LAS VEGAS -- You’ll have to forgive some of those in attendance at the UFC 137 prefight media conference on Thursday if they couldn’t quite get over the fact that Nick Diaz was there, too.
Diaz’s recent media engagements have been so erratic and unpredictable leading up to this event that just showing up for this one -- and showing up on time -- seemed remarkable.
Enough so that even Diaz, at times, appeared to be in on the joke.
“They did bring me down an hour early,” he said, when asked if the UFC or his team had to take any special precautions to keep him from missing the media conference. “I don't know if that was a change of plans or if that was on account of me.”
It's been less than two months since Diaz got bounced from a scheduled welterweight title fight against Georges St. Pierre after no-showing a pair of advance PR events. He presumably got a stern talking-to from UFC President Dana White on the matter and now, after being booked back in the main event against B.J. Penn on this Saturday’s card, his handlers said he’s learned his lesson.
“We had a talk about fighting in the UFC now and doing press and everything like that,” said Diaz, who also showed up some 45 minutes late for last week’s conference call. “I said my only problem with doing press is that it takes time away from my training. I train harder than most athletes out here ... and [doing press] really throws me off my week, which throws my whole month off; and that’s a big deal to me.”
In truth, most of the answers Diaz gave at Thursday’s media conference were an improvement on his past performances, but questions about his distaste for media kept coming. Finally, White had heard enough.
“He’s here, guys,” the exasperated UFC president said. “If you want to ask him about the fight, he’s here. He’s here today, it’s over and I can tell you from what I’ve heard from my crew here, he’s done everything that he’s supposed to do.”
White sees surprising likeness in Penn and Diaz
Both Diaz and Penn are talented jiu-jitsu fighters who love to box. While Diaz typically opts for a high volume, high-octane striking attack, Penn will likely have the edge in power if their main event fight stays on the feet.
If it goes to the ground? That could be anybody’s best guess, as they might be that comparable in skill.
However, when asked on Thursday if he saw any similarities between the two welterweights, White singled out a far more, uh, intangible quality shared by both Diaz and Penn.
“The similarity between these guys is they’re both crazy,” White said. “I love this fight.”
New life for Strikeforce?
The largely condemned fight company may have gotten its metaphorical 11th-hour reprieve recently when Ken Hershman, Showtime’s former head of sports programming, left for HBO. With Hershman and his notoriously rocky relationship with White now out of the way, the UFC president said on Thursday that he’s abandoned his hands-off approach and is knee deep in negotiations to get Strikeforce a new deal with the premium channel for next year.
White said he was in New York on Wednesday meeting with Showtime officials and -- maybe for the first time ever -- sounded relatively upbeat about the possibility that Strikeforce might stick around beyond the new year. White said an announcement could come as early as the end of this week.
"I had a great meeting with them," White said. "We'll see how it goes. I met with all of them, the whole crew. It went very well, and we'll see how it progresses."
Mitrione wants to race
Matt Mitrione moved his claim of being perhaps the UFC’s quickest, most athletic heavyweight to the next level recently, as he took to his official Twitter account offering to take on any of the company’s current champions in a footrace. On Thursday he did not back down from that challenge, even widening it a bit to include at least one very athletic former champion.
“I feel that I can beat anybody that has a belt [in the UFC] in a 40-yard dash, maybe even 100,” Mitrione said. “I’m going to challenge Urijah Faber to a timed mile sooner or later. I don’t know if I can beat him, but I’m sure as hell going to give it a shot.”
Cro-Cop looking for payback from Barry
The viral video sensation showing Mirko Filipovic and fellow UFC heavyweight Pat Barry singing along with “California Dreaming” while on a recent road trip apparently didn't get cleared by Cro-Cop before its release to the public.
Asked if the emergence of the video was a sign that Cro-Cop was letting his hair down a bit as he approaches the end of his MMA career, the fighter made it sound as if he didn’t expect that video to find its way to the Internet and joked (we hope) that he’ll have a score to settle when next he meets up with Barry.
“If you ask me if I am planning a singing career, no, that’s not true,” Cro-Cop said. “Pat Barry sold me [out] because he released it on YouTube, and I will kick his a-- the first time I see him.”