and Georges St-Pierre
can't seem to get everything lined up to face each other. The two were going to fight later this month at UFC 137
until Diaz missed two press conferences in two days and was removed from the fight. As it turns out, the bout wouldn't have happened anyway after St-Pierre injured his knee and withdrew from the event altogether.
On Saturday, Diaz has a chance to make his case as the true No. 1 welterweight contender when he faces BJ Penn
. And according to his trainer and manager Cesar Gracie
, if Diaz decisively wins the bout that night, they'll ask to bypass Carlos Condit
and get bumped back into his original position as GSP's next challenger.
"This is the UFC
so there's always that chance," Gracie said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "There's no question about it that I will ask for that if Nick has a tremendous performance and he can finish BJ, I would ask for that. But the biggest thing is if the fans want it. If the fans all ask for that, Dana [White] is a smart guy. He knows the sport is about the fans. So who knows?"
Of course, much is dependent on Diaz winning.
It was a fight that neither side wanted, stemming from Penn's longstanding relationship with the camp. In fact, years ago, he fought for the first time ever while under the Team Cesar Gracie banner.
Because of that, it took some convincing to pull the two particulars together as both were initially resistant to the bout. Gracie eventually spoke to BJ Penn's brother JD and the two sides came to the realization that the fight was inevitable.
"We said, 'Hey, you know what? These guys are going to have to fight in the future, at some point in their lives. So let's just get it over with,'" Gracie said.
Gracie described the entire UFC 137 ordeal as an "emotional rollercoaster" and added that he's confident that there will be no problems during fight week. As he noted, Gracie been involved in several main events while in Strikeforce
, and was also in the main card of a CBS-televised EliteXC show, so he does have experience going through periods of heavy media attention.
Gracie, who has been in Diaz's corner since the beginning of his fight career, said there was never any point where things got too strained between them, saying that like any family-type relationship, they might get mad at each other but their deep ties will always pull them back together.
"Nick doesn't have to fight at all, in my eyes, ever again, and it's not going to put our relationship to an end, because he's one of the black belts of this school," he said. "He's helped us out tremendously. He's put a lot attention on our academy. He's fought the good fight, and he's done everything I could imagine a guy can do. I don't have any expectations of what he owes me or owes my school or anything like that. If he quit fighting tomorrow, his accomplishments are still impressive. He's got nothing to prove to me. I was obviously disappointed and pissed off about certain things as I'm sure he gets disappointed and pissed off at me and other people at my school, but you just get over that. It's part of that family thing."
The silver lining to the issue that cost Diaz his title shot was increased attention, and now Diaz may have more eyeballs on him, so if he wins convincingly, there may be an uproar to face St-Pierre sooner rather than later.
Gracie said he believes the key to beating Penn is to win exchanges on the feet and scrambles on the ground. He acknowledged that Penn has the advantage in wrestling, but thinks that Diaz's skill set has some wrinkles that could give Penn problems. One advantage is likely conditioning, and Gracie noted that is why he asked for a five-round fight, a request that was turned down.
Either way, at least he'll be fighting on Saturday, which wouldn't have happened if his original match had never been switched. Now he gets the chance to increase his credibility in the eyes of some skeptics, make a statement, and maybe even demand the match that was originally his to begin with.
"In some strange way, it worked out," Gracie said.