Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Yesterday, Tri-Star trainer Firas Zahabi set off a minor controversy when he stated that he believed Nick Diaz is the current number one contender for Georges St. Pierre's UFC welterweight title, not Johny Hendricks. He thinks that Diaz has the better resume overall, and that his bout with Carlos Condit was very close. Of course, this is probably being said because a GSP bout with Diaz makes more financial sense than a bout with Hendricks at this point. When asked by Full Contact Fighter about the comments, Nick's trainer Cesar Gracie said he wasn't surprised:
"No, not really. It’s the fight the fans want to see and that’s the bottom line. From a career perspective, Nick Diaz is a much more famous fighter and has bigger fights than anyone else."
Obviously Gracie isn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. What is he supposed to say, no that's not true? Instead, he went along with it. He stated that they'd "absolutely be happy" to fight GSP next if that was the way it came about. He also defended St. Pierre from criticism about not fighting Anderson Silva:
"I know he’s getting a lot of criticism for not fighting Anderson Silva and I think that criticism is unwarranted. No one should have to move up a weight class and fight anyone, especially being the champion in your weight class; you should never have to move up."
"It definitely gives us hope that this fight is in the near future."
Again, this is Cesar Gracie talking, so he'll defend anyone in any situation that could end up benefiting him and his camp if he has to. Gracie also says that fan opinion might be able to sway Dana White and that Diaz/GSP could actually happen next:
"I do believe that," said Gracie, while discussing the possibility that White may change his mind. "I think Dana listens to the fighters and obviously the fans, public opinion, and he wants to put the big fights together, and I think if Georges St. Pierre petitions for the fight, Nick Diaz petitions for the fight and the fans petition for the fight, the fight is definitely going to happen at that point."
I disagree with Gracie's assessment here. Diaz is coming off a suspension and a loss. While the UFC has booked guys coming off of losses back into title fights before (either in rematches or other divisions), he doesn't have much of a case for Diaz in terms of logic. Zahabi and Gracie want this because it's a big-money fight, of course. But that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do in terms of credibility or a million other things. That didn't seem to matter to the UFC when they booked Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen though, so who knows.