St. Pierre, Diaz can’t wait for February
Two months ago, a welterweight title match between Georges St. Pierre and Nick Diaz would have been just another of the many big fights that the UFC promotes each year.
But after a dramatic and turbulent 60-day period, St. Pierre and Diaz are set to meet on Feb. 4 in Las Vegas in what could become the biggest fight in UFC history.
Diaz has become the mixed martial arts version of Mike Tyson. He’s a highly entertaining fighter and fierce warrior whose unpredictable behavior and willingness to challenge the establishment has captivated the UFC’s fan base.
Moments after Diaz battered B.J. Penn in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Diaz shouted at St. Pierre, the UFC welterweight champion, who was seated ringside.
And not long after that, St. Pierre marched over to UFC president Dana White to demand he face Diaz next. White said Saturday that St. Pierre “flipped out” and added that “I’ve never seen him like he was tonight.”
St. Pierre didn’t have the edge in his voice on Sunday after a long day of flying that he did when he spoke to White late Saturday, but he told Yahoo! Sports he is highly motivated to fight after listening to Diaz and manager Cesar Gracie repeatedly insult him.
“You know, I’m the champion and the way that works is, I don’t pick my fights,” St. Pierre said. “They pick the opponents, and it’s my job to be ready to face whoever it is. But this guy, he said so many things, things that aren’t true. He said these personal things and the way he acted, I don’t like that. I don’t agree with that.
“I wanted this fight. It is the best thing for me to fight Nick Diaz. He wanted his opportunity, but you know, I wanted my opportunity to fight him, too.”
Diaz and St. Pierre were signed to be the main event at UFC 137 before a bizarre sequence of events scuttled the fight. The UFC scheduled promotional news conferences in Toronto on Sept. 6 and in Las Vegas on Sept. 7.
Diaz missed both news conferences. At the Las Vegas news conference, White announced that Diaz was being pulled from the card and being replaced by Carlos Condit, who had been slated to fight Penn in the co-main event.
That left Penn without an opponent. Late on Sept. 8, White decided to put Diaz back on the card, against Penn, in the co-main event. That bout then became the main event when St. Pierre injured a knee and later aggravated a hamstring while training on Oct. 18.
Diaz openly questioned whether St. Pierre was hurt. Gracie wouldn’t go that far, but he noted the irony in the fact that Diaz skipped the news conferences but made the fight, and that St. Pierre made the news conferences but missed the fight.
“The guy who went to the press conference didn’t fight,” Gracie said. “That’s all I’ve got to say about it. Nick, yeah, he got kicked out, ‘Oh, he’s the bad guy.’ Look, he didn’t go to what Nick called the beauty pageant, but come fight night, you guys saw what he’s made of. He showed up. He did everything asked of him. And the guys who made the press conference, they weren’t here tonight.”
St. Pierre said he strained the medial collateral ligament in his knee. He said he is feeling better and expects to be 100 percent in two to three weeks. He said the fact that the injury came so close to the fight is what prevented it from happening.
He said he was impressed by Diaz on Saturday and said he always has considered Diaz a formidable opponent.
“My view hasn’t changed,” St. Pierre said. “He did a great job, but I’m not surprised. I knew he was very good. He did very well. He fought very well and did great. He proved he’s on top of the game right now.”
Diaz wasn’t happy with his performance, though, and said he can be far better. He attributed his problems to a lack of quality sparring, which led to a rant about compensation for his sparring partners.
Most observers thought he looked sensational against Penn, whom many believed had the best boxing skills in the sport. Penn boxed superbly in the first round, but Diaz picked up the pace in the second and Penn couldn’t withstand Diaz’s withering assault.
[Related: Penn, ‘Cro Cop’ retire after UFC 137 losses]
But Diaz didn’t think it was his performance that got him the fight with St. Pierre. He said he had to play the role of villain in order to get it, and that clearly displeased him.
“The only reason I’m getting this fight is because people want to see me take an ass-whipping,” he said. “So, all right, great. I worked for it. I’ll take my ass-whipping, I’ll take my money, and I’ll go home.”
St. Pierre said he respects Diaz’s talent and won’t underestimate him. White said at Saturday’s post-fight news conference that St. Pierre told him Diaz “is the most disrespectful human being I’ve ever met, and I’m going to put the worst beating you’ve ever seen on him in the UFC.”
St. Pierre wouldn’t go nearly so far while speaking to Yahoo! Sports, but he sounded as if he were counting the days until Feb. 4.
“This is a fight I am looking forward to very much, and it’s a fight that I wanted very badly,” he said. “This is a very important fight to me personally. I am glad that the UFC did it for us.”
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