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Much Ado About Not That Much: Nate Diaz’s Middle Finger Incites Overblown Criticism

(Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the War Room!” Screenshot via Deadspin/ Tim Burke)

By Elias Cepeda

If you’re anything like me, there were a couple times during Saturday’s UFC on Fox telecast where you angrily shouted at the television. I wasn’t upset at a favorite fighter getting beaten or even vainly yelling out instructions per the common ridiculous spectator custom.

No, I, and perhaps you as well, got upset when Fox repeatedly cut away from the action to show a long overhead shot of an empty UFC Octagon. As Maggie Hendricks at Yahoo! Sports confirmed, those cut-aways were not technical goof ups. ”[Nate] Diaz threw up the middle finger at his opponent, and the network cut away instead of risking a fine from the Federal Communications Commission,” Hendricks wrote on her CageWriter blog.

One of the gestures came while Diaz was working for a heel-hook on Benson Henderson, who was sitting in a near full-split position on the canvas. The champion was unfazed by Diaz’s gestures as he had prepared for the Stockton native’s tactics, both physical and psychological.

“It’s something I actually had a little bit of a hard time with, but once my training partners got together, they all started talking crap to me in the middle of sparring and I’d get angry,” Henderson revealed on Fuel TV’s post fight show. “They helped control it and I did a pretty good job of being very focused and not letting that affect my emotional state in the middle of the fight.”

So, what’s all the fuss been about on the net since then? On Yahoo’s front page, Hendricks’s story was linked to with the headline, “Fighter’s tasteless moves rattle television broadcast.” Yes, the network that has brought us Cops, Temptation Island and The Simple Life was “rattled” and nearly brought to its sweet, innocent knees by Nate Diaz‘s tactical posturing during his fight.

Look, Fox had the right and good sense to use their seven-second delay and cut away from Diaz giving Henderson the finger to try and avoid FCC fines. Nothing wrong with that. But there’s also nothing particularly wrong with Nate Diaz doing what he did. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Diaz would not have flipped the bird if he had been beating up on Henderson at the time, instead of losing the bout. He and his brother Nick routinely use taunts to try and unnerve and goad opponents into getting reckless, making mistakes, creating openings and thereby allowing the Diaz bros a chance to turn the tide.

Is the move “classy” or in “good taste?” No, of course not. Neither is trying to knock another human being out senseless or tear their limbs apart. But this is where we find ourselves on fight nights, ‘nation. Grown, trained and skilled fighters go to battle and there’s nothing particularly offensive about them doing whatever they can, short of cheating, to beat their opponent. If they can use psychological tricks to mess with their opponents’ heads, more power to them.

Ben Henderson could not be disrupted by Diaz’s little middle finger trick on fight night, and he dominated en route to defending his lightweight title. His superior mental fortitude is just one of the many reasons he’s the champ.

Now all this doesn’t mean that mainstream media critics won’t use isolated incidents like this one to try and paint the sport of MMA in a negative light. But that doesn’t mean that we should care that they do.

We won’t go into exhaustive detail about the merits of fight sports in comparison to more culturally accepted sports where, for example, people drive veritable missiles around a track at two hundred miles per hour and all too often kill one another, or where behemoths line up opposite one another and smash each other’s heads play after play for sixty minutes. I will say, however, that the sport of MMA needn’t fear a comparative analysis of the character of its athletes to those in other sports.

We’ve all seen the horrible headlines over the past two weeks involving professional athletes. If MMA’s worst recent offering is Nate Diaz extending out one of his fingers, I’d say that’s not too bad.

Cagepotato Comments

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TRUTH ABSOLUTE- December 11, 2012 at 11:11 pm
Good to see a voice of reason (jimnikki) speaking out about what a negative impact this kind of behavior has on mma and might I add, society as well. And as usual at cagepotato, the various dishonorable thug writers and commentors come out to defend dishonorable thuggery. The arrogant selfisness of these rude people is a bane to not only those around them, but themselves as well.
jimnikki- December 12, 2012 at 2:06 am
Thank you.
Elias- December 11, 2012 at 6:41 am
Jimnikki, no one is "wishing" for Diaz to flip people off. Not sure where you got that.

Also, I see profane gestures and here profanity in other sports every week on television so again, what are you talking about?

Lastly, why do you believe fox getting fined would make them break their contract w ufc? Just wondering because networks are fined all tge time for shows they keep on the air
jimnikki- December 11, 2012 at 10:08 am
Q 1. Never said the word "wishing" nor implied you were. Not sure where you got that...I specifically said you "damn well should care" and that was in reference to you dismissal of negative publicity from "mainstream media critics":

"Now all this doesn’t mean that mainstream media critics won’t use isolated incidents like this one to try and paint the sport of MMA in a negative light. But that doesn’t mean that we should care that they do."

Which is such complete and total bullshit on so many levels it isn't even funny. "Isolated incident" = absolute lie, especially involving the Diaz brothers. Secondly, mainstream media "CRITICS" weren't saying what a pathetic display it was, MMA fans & reporters were. These people aren't out to destroy MMA as a sport, their paychecks depend on it growing - just like the fighters. The Diaz brothers are the biggest threat to that in MMA & should *NEVER* be on network TV. Period.

Q 2. I seriously doubt you see & hear profanity AS PART OF THE GAME every week national TV, let alone in Primetime. I have yet to see any QB get sacked and lay there on the ground flipping off the guy who put him on his back or anything remotely similar every week. How about a pitcher flipping off the batter before he throws his pitch? That would really take baseball to an awesome new level! Please.

Q 3: That's the thing you're missing. If you want MMA to be a "show" not a SPORT, your argument is valid. As a matter of absolute fact, in your defense for Diaz using the middle finger as a strategy, you ACTUALLY USE the argument CRITICS use to argue against MMA as a sport...a classless sport filled with thugs trying to "trying to knock another human being out senseless or tear their limbs apart." Thanks John McCain, but that's not really what's going on in there.

Do you not remember Strikeforce's attempt to go mainstream and which brothers played a MAJOR role in ending that contract? You should, let me quote...well...this site:

"So here it is — the moment that might have sunk Strikeforce’s chances at getting on network television ever again. "

FOX has a lot of money in this and two-year deals are made for testing & development. Fines from the FCC in it's first year, positive but not groundbreaking ratings & actions far more offensive to mainstream America than the fighting itself do not point to a strong foundation in which to gain a positive ROI (return on investment).

Perception is reality...and the Diaz brothers ensure the critics have plenty of ammo to keep MMA as a freak-show, not a sport.
jimnikki- December 11, 2012 at 12:35 am
You damn well should care if you plan to see free fights on network TV. How often do you see middle fingers flying in the NFL (the sport FOX is tying it to in order to gain mainstream acceptance)? How about Baseball?

We all saw those fights free because FOX is trying to promote a SPORT. Your logic (and that of their entire camp) ensures MILLIONS never get the chance to see it again and, more importantly, ensures MMA fighters will not see the money they truly deserve.

Beyond the middle fingers and cocky BS from a fighter getting his ass handed to him on a silver platter, hat's off to his corner - filled with the very same idiotic mentality as Diaz himself - for screaming so many profanities FOX had to cut the sound out multiple times throughout the broadcast as well.

Imagine if the FCC *DID* fine FOX it's first year of promoting the sport. There would not be a second. Be careful what you wish for Potato.
Mr_Misanthropy- December 10, 2012 at 10:57 pm
That's just how you say "Great Job Awesome Show!" in Stocktonia. Different customs for different cultures.

If we don't learn how to embrace each other like one big happy family all we are going to get is strife and war.
megustav- December 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm
Rogan even said "that's beautiful" lol
megustav- December 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm
You're wrong. The fight you're referring to was against Pellegrino. And he stuck the middle finger at the cameras or actually the ceiling. But not at his opponent.
scrballs- December 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm
Are you really defending Diaz here? Did you really say Diaz wouldn't have flipped the bird if he was winning? Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Diaz once throw those fingers up as he was subbing a guy while mugging for the cameras? This was a title fight on Fox. This kind of middle school behavior has no place in a legitimate mainstream sport. In most other professional sports an act like this would definitely earn a fine and maybe a suspension. What would happen if Tom Brady flipped off the opposing defense before a snap? What if Verlander flipped off an opposing batter after surrendering a home run? Diaz probably should be fined but with that precedent set Dana would probably have to fine himself on a daily basis. So I agree with you that the mainstream media may be blowing this out of proportion a bit, but imagine the headlines if the equivalent happened in any other mainstream sport. Bottom line, trying to defend this type of behavior in any way is asinine.
Bam17- December 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm
Diaz is a punk and that's a big part of what I like about him. MMA involves violence and brutality and the FCC are worried about an elevated finger? Proof US TV has it's head firmly placed up it's own butthole
Fried Taco- December 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm
imbrase the fuchoor Pen Fagsteen! did ur mom lulz
Pen Fifteen- December 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm
I find it wired that there is suddenly a slew of dipset dopplegangers who couldn't type a complete sentence if their life depended on it.
rudedude- December 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm
It's a middle finger being thrown up in the middle of a fight who cares get over it. It seems there are a lot of people watching this sport only to find something to complain about boxing has bin around for ever and the most famous words outta there mouths wer if it wasn't for boxing I would b dead or in jail but when ever there is a middle finger thrown up in mma it's a big deal boo hoo. Also find it wired that some one that would watch two people fight get a fended if the fighter fingers the other ?
El Guapo- December 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm
I won't let my kids watch a guy in tights do the splits on top of another guy while getting fingered.
True, I don't have any kids, but still.
Deadpanda- December 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm
Media outlets that are desperate for sensationalized news or buddied up with the Culinary Union jump at trivial things like this because it is the nature of their state of being.

In case that was unclear; "Haters gona hate."
O Chan- December 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm
This is no different than seeing Rex Ryan curse out Sanchez on the sidelines or when the dug-out cam catches Brian Wilson drop an f-bomb after a blown save. Unfortunately, this is MMA, and people will have preconceived notions that all of these athletes are thugs.
Crow42- December 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm
I watched family guy on fox before the show moved to the CW. Do u know how many middle fingers I came across there LMAO
Fried Taco- December 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm
........('(...´...´.... ¯~/'...')
..........''...\.......... _.·´
Mr_Misanthropy- December 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm
Eetsa a bee-yooteeful! Itsa likeh da Moe-na Leesa!
The12ozCurls- December 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm
A Dr. Stranglove caption - complete with video!
The12ozCurls- December 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm
I blame my editor
Mr_Misanthropy- December 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm
Stranglove is like Cher's Noble Love?