Love him or hate him, Nick Diaz never fails to make headlines.
The UFC’s bad boy was at it once again Friday afternoon when he got into a shoving match with fellow UFC 137 main event participant B.J. Penn during weigh-in activities at Mandalay Bay.
“He’s a good opponent. It’s time to fight,” Penn said simply when emcee Joe Rogan asked about the fracas, which saw Diaz push his forehead into Penn’s before UFC president Dana White jumped into separate the two fighters and their entourages to the delight of the pro-Penn crowd.
Diaz, who actually threw a half-cocked punch in the air while he was being pulled back, offered no comment as he immediately walked off stage.
The scene was just the latest chapter in a slew of highly publicized missteps (which included Diaz no-showing two press conferences that cost him the originally scheduled championship fight against Georges St-Pierre and nearly his job in the UFC), but starkly different than the respect Diaz had shown Penn earlier in hyping tomorrow’s bout.
“I think B.J. is a lot better fighter to be honest with you,” said Diaz of Penn being better than GSP, who was forced out of a main event fight against Carlos Condit because of a knee injury.
“He’s much better at jiu-jitsu, boxing, even on a physical level I wouldn’t count him out.”
Penn says both fighters will be feeling the pressure of the moment, considering the winner will likely have first shot at St-Pierre, who currently is scheduled to face Condit after recovering from his injury.
“I think I’m relaxed, I’m comfortable with the situation but I think me and Nick both have a lot of pressure,” said Penn, whose last fight in Nevada ended in controversy when he accused GSP of greasing his body after a TKO loss to the Canadian at UFC 94 in January 2009.
“Nicks got some pressure. He was going to come in and fight for the title but things got switched up. I kind of look at it that we’re both in a must win position.”
Reasoning enough for White to be so pumped up about an event —which despite multiple bout changes and headaches with Diaz, seems to be shaping into a top-contender eliminator.
“The fight held together. “This thing sold out, it’s sold out now. It’s been fantastic,” White said. “If this was a boxing match, it would have collapsed and we would have to rescheduled it.
“I love this fight. They’re warriors. This fight is going to be a war.”
Cro Cop’s curtain call?
Despite saying he might be in the best shape of his nearly 20-year fighting career, a reflective Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic talked about Saturday possibly being his last bout — win or lose.
“I have two sons, two kids at home, and so many things that I would like to discover,” said the beloved Croatian. “Next year in June it will be 20 years from my first fight. I had a long and rich career and I can say successful, not in the UFC, which I will never be able to forgive myself, I just blew it up. When I came to the UFC, they treated me like a king. Even today they treat me like a king, I just didn’t make it.”
Brazil gets TUF
The first international version of the American reality fighting TV show The Ultimate Fighter will take place in Brazil, said White, who also hinted the promotion would be back in Brazil soon.
“It’s a huge market for us. It’s incredible down there,” White said of the country referred to as the birthplace for MMA, which hosted its first UFC event in 13 years with a sold out UFC 134 card in August.
“We’re going to do as many as we possibly can.”
ESPN’s Anik joins UFC
Jon Anik, the host of ESPN2’s weekly “MMA Live” show, has joined the UFC broadcasting team and will commentate the live “TUF” episodes when they air on FOX starting in 2012.
“I believe the UFC’s as strong a brand as there is in professional sports, but what really drew me to this organization was the people behind it,” the 33-year-old Boston native said.
“If I was leaving ESPN, there was only one destination: the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It’s a dream come true.”