Cesar Gracie Not Surprised by Firas Zahabi’s Comments: GSP vs. Nick Diaz is “The Fight the Fans Want to See”
Says Welterweight Champ Should Not “Have to Move Up a Weight Class to Fight Anyone”
By Kelsey Mowatt
At UFC 154 Johny Hendricks needed less than a minute to dispatch of noted vet Martin Kampmann, in what was billed as a bout to determine the promotion’s number one welterweight contender. While the knockout win for Hendricks—his second in three fights—has certainly bolstered his case as a worthy contender, there continue to be observers who believe Nick Diaz should fight Georges St. Pierre first.
Case in point is the champion’s renowned trainer Firas Zahabi, who reportedly told MMA Junkie recently that he thinks Diaz is the most deserving of a title shot, due to his reign as Strikeforce champion and his tightly contested bout with Carlos Condit. Although Zahabi and Diaz’s coach Cesar Gracie may have varying opinions on other MMA related issues, on this much, they agree.
“No, not really,” Gracie told Full Contact Fighter, when asked if he was surprised about Zahabi’s comments. “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.”
Of course, while Zahabi was voicing his own opinion, and credited Hendricks as a worthy opponent for St. Pierre while doing so, it is interesting to see a key member of the champion’s camp point to Diaz. Prior to GSP’s knee injury and surgery, the champion asked to fight Diaz, after the outspoken fighter called him out following his impressive win over BJ Penn last October.
“We would absolutely be happy, obviously, to take that fight next if that is the case,” said Gracie, when asked if one could infer that perhaps St. Pierre and his team are exploring the possibility of fighting Diaz next.
Zahabi’s comments also come at a time when St. Pierre continues to distance himself from the prospect of a “super fight” with middleweight champ Anderson Silva, taking place anytime soon. Not only was St. Pierre non-committal about the proposed bout following his UFC 154 win over Condit, but more recently, he reportedly relayed on a French Canadian television program that a fight with Silva would require him to leave the welterweight division. The Tristar fighter also said that there are opponents for him to face at 170 pounds.
“I guess it’s possible, and it definitely helps us,” said Gracie, while discussing St. Pierre’s recent comments and whether it may in fact help Diaz’s chances of securing a fight with the champion. “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.”
Dana White, however, has stated that Diaz will not be granted an immediate title shot when he returns from his Nevada State Athletic Commission imposed suspension early next year. As recent history demonstrates, however, big name and high profile fights can have a way of circumventing the designated number one contender.
“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.”
White recently confirmed on a media call that he has not spoken with St. Pierre since UFC 154, and that he will talk with the champion when he returns from vacation. What lies next for GSP could very well be determined during that conversation.