce gold. It might be his only hope. It might also not matter. If the UFC someday absorbs Strikeforce, just as it’s done with all its other previous acquisitions, it could still easily fire Daley anyway, just to avoid the headache.
Or fire Diaz, for that matter.
Good thing the two guys have to fight first. It might make the decision of who to keep and who to let go all the more easy.
Chad Dundas writes about MMA for CraveOnline, Versus.com and CagePotato.com. He lives in Missoula, MT.