Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz is about 10 days from his title defense against Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos. If most fans had their way, Diaz would be fighting Jason "Mayhem" Miller that night.
The rivalry between Diaz and Miller exploded last April, when the two were among the participants in a post-fight brawl following Jake Shields' championship win over Dan Henderson.
On Wednesday's edition of The MMA Hour, Diaz's manager and trainer Cesar Gracie explained why the matchup has yet to happen.
According to Gracie, Strikeforce ultimately decided that Diaz-Cyborg was the company's direction, although company president Scott Coker at one time believed that Miller-Diaz would happen.
"Part of me was disappointed because I wanted Nick to shut him up," Gracie said. "That's about it, to beat him up. But the other part, I kind of realized why that fight can't happen. You can't give a guy a fight just because he talks a lot. It sets a precedent."
Strikeforce did look into the possibility of putting the feuding duo in the cage, but the bout may have been undone by the weight differential between the pair. Gracie said Diaz is lighter than usual because he's been competing in triathlons, and would not go all the way to the middleweight division's 185-pound weight class.
According to him, Miller only wanted to meet him at 183.
"You don't ask the champion to move up a weight class just because you want to fight him. That's stupid," he said. "If that happened in the UFC, Dana [White] would shut people up. It'd be the equivalent of Chris Leben calling out [Georges St. Pierre] and saying, 'I don't like you. You have to fight me at 185.' Dana would ridicule that. Everybody would ridicule that. I don't know how this thing got legs. It's stupid."
Diaz recently signed an extension with Strikeforce. Though Gracie could not discuss the exact terms, he said reports the contract was for a three-year deal were inaccurate.
He confirmed that the UFC was interested in Diaz but noted that the decision was ultimately made to stay with Strikeforce because Diaz's brother Nate and his main training partner Jake Shields also fight in the UFC's welterweight class.
Diaz, however, is not closing the door on a return to the UFC (he fought 10 times for the promotion between 2003-2006, going 6-4).
"There's definitely scenarios where I could see Nick back in the UFC," he said. "Right now though, we've got a very good contract with Strikeforce. They treat Nick very well. The terms of the contract are favorable, and as a manager, I'm happy with the contract."
In April, Gracie will take Shields into battle against the aforementioned St. Pierre, who is viewed by most as a Greg Jackson-trained fighter. Gracie, however, doesn't see it that way, referring to Shields and GSP as "two Gracie-trained fighters fighting each other."
Interestingly, he disagrees with people who call the noted trainer Jackson a great coach, or who refer to him as a coach at all.
Gracie said he believes Jackson often receives too much credit for his fighters' successes. In the case of St. Pierre, he noted, technical coaches like Firas Zahabi, Phil Nurse, John Danaher and Renzo Gracie are the ones handling the details that are often the difference between winning and losing.
"He's more of a coordinator where he puts things in perspective," he said. "And he's great at what he does. Training's at this time, let's go run the mountain or something. Let's go train with this guy. He's more of a motivational speaker possibly, but as a true sense of the word 'coach,' he's not on the same page as great coaches of the world. He's not."
Gracie said if someone were to credit him on Nick Diaz's striking progress, for example, he would have to credit Diaz's striking coach rather than accept the praise himself.
"I've got nothing against Greg Jackson in particular," he said. "It's just that we're talking about him. There's a lot of guys like that. I'm sure he's a great guy and everything. But the guys from [American Top Team] in Florida, it's like, you don't have Dan Lambert doing that. He doesn't get in the limelight and he's great, he does everything. He sets it all up, and he's done an incredible job. You never see him pretending he did something he didn't do. The great coaches are in the background."
Gracie, himself a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, also trains Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez.
Asked about another student, the former WWE wrestler Dave Batista, who was rumored to one day be fighting in a Strikeforce cage, Gracie said it's still a possibility.
"I really hope to see him in Strikeforce," he said. "Strikeforce said they want him. They're doing so many things at once that they're a little slow sometimes on doing stuff. But he's become a friend and that would be great.
"He's not going to beat Fedor," he continued. "Everybody has what it takes. Everybody can fight and push yourself. This is a sport, like anything else. He's not going to be world champ, probably, because he's older. But If Herschel Walker can have a shot, why can't Batista?"
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