For the Giants and Patriots, the journey to the Super Bowl began way back in July when the teams reported for abbreviated training camps. For Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit, the road to the main event on the UFC's traditional Super Bowl Eve fight card has been even longer, and with more twists and bumps than an NFL season.
Last April, Diaz was fresh off an eye-opening defense of his Strikeforce welterweight championship, a first-round knockout of KO artist Paul Daley, when he watched his training partner, Jake Shields, go five rounds in an unsuccessful challenge of UFC champ Georges St-Pierre. Talk quickly shifted to bringing the two organizations' belt holders together, and by the beginning of June the match was made: GSP and Diaz in the main event of UFC 137.
Within a few weeks, the match had fallen apart. Nick failed to show up for several promotional obligations, including a bizarre news conference where St-Pierre sat to one side of the podium, an empty chair sat to the other side, and Dana White stood in the middle, looking disgusted. When he wasn't taking a cell phone call from Nick's manager, the UFC president was announcing that Diaz was off the Oct. 29 card and GSP would instead defend against Carlos Condit, who'd originally been scheduled to fight B.J. Penn in the co-main event.
Then, a couple of days later, Diaz was brought back onto the card, slated to fight Penn. Then St-Pierre fell out of the Condit bout because of a knee injury, bumping Diaz-Penn to top billing. Then Diaz beat up Penn so convincingly that White opted to give him, not the patiently waiting Condit, the next shot at GSP. Then the UFC champ more seriously injured his knee, and the Super Bowl weekend main event became Diaz vs. Condit, with an interim title on the line.
Pending any last-minute changes in plans, that's what we'll have headlining UFC 143 Saturday night in Las Vegas (PPV, 10 p.m. ET).
It might be Plan B -- or, perhaps more accurately, Plan D as in detour -- but what we've ended up with should be a pretty scenic ride. Diaz (26-7, one no-contest) and Condit (27-5) are the rare mixed martial artists who appear equally comfortable in the ground game and throwing bombs. Being in the cage with either of them can feel like sudden death.
Diaz has knocked out 13 opponents and submitted eight. Condit has 13 KOs and the same number of submissions. The Nevada State Athletic Commission is obligated to have judges at cageside, but their scorecards likely will have as little bearing on this fight as they will on the next evening's football game.
St-Pierre, who once he's healed will face Saturday night's winner, offered up (via the UFC) some thoughts about the fight this week.
On his rooting interest:
On the interim title: