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Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit Camps Differ on Defending Interim Belt While GSP Heals

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Looming in the background of UFC 143's main event is the specter of UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who is potentially the real prize for Saturday night's winner. Either Nick Diaz or Carlos Condit will emerge with the interim title after the scheduled five-rounder, but a date with St-Pierre and a chance to win the linear title is ultimate reward.

Complicating matters is uncertainty about St-Pierre's return date. UFC president Dana White recently said that GSP may be back in the summertime, while St-Pierre himself suggested that November was a more likely time frame.

That leads to questions about how the division will move forward in his absence. And on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Diaz's manager and trainer Cesar Gracie revealed that if Diaz wins, he'll urge his charge not to compete until St-Pierre is ready to face him.

"If we're fortunate and we win this fight, I would advise Nick to not take another fight before the GSP fight unless it was in different weight class," he said. "We want to wait for that 170-pound thing. The people I speak with, they want to see the GSP fight if Nick is able to defeat Condit. That's where I'm at with it. I'd advise Nick to not take another fight."

Depending on St-Pierre's recovery time, that could lead to a 10-month break between fights, a period that Gracie said could be broken up by a temporary move to middleweight.

Historically though, UFC has rarely allowed champions to move divisions to compete in non-title matches. The last to do it was middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva, who moved up to light-heavyweight to KO Forrest Griffin in August 2009.

Gracie's comment got under the skin of Condit's manager Malki Kawa, who wondered if the Diaz camp was looking past UFC 143 and into the future.

"At the end of the day, if people are writing Carlos Condit off, it's a big mistake," he said. "Carlos is coming to fight. The guy is in great shape. Remember, he was supposed to fight in October. He hasn't stopped training. He's coming to fight and this is going to be a real good fight. And if and when he wins this belt, if [the UFC] wants to put him back out to fight again, Carlos is going to fight again and defend his belt against anyone who challenges him. We're not going to sit around and wait for anyone, not Georges or anybody. If there's fights out there, Carlos wants them."

But Gracie said his comment was meant with no disrespect, and that he was simply offering his opinion on a hypothetical situation.

Gracie said that refusing another welterweight bout was simply a means of preserving a fight that has come to be anticipated by both fans and fighters since Diaz was originally matched up with GSP last year. As he noted, the fight itself is more important to Diaz than the actual hardware for beating him. And in his opinion, given St-Pierre's level of dominance, a fight against Diaz would be important for the sport.

"There hasn't been any hype in a GSP fight for a very long time to the point he cleaned out his division and they were talking about an Anderson Silva matchup just to get some kind of excitement," he said. "Nick really brings that to table because he's one of most gifted athletes in terms of technically sound fighters out there. And you saw GSP on primetime. [Nick] brings out the thing where GSP wants to fight. I think it would be an amazing fight. And so that's the fight I would want."

Gracie credited Condit's completeness as a fighter, saying he has an underrated ground game, dangerous striking and excellent stamina. But he also made it clear this fight has no personal significance for Diaz past the fact that Condit is going to be standing across from him on Saturday.

"Carlos is an enemy now," he said. "He's in the way and he must be taken care of."

Condit's manager disagreed with Gracie speaking about what Diaz might do after winning, but the two found common ground on the competitiveness of the fight itself.

"They're talking like they already won the fight," Kawa said. "I do that as well sometimes, but when I see someone do it to me, I have to turn around and say, 'Hey, don't write my guy off.' No one should. This is a better fight overall [than a GSP-Diaz fight]. No disrespect to Georges but we all know that these two guys will come to scrap."

With a rehabilitation time of between six and 10 months, St-Pierre has plenty of time to digest that. At least he has some idea of what might be coming his way. If Diaz wins, he'll be there waiting when GSP is ready, but Condit will defend the interim belt with no regard for St-Pierre's return date.