Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
LAS VEGAS -- UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre knows that his decision to fight Nick Diaz in his next title defense was a controversial one. There was, after all, talk of a potential superfight against middleweight champion Anderson Silva, and many feel that Johny Hendricks is the rightful No. 1 contender.
But in a media availability during Saturday night's TUF 16 Finale at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, St-Pierre basically said he can only be in so many places at once.
"It's kind of an awkward situation, I know, but I want to fight Diaz," St-Pierre told reporters. "I cannot split myself in three pieces."
The champ said he empathized with Hendricks, who has won five straight fights, culminating in his swift knockout victory over Martin Kampmann last month.
"I do feel bad for Johnny Hendricks," St-Pierre said. "But put yourself in my shoes, it's the big fight, this fight is waiting to happen for a long time, and you know, its a big fight, that's what people want to say. Everyone wants to fight me know, it's crazy. I cannot split myself in half. If I took another fight, the others, they both would have complained, what do they want me to do, you know?"
The UFC made official what looks to be a blockbuster night of welterweight action at UFC 158 on March 16, which will be held at Montreal's Bell Centre. St-Pierre will defend his title against Diaz, the former Strikeforce champion, in the main event. In the co-main, St-Pierre's Tri-Star teammate, Rory MacDonald, will face former interim champion Carlos Condit. And Hendricks will face a tough fight in Jake Ellenberger.
Of course, a Diaz fight booking always comes with peril. Diaz still needs to be re-licensed by the Nevada Athletic Commission, after being suspended a year due to testing positive for marijuana after his UFC 143 loss to Condit in February. St-Pierre vs. Diaz was originally scheduled for UFC 137 in 2011, but Diaz was pulled from the title fight after skipping out on a pair of press conferences.
St-Pierre acknowledged there's always the chance that one of MMA's most enigmatic fighters could pull something unusual. "I hope he's not gonna do something crazy before the fight, because I don't want to train all that time for nothing," St-Pierre said. "You know? Hope he's going to be ... it's a big-money fight, Nick Diaz is a smart guy, big money fight for him, chance of a lifetime. He's an old-timer guy. He's been there a long time, for years. I want this fight, I want this fight as well, want to put on a great show."
Likewise, UFC president Dana White knows of Diaz's history. White pointed out that if Diaz steps out of line, there's a whole roster full of top welterweights who will already be training for a fight on March 16, who will no doubt step up and take the title shot if offered.
"There's no guarantees with Nick Diaz," said White. "I've got nine welterweights on the show in the top five [presumably meant ‘top 10'], so if he falls out we'll still have a GSP fight."
White also said, essentially, that Hendricks has to wait his turn. But while doing so, he indicated Hendricks would be his first choice to step into the title shot, should Diaz have to drop out of the fight.
"If you wait [for a title shot], you do the Rashad Evans thing where you don't know what the hell's going to happen, especially these days," White said. "The champ wants to fight Diaz. He can be as frustrated as he wants to be. When he's got the belt and he defends it and breaks records as long as GSP has, then I might listen to him. [If Diaz falls out] Hendricks is definitely the next in line."
St-Pierre, meanwhile, is convinced that he's taking both the fight the fans most want to see and that the Diaz fight is the one that makes the most sense for him, not Hendricks or Silva.
"For me right now, this is the fight that makes the most sense," St-Pierre said. "If I fight Anderson I have to go up in weight. It will take me time, I can't fight at a certain mark. Right now, the fight that makes the most logical [sense], I just came back from 19 months, you know, a long time, this is the fight that people want to see that I can give it to them fast when it's time to do it.
"I don't know what's going to happen with Diaz," he continued. "It's time to make that big fight with Diaz. I believe from the bottom of my heart that Diaz deserves the fight. You know? His last fight with Condit was very close. Some people gave it to Diaz, I had it very close, personally I gave it to Condit. It's a big fight people want to see between Diaz and I, so I want to make it happen for myself, for the fans for the UFC."
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