Cesar Gracie On BJ Penn’s Call Out: “I Think He Was Trolling A Little Bit”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Heading into tomorrow night’s UFC 137 card in Las Vegas, there has been no shortage of noteworthy storylines, from Nick Diaz being removed from his scheduled title shot against Georges St. Pierre, the champion’s eventual withdrawal due to injury, to more recently, the back-and-forth that has gone on between BJ Penn and Diaz’s manager Cesar Gracie.
Although Penn has been on good terms with Gracie and Diaz for some time, having previously trained with the Gracie team, the relationship between the former champion and the renowned instructor has appeared to strain more recently. When one considers that Gracie is not only committed to looking out for his fighter’s best interests, and further, that those interests are tied to a career that is professional fighting, things are going to be said that might ruffle some feathers.
“It’s a fight,” said Gracie while discussing his relationship with Penn, who in a recent interview with MMA Fighting challenged the instructor to a five round fight. “I personally like BJ and I think he was trolling a little bit by saying ‘I’ll do five rounds with Cesar.’ That’s what someone told me, but I haven’t seen the video yet…but someone that I know from his team came up and told me that. I kind of had a laugh about it.”
After Diaz and Penn were eventually matched up against one another, and positioned as the official main event, Gracie began campaigning for the bout to be extended to five rounds. Not only did Gracie say he was doing so on behalf of the fans, but the BJJ instructor readily admitted that he believed a longer bout favored Diaz. Penn, not surprisingly, took issue with Gracie’s assessment.
“The five round thing, that’s not really an insult to BJ at all,” said Gracie. “I wanted to make it five rounds because Nick has more endurance, and I think the fans wanted it. That’s not an outrageous thing to ask for…I saw BJ today, we shook hands, he had his game face on and Nick had his game face on. Besides all this stuff that’s been going on, I like him, I respect him.”
In addition to the issue of the bout’s length, which remains a three rounder, Penn also reported in his aforementioned interview, that it had apparently come to his attention that Gracie had actively sought out a fight between him and Diaz.
“There’s been a lot of confusion about how this fight happened,” Gracie told FCF. “The way it happened, both camps had said no to the fight. I don’t say yes to a fight without consulting Nick Diaz; that’s not what I do…I consulted with Nick and he said he really wasn’t interested in that fight. Then I got a text from BJ about it and he told me they had said no.”
“After a few days, I think I was speaking with BJ’s brother JD, and it got to the point where BJ didn’t have a fight on the card and Nick didn’t have a fight on the card.” Gracie added. “So we just started talking and said, if Nick beats GSP, he’s in that weight class and it’s obvious these guys are going to have to fight at some point. We can’t say he won’t fight him because he’s his friend. They’re from two different teams, camps, and it’s a professional thing…after more talks with Dana then everyone was on board; that’s how this fight got together.”
Diaz has publicly acknowledged that he was extremely disappointed about the UFC’s disciplinary action, after missing two press conferences, which removed him from his title shot with St. Pierre. More recently, the former Strikeforce champ has reportedly stated that in hindsight, he wishes that he would have followed up on his intention to transition into professional boxing.
“Of course he wishes he would have,” said Gracie. “It was for more money. From a business perspective he would have made more money for a boxing match then he is for fighting BJ Penn. In a boxing match he would have fought someone he didn’t know, someone he didn’t train with, and would have gotten paid more money. That’s not an outrageous statement.”
The Penn and Diaz bout will headline Saturday’s UFC 137 card, which will be hosted by the Mandalay Bay Events Centre in Las Vegas.