When Carlos Condit got a text from UFC president Dana White last Tuesday morning -- just three days after beating Nick Diaz via a closely contested but unanimous decision to claim the interim welterweight title at UFC 143 -- he knew something was up. He knew White was in Brazil attending to other business. What could be so important that he needed to talk to a fighter who had just fulfilled his duties and was supposed to be in vacation mode by now?
"So I called him," Condit said. "...We talked about [the fight] a little bit. He said he thought that I won, but at the same time a lot of people were calling for the rematch and it would be a huge fight. The day before I had told my manager that I'd be into a rematch, and I told Dana White the same thing. I said I'm down. Let's just figure out the details and we'll do it."
Condit's manager, Malki Kawa, had sounded considerably less enthusiastic about a rematch the day before, telling MMAFighting.com that it was "not something we're looking to do," but to Condit, it made sense. Even after going home and watching the fight on tape he felt he'd earned the decision, he said, "but I could see how it was somewhat of a controversial decision. It was close."
So he told White he'd do it. And why not? As he explained, "I don't think I need the rematch. I won the fight; I think I'd win a rematch. But the thing about it is, I want to be in big fights, fights where there's a lot of buzz, a lot of people wanting to see the fight, and a rematch with Nick Diaz fits the bill."
Then on Tuesday night, White texted Condit again. This one, Condit said, "was a little more urgent," so he called back right away.
"Then he tells me that Diaz failed his [drug] test."
So much for the rematch. Diaz's positive test for "marijuana metabolites" -- the second such positive drug test in the span of five years for the mercurial welterweight -- meant a suspension was almost certainly on the way. It also further shifted the spotlight from the winner of the interim title fight to the loser. On their official Twitter account, the Diaz brothers accused Condit of accepting the rematch only after he was told of Diaz's positive drug test, insisting he "[n]ever intended to rematch." ("That's just false," Condit's management countered in an email to SI.com.)
This is how Condit's easy week of basking in the glow of victory turned into a tidal wave of stress. Each day seemed to bring new rumors, new accusations, a new headache. Somehow he'd managed to win the fight, and yet still ended up defending himself in the court of public opinion.
Whether it was criticism over his stick-and-move strategy against Diaz ("Honestly," Condit said, "it seemed like our game plan worked almost too well") or accusations of post-fight media manipulation from Diaz and his more conspiracy-minded fans, Condit seemed to be hearing it from all sides.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that, if not for Diaz's failed drug test, the rematch could have settled any lingering questions. Now that option was off the table, but not because of anything Condit had done. And as for the marijuana that was evidently still lurking in Diaz's system when the two met in the cage?
"I don't care," Condit said. "The thing about it is, it's something they test for. It's against the Nevada [State] Athletic Commission [rules]. I don't really consider it to be a performance-enhancing drug, but the fact is, they're testing for it. And you know they're testing for it. Whatever you do in between camps, if you know they're testing for this stuff then you've got to figure something out. In the past, he's said, 'Oh, I can smoke and I can pass these tests no problem.' That attitude kind of came back and bit him in the ass."
And yet, somehow this stuff just doesn't seem to stick to Diaz. While White said in a statement that he was "beyond disappointed" in the former Strikeforce champ, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said that organization would not fire him over the positive drug test (assuming Diaz doesn't actually retire, as he threatened to do when the decision didn't go his way). And Diaz's fans? Let's just say that, if you're a Diaz fan after everything he's been through in his career, a little THC probably isn't going to change your mind.
Instead, it's Condit who's somehow taken the worst of it. Condit, who actually won the fight, according to all three judges. Condit, who's walking around with the interim title, and who accepted the rematch, according to both his management team and the UFC. Condit, who fulfilled his end of the bargain by testing clean at the end of the night. So what gives?
Maybe fans didn't like how he won the fight. Maybe they expected more brawling and less strategy. Maybe the post-fight shenanigans fit too easily into the anti-hero narrative that Diaz has crafted for himself, leaving Condit as the representative of some oppressive establishment, rather real or imagined.
All Condit knows for sure is that, despite the win, he doesn't have that top-of-the-mountain feeling he thought he would after beating Diaz on live TV.
"Honestly, I don't," he said. "It was not as satisfying as it should be, with all this stuff that went on afterward."
But with Diaz awaiting his punishment, there's no real way to remedy the situation any time soon. He can't get a rematch to quiet the doubters, and can't do much to battle public perception from the sidelines. All he can do is wait for another chance to prove himself in the cage, which Condit said he's willing to do in the next few months if welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre isn't going to be healthy enough to fight him until the end of the year.
"Ultimately, I see Georges St-Pierre as the champion," Condit said. "I'm not satisfied until I fight and beat the champion and I'm the undisputed welterweight champion. That's when I'll be satisfied."
Or at least, he thinks he will. If the Diaz situation has taught us anything, it's that the fight doesn't always end when you leave the cage. Sometimes it only gets nastier.