More so than most trainers, Cesar Gracie has a penchant for making headlines. The acclaimed Californian, head coach of Pleasant Hill's Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fight team, carries with him a brash style that fits right along with his stable of fighters, infamously including both Nick and Nate Diaz, and past or present Strikeforce titleholders Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez.
With such a talented roster of students, slow times are hard to come by for Gracie, and now is no exception. The younger Diaz brother, Nate, is just weeks away from challenging for the team's first UFC title. Likewise, Melendez is eyeing his own Octagon debut, Shields is in the midst of serving a six-month suspension, and the elder Diaz brother, Nick, is preparing to return from his own suspension, posturing for blockbuster bouts against the likes of Georges St-Pierre or Anderson Silva.
Nonetheless Gracie found the time to join our own Ariel Helwani on this week's edition of The MMA Hour, where the 209-trainer riffed on a variety of different subjects. The following are excerpts from the conversation.
On what fight interests Nick Diaz the most:
"We're pushing for the GSP fight. That's what we're going to push for, GSP or Anderson Silva. That's the two fights that interest us the most, and that's the one's we're going for.
"[Silva's] people are into it. We're into it. The fans, I think, would be into it. We've got convince Dana [White] about it now. Obviously the fight that makes sense to them, and I don't disagree, is Anderson-GSP, and like I said, I would watch that fight. That would be great to watch. But let's get real. If GSP just absolutely says no, then what? You can't make a guy fight. That's the thing. And Anderson, if they want to promote a superfight and if the stars align, I think Nick would be into it."
On Nick Diaz's next opponent:
"They asked me, [Josh] Koscheck or Demian Maia. I said probably Koscheck, more people have heard of him at 170. They're both really tough guys though. But ultimately, we want the bigger fights. I could see, maybe, Nick and [Johny] Hendricks would be interesting. That's what I'm thinking if they don't give him GSP, maybe a fight like that."
On the possibility Nick Diaz returns to an instant title shot:
"This is a weird game. It's up to the fans, really. I really believe it. Things change, rules change. You can't come of a loss and get a title fight, blah, blah, blah. And then all of a sudden you see Chael Sonnen, not only coming off a loss which wasn't controversial, like Nick's was pretty damn controversial. I think most people think he actually won that fight. The champions did. Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell, all of these other people, the old-school guys, the new-school guys thought that Nick won that fight and they've told me that. But look, Chael Sonnen gets knocked out and he gets to go up in weight and fight for a title, and be in The Ultimate Fighter house and everything.
"What if Dana White can't make the GSP fight happen? Who knows? Fans demand Nick, and stuff happens all the time. You could see that fight happening. Don't shut the door on things."
On Nick Diaz's battles with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC):
"It's politics. These guys really don't like Nick. He doesn't kiss their butt. He speaks his mind and people don't like that. The NSAC wants to control you. They come on and they say, ‘We're doing this for the benefit of the fighters,' and that's a bunch of BS. They do everything for their benefit and they want to control fighters. They want to be in charge of the game. Nick is against that, he's not afraid to say he's against that, so they want him out. They don't want that guy fighting at all. If they could kill his career, they would."
On Nate Diaz moving out of his brother's shadow by winning a belt:
"No. 1, he's not in the shadow of Nick. It might be perceived that way by other people, we certainly don't perceive it that way here. And with Nate, he's said it before, if he was going to be in someone's shadow, what a better shadow to be under, really. Nick is a true fighter, he's a warrior that guy, and I think Nate is honored to try to live up to that kind of history, that kind of mentality."
On Diaz's opponent, Benson Henderson:
"He's very athletic. I think he has really good jiu-jitsu skills, he's unorthodox, and he gets away with a lot of stuff because of his athleticism. I don't think he's great at any one thing. I think what it is, is he's good at everything and he has the athleticism to make everything work."
On Henderson training to block out Diaz's trash talk:
"That's never a strategy of ours, it's just something that can happen. A lot of people talk trash in the cage, by the way. It's not super loud, you can't hear it. When they're up against the fence, they'll say stuff. But it's definitely not something we'll say, ‘Hey, you've got to get in his head. Talk trash to him.' It's not like that. I think if you're talking about with Nate Diaz, that just comes from his persona. He's fighting someone and he sees it as the same thing, almost, as being in a street fight."
"Both guys came to fight. Condit did too. I wish he would have came to fight to the [Nick] Diaz fight, but he didn't come to fight, Condit, because he knows he would have been knocked out."
If St-Pierre has a chance against Anderson Silva:
"No, I don't think [St-Pierre has a shot], and I'll tell you why. GSP, he's great at 170, I don't think he's the most durable guy as far as taking punishment. Most of his fights are not wars where he's getting hit a lot. He's such an athlete that he can really dominate people, but they're not like, ‘I hit you, you hit me,' in this back-and-forth game. He got hit that one time by Condit, and bam, he was on his butt.
"In terms of durability, Anderson Silva hits you, you're going to know it. And he's a lot bigger."
On Gilbert Melendez's UFC future if Nate Diaz is champion:
"We always have those discussions, we're a tight team and everything. Gilbert has brought up a few different things. No. 1, there's other great people he could fight at 155. The way we would do it is, hey, Nate's champ. And when he's not champ anymore, then bam, you're up there. That's how we do things. Jake and Nick had similar problems in various different organizations, and one guy would move up [a weight class] and one guy would move down, or they're just not going to fight each other.
"There's definitely a possibility he could go down to 145. He was the No. 1 guy at that weight for a long time. That's what people don't remember, back in the day when he was fighting Shooto and he was undefeated, he was just a phenomenal fighter. And that was actually at 143.9, the way the weight classes work in Japan. So I know he can make the weight. I don't think he likes making that weight, but that's the kind of commitment not to fight Nate."
On Jake Shield's mysterious failed drug test:
"Maybe he was hanging out with the Diaz's. (Laughs.)"