There were those who thought that Nick Diaz beat Carlos Condit at UFC 143, pointing to his constant pursuit as evidence. Diaz stalked, mocked and talked. He was "Stalkton." He was exactly who we thought he was.
Problem was, Condit wasn’t.
Condit went into the nastiest kind of retreat, one that stuck and ducked and moved and circled and landed leg kicks and counter shots with isolated ease. Isolated? Wait -- wasn’t Condit supposed to stand in front of Diaz and trade, looking for that big curtain closer? Weren’t chins supposed to come into question? Wasn’t Condit supposed to be tailor-made for the high-volume striking assault that Diaz is known for?
Condit had a mute button for the volume. He was either brilliant, or he was a high stakes version of Kalib Starnes, depending on your bias. In all circles, it was clear that he consciously avoided a brawl. And this is where feelings got hurt. In the end, Condit wasn’t about meeting bloodthirsty expectations so much as winning the fight, and he executed his game plan brilliantly. Good for (or shame on) him. Now he’s the interim welterweight champion, and don’t expect apologies from Albuquerque.
Yet for all the scorecard dissection that ensued, nobody was as disappointed or disillusioned as Diaz, who sort of retired right after. A totally impromptu retirement -- just a hundred seconds after a stubborn war he could never incite.
“I don’t need this s---,” he said to Joe Rogan.
He said he’d continue to help train his brother, Nate, but as for him and the whole pack of incompetent judges and all the pressure-filled, bustling hate? Devil take it. He doesn’t need the racket.
Which we all of course took with a grain of salt.
Nobody really thinks that the 28-year-old Diaz is walking. He does need the racket. All the dude has done since his earliest memories is mean mug whoever gets in his grill, and fight. He went so far as to balance out the street menace early by funneling it into jiu-jitsu in his formative years. These days, he is as much Cesar Gracie as Cesar Gracie. Diaz is known for his fiendish work ethic, and he trains compulsively. It’s what he does. It’s how he copes, and how he vents. We like it because we see such focused discipline coming out of unknown wilds. Maybe more than anybody, this game is Diaz’s lifeblood.
Only it’s not a game to Diaz, it’s fighting -- and that’s why judge’s scorecards become absurd to such a literalist.
This last distinction is why he’ll return to the cage before long. The old Dana White proverb to “never leave it in the hands of the judges” will resonate in him and work as kindling. Losing that way won’t sit well in the 209. White senses it, just like you and I. In fact, White was already dangling Josh Koscheck out there as a possible next opponent in the postfight news conference. Emotions got the better of Diaz, who has never filtered the urge to say what’s on his mind like typical professionals.
It helps that there are possibilities all over the place. Realistically, with Georges St. Pierre on the shelf until something like November, a rematch with Condit isn’t out of the question. Neither is fighting a Johny Hendricks or a Jon Fitch or a Rory MacDonald to avenge his brother’s loss. Or maybe Jake Ellenberger, who would love nothing better than to stand and trade heat with Diaz. How about rematch with Diego Sanchez, who knows the buttons to push to get Diaz’s chest puffing back out?
There will be suitors, some of them equipped with the kinds of mouths that will get to Diaz.
But that’s all window dressing. The thing is, Diaz doesn’t have it in him to quit, and there’s still too much left unresolved and just too many reasons for him to walk away.
And for those who have paid attention to Diaz’s competitiveness over the years, the biggest might be this -- he simply can’t.