During a prefight media call on Thursday, former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz accomplished a feat never witnessed before, at least publicly: He caused Georges St-Pierre to lose his cool.
For more than 25 minutes, St-Pierre and Diaz engaged in a heated verbal back-and-forth. There was name calling and lots of profanity, mostly from Diaz. But St-Pierre tossed in his share of insults.
These two don’t like each other much, that much was clear before their hard-biting telephone altercation. This kind of trash talking isn’t uncommon in the fight game, and it definitely isn’t something foreign to Diaz. He’s known to give opponents a verbal spanking before fight night. But what made last week’s incident especially unusual was the reaction Diaz elicited from the UFC 170-pound titleholder.
There are only a handful of men in the fight business capable of combining athletic skill, technique and intelligence quite like St-Pierre. There is, however, another element to St-Pierre that separates him from the pack -- an uncanny ability to control his emotions.
Being in control of his emotions is something St-Pierre takes seriously. It’s imperative to St-Pierre’s success that he doesn’t allow anyone to take him out of his emotional comfort zone.
But for a several minutes on Thursday, Diaz broke through St-Pierre’s emotional guard. It won’t happen again, according to St-Pierre, who vows he’s back in control of his feelings.
Diaz’s success was short-lived; St-Pierre is staking his title on it. Only for a moment did he lose sight of his foe’s intent. St-Pierre has seen this act before, maybe not from as skilled a trash-talker as Diaz, but he still should have handled the situation better. Prefight taunting is designed to serve two purposes: increase financial revenue for the bout and throw an opponent off his game.
The first is sure to succeed; the second? St-Pierre says Diaz hasn’t come close to disrupting his rhythm or focus.
“[Diaz] is not the first guy who’s been disrespectful toward me,” St-Pierre told ESPN.com. “These types of guys are stupid. They all make a deal about me before the fight.
“They all want to fight me because they want to make money. But that’s why we are all in this business -- to make money. So, they want to fight me to make that money off pay per views.
“I take it as a compliment.”
Despite his efforts to dismiss Diaz’s trash talk as nothing more than an annoyance, a hint of disdain can be detected in St-Pierre’s voice. Any form of disrespect, especially when directed at someone who’s accomplished as much as St-Pierre has in his professional fighting career, must sting somewhat.
St-Pierre was definitely stung by Diaz’s verbal assault. And he intends to ease that pain Saturday night when the two settle matters at UFC 158 in Montreal.
The promotion calls it a welterweight title bout; it’s a lot more than that for St-Pierre. He claims to be fighting for something greater and Diaz is just the latest hurdle on the journey toward achieving it.
“I don’t fight to be champion anymore,” said St-Pierre, who will carry a record of 23-2 into the cage against Diaz. "I have bigger goals. I want to fight guys who will help me reach the next level, and Nick Diaz is one of them.”
St-Pierre couldn’t be coaxed into revealing who is next on his hit list. Unlike Diaz, he never looks beyond the task at hand.
But he was willing to tell ESPN.com that Diaz is in for a very painful evening. St-Pierre is determined to put him through a horrifying experience. He wants to make Diaz suffer in every possible area of mixed martial arts.
While listening to St-Pierre describe what will take place in Saturday night’s main event it almost seems as if he’s angry -- like he has an ax to grind. But he insists that is not the case whatsoever.
“It’s really not personal,” St-Pierre said. “I don’t have bad blood toward him, though he’s been disrespectful to me.
“Fighting is more fun. I’ve changed a lot of things in my life and in my career. I feel reborn, refreshed.
“I’m a better fighter now. I’m happy. The most important thing in doing [mixed martial arts] is to have fun. And if you’re having fun at what you do, enjoying it, you will be good at it.
“Nick has been talking for a long while and his style will bring out the best in me. It’s going to be a very interesting fight for the fans.”
A word St-Pierre uttered repeatedly throughout the conversation with ESPN.com, whenever Diaz’s name arose, was “disrespectful.” Maybe he was using it unconsciously, but for sure St-Pierre associates Diaz with the word.
On fight night, St-Pierre will recall the “disrespect” Diaz repeatedly exuded toward him. And if Diaz stays true to form, he will direct a few more “disrespectful” words at the champion inside the Octagon.
St-Pierre says what happened during the media call was a one-time occurrence. He vows not to lose his cool in the cage; Diaz will certainly test his resolve.