Cesar Gracie: BJ Penn Vs. Nick Diaz Should Be The Main Event Of Any Card, Thinks Penn Would Want Five Rounds
By Kelsey Mowatt
Although Nick Diaz is no longer fighting for the UFC Welterweight Championship on October 29th, the former Strikeforce champ’s upcoming bout with decorated legend BJ Penn could still be the biggest of his career. While Diaz’s trainer Cesar Gracie concedes that his long time student was understandably disappointed about being removed from a title fight and a chance to defeat champion Georges St. Pierre, they’re keenly aware of what remains at stake at UFC 137.
“Nick was very upset about, I’ll be honest with you, I was devastated by it,” Gracie told FCF, while discussing Diaz’s removal from the title bout after missing two press conference appearances. “We worked so hard to get where we were, and I say we, because no fighter is by themselves. Nick has Jake Shields, Gilbert Melendez, Nate Diaz, Daniel Roberts, all those guys helping him…so when we heard about it everyone was upset about it.”
“Now in hindsight, with GSP being injured, Carlos Condit doesn’t have a fight,” Gracie added. “So what if Nick would have continued, then all of sudden GSP is injured, Nick isn’t fighting anymore. He is fighting on this card and he’s in the main event of this card now, and I think BJ Penn vs. Nick Diaz should be the main event on any card to be honest with you.”
Of course, if Diaz goes on to defeat the former champion Penn, it’s expected that the 28 year-old-fighter will move next in line to face the winner of Condit and St. Pierre, when the postponed fight finally takes place. It’s partially because of what’s riding on the outcome of the upcoming Diaz, Penn clash that Gracie has called for the bout to be extended to five rounds.
“Number one, I think for the fans who buy the pay-per-view that it’s better,” said Gracie. “It’s supposed to be a title shot eliminator, if Nick wins he goes on to fight for the title, and it’s my personal opinion that if you can’t do five rounds then you can’t fight for the title. Dana (White) has said before that he was going to make all main events five rounds, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
Despite the fact that Diaz’s camp are willing to add two more rounds to the upcoming fight, and that Penn has now reportedly stated he too is willing to extend it if he’s compensated accordingly, no formal changes to the original bout agreement have been made.
“We had bout agreements for three, but we were willing to tear that agreement up and make a new one for five,” Gracie stated. “I know the fans would like to see a five round fight.”
While Gracie cited the appeal that a five round bout between Penn and Diaz would have for fans, the accomplished jiu-jitsu instructor also concedes that he believes a longer fight would benefit his fighter’s chances.
“I do, obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be asking for it if I didn’t,” Gracie said while discussing the advantage he feels Diaz would have in a potentially 25 minute long tilt. “If no one stops anybody in three, the fans want two more to see who the winner is.”
“I would think Penn’s camp would probably want to prove that at 170,” Gracie added. “He’s done it at 155, but every time he does it at 170 he peters out. He gets gassed or can’t continue. Let’s say Penn wins the first two rounds, gets killed in the third round like he did against Fitch, and then it’s a draw or he wins, is he going to be the guy that fans say is going to go beat GSP? If you can’t even do a third round, where’s the confidence to go five against GSP?”
The issue of the fight’s length aside, there’s little question that facing Penn instead of St. Pierre, has introduced different yet tough challenges to Diaz’s training camp.
“It’s a different fight,” said Gracie. “There are aspects of it that are harder and aspects of it that are easier. It’s harder because it’s only three rounds, which means that Nick can’t count on the extra two rounds because he does have that endurance, he can put the pace on someone like Penn and he can put the pace on GSP.”
“Penn is the more technical of the two fighters,” Gracie furthered. “I think while Penn is the more technical of the two, GSP is much stronger, much more explosive and more of an athlete. There’s stuff about GSP that poses bigger problems and there’s things about Penn that pose bigger problems…We’ll have to see. Styles make fights.”