Thursday, February 2, 2012

UFC 143: Does that Make me Crazy?

Crazy or not, here they come.

Leading up to UFC 143, the headlining fight of Nick Diaz v. Carlos Condit has caused a lot of crazy talk. Not crazy in the sense of "that's ridiculous," but rather quite literal, "I'm fucking crazy" talk. Now, choosing to make your living training developing a hodgepodge of martial arts skills to go fight a different man three to four times a year who also has his own set of martial arts skills may make you crazy by default, but in every environment, crazy carries a distinction. There will always be the craziest guy in the office, at the Starbucks, at the football stadium, etc. So when you can find a couple of crazies in the MMA world that can seriously bring it, you have yourself quite a fight.

Crazy is a word that is commonly thrown around. Sometimes it's used properly, but more often than not, it's used as a synonym for misunderstood. People who don't know or want to know more about something or someone will just throw that crazy word at it to make it go away, to dismiss it as something no normal person should want to understand. With the help or, possibly, the influence of UFC's Prime Time series, audiences get to see a Nick Diaz that is different from his in ring and press related persona.

He doesn't seem crazy. He just seems like someone that doesn't like talking in front of a big crowd or dealing with press junkets answering the same question over and over again. In the ring, he's a fighter that has a style and bravado all his own. His taunting during and after the fight doesn't give him an aura of respect for the sport, but that's how he has to be to be at his best.

Taunting antics have yet to catch up to Diaz in the ring.
The reason for this attitude appears to be part of two things in Diaz's life. First, it's just who he is. He's wired that way. To do what he wants and act the way he does either due to indifference, stubbornness, or more poignantly highlighted on Prime Time because he is afraid of being bullied and intimidated by others. The way he responds to this fear he has is not to be a bully but go right after anyone that might be on to this weakness of his.

Second, is that he grew up in Stockton, California and resides in the neighborhood he grew up. From all accounts Stockton is not the greatest place in the world, and growing up there surely creates an environment where violence and testosterone are needed to survive. Gangs were in pursuit of Diaz simply for his toughness and attitude. That was before he acquired his elite level jiu-jitsu and boxing skills. Being a product of that environment, you need to create a suit of armor around you and naturally be distrustful of people you don't know. Diaz doesn't know or care to know the media, other UFC fighters, and that's an awkward thing to experience first hand and see on TV. It's easy to view him as anything but normal.

Away from the pressure and not having to be Nick Diaz the fighter, there's a whole lot of Nick Diaz the athlete. He runs marathons, participates in triathalons. He has wanted to try his hand at professional boxing. He's at the Caesar Gracie Gym virtually everyday as that is where he prefers to be. Even though the UFC cameras did great getting access to Diaz, you have to imagine he's even more at peace when there are no cameras to see his day to day actions at Caesar Gracie.

Pretty sure that's not his blood.
Compared to the perceived craziness of Diaz, Carlos Condit comes across as calm and relaxed. A family man that grew up the son of the Chief of Staff to former Arizona Governor Bill Richardson. In that, we must realize that Condit is someone that grew up fighting. He views it as legitimately a fun time. He's nicknamed the Natural Born Killer.

And, one of my favorite stories, when he visited a military base in Afghanistan back when he was WEC Champ, he was sparring with some of the soldiers. One frisky soldier asked Condit, "How fast do you want to go?" Condit replied, "as fast as you want." So the soldier started sparring slowly, gathering some speed and perhaps confidence. Condit let the soldier control the pace, but once the soldier went all out, Condit ended up knocking him out. Yeah, Carlos is no sane person.

He's also the owner of some of the more devastating finishes in recent memory. His flying knee to Dong Hyun Kim and flash KO of Dan Hardy are the epitome of the kind of striking skill Condit brings into the ring. He wants to finish the fight, to have his opponent beaten, and he's been successful doing so in 26 of his career fights.

Condit appears disinterested in being the crazier guy in this fight. He only seems focused on getting the Interim welterweight title on Saturday and turning that into the real welterweight title.

Oddly enough that turns our attention to the reason there is an interim title on the line. Georges St-Pierre's injury will force him out until late Summer at best. So his two prior foes will square off for the right to welcome him back to the Octagon in a title fight.

It's known that GSP was so infuriated with Diaz doing his Diaz thing and calling out the champ that GSP demanded the fight from Dana and one of the most surprising things in Prime Time history was when the shows second episode dedicated the last 10 minutes to the injured welterweight kingpin as he started rehabbing his injured knee. During the interview that anger was still fresh on GSP's tongue.

He could only talk about Nick Diaz and wanting to fight him. That GSP has a dark place himself. Much darker than anyone can imagine, and when he goes there, it's trouble. That is pretty shocking stuff from the usually amicable and professional face of the UFC. It was apparent that this was not the usual trash talk pre-pre-fight, but Diaz was able to set something off in GSP. Something that the UFC has never seen before. It just may be that GSP is the craziest of them all.

Saturday the fight Gods will probably side with Diaz, like they did with Rashad Evans against Phil Davis. Some fights need to happen, and even though it's a close fight going in, GSP/Diaz is what has to go down. Then Joe Rogan can definitely let rip a famous, "Craaaaaaaaazy." And he'll mean it.

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