Cesar Gracie has known Nick Diaz since the latter walked into Gracie's Northern California jiu-jitsu academy at the age of 16. So Gracie understands better than anyone else that sometimes Diaz has a bit of trouble getting the words to match what's in his head.
Gracie knew this was the case during last week's epic UFC 158 media teleconference, when Diaz went on a fascinating rant, one in which lucid moments and salient points blended seamlessly with tales of persecution and angry soccer moms.
As Gracie told MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, though, the ultimate point Diaz was trying to make is that he's earned his welterweight title shot against champion Georges St-Pierre based on his merits as a fighter, not because of his portrayal as a bad boy.
"I know these guys are great mixed martial artists, and I think that's the point Nick was trying to make," Gracie said. "He deserves this fight as a martial artist and that's very important to him. And, a lot of people, Nick expresses himself a little bit differently than some, so, it's kind of hard to follow if you're not used to that. But I think what he's trying to say is that he should be respected as a martial artist and so forth and that's why he's actually going to be in this fight.
"It's not because of way he portrayed him as a bad guy in these videos as he was portrayed to hype the fight up,"Gracie continued. "I think he wasn't too pleased with that. So I really don't think he was trying to put GSP down. He was trying to clarify himself. But, you know, like I said, Nick expresses himself a little bit differently, and then you've got GSP whose English is not a first language, so it became kind of funny as it spiraled out of control a little bit, and these guys started to get angry a little bit."
It's par for the course, in the lead-up to a fight, for a trainer to claim that his fighter had the best camp of his life. But Gracie swears that Diaz, who was forced to sit out a year after a marijuana-related suspension, has returned to being the hungry kid who first showed up in his gym as he's prepared for the biggest moment of his MMA career.
"I think he did great in his fight against BJ Penn, even the [Carlos] Condit fight, I thought he was in control and everything," Gracie said. "I will say, for this fight, Nick is in much better shape than either of those two fights. He is prepared. For the last couple fights, Nick Diaz is always a phenomenal athlete and everything, however, he is in better shape now. I've been with Nick since he was 16, he's been in my school. I remember at the time, the endless training hours, the craziness that used to happen back in the day, this feels more like that to me. For the other fights, the guy didn't really train as hard at all. That's why I'm so excited about it.
"GSP is always comes in shape, he's probably most explosive athlete in mixed martial arts today, Gracie continued. "The guy is all about training. And then he's a black belt in jiu-jitsu, he's all about training, he's a champion. What can I say? That's why he's the champ. He's the best welterweight the UFC has ever had. So you have to come in phenomenal shape to be able to fight a guy like this, and that's what Nick is. That's why I'm so excited for this fight."
Gracie used his time on The MMA Hour to give his side on a couple controversies in recent weeks as his camps has butted heads with the UFC. For one, there was the UFC Countdown controversy, in which Diaz blew off the company film crew, and in the other, Gracie himself complained on Twitter about the fact Diaz will fly coach to Montreal for the fight.
"I put that tweet out there," Gracie said. "I'll post something like that, because I think of these huge, million-dollar fights, and I'm thinking, you know, maybe this guy should have business class going to the fight instead of coach, that's just the way I think about it. I don't know. I'd like to see, not Nick Diaz only, but all the athletes in these main-event fights who are making the kind of money they're making for Zuffa, it would be nice to see them treated accordingly. You know, give them a nice flight, at least business class, not coach, all the way to Montreal from Sacramento or wherever Nick's flying out of. But it's not a big deal, whatever."
On the "Coundtown" situation, Gracie said "It is true Nick didn't go the first two times I think it was. It's one of those things, Nick has his training schedule. And he goes, this is what I'm going to do, I'm doing this and this and this. If the Countdown show wants to follow him doing it, that's great, but he's not going to change that schedule before a fight, to do a Countdown show. He's not going say, ‘look, I'm going to put my training aside and pretend I'm training over here.'
"These guys come out and they go, hey, why don't you hit the bags, hit this, they literally tell you what they want you to train and they want to go to your house and all of that takes away a whole day's training and Nick goes no, I'm not going to do that, I'm not going to do that. That type of a thing. then they caught him on third day I think it was. There's a lot of things, but end of the day it's not as big a deal as it comes off to be."
In the end, all that matters is that St-Pierre and Diaz will square off in Montreal come Saturday night. And as far as Gracie is concerned, even if Diaz didn't quite express the way he wanted to, Diaz doesn't actually hate St-Pierre.
"I don't think he hates GSP," Gracie said. I think there's a lot of things that he doesn't appreciate about the image of GSP. And I think he tried to convey that on the call. I don't think he hates him at all on a personal level, he doesn't know him enough to hate him. Nick comes from the background with the mentalities of someone like a BJ Penn or someone like that, that martial arts is supposed to be like this, and you've got to be more technical, and you've got to know more. And the other guys are basically look, you're going to be stronger, you're gonna, I don't know, it's like fundamental philosophical differences of what he doesn't like about GSP."
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