The snake-bit Strikeforce event on Saturday night in San Jose saw a third scheduled championship match fall through when Nick Diaz failed to take a California State Athletic Commission-ordered drug test, and thus could not be licensed for his scheduled match with Jay Hieron.
Hieron (17-4) will instead face Jesse Taylor (13-3). Taylor is best known for his stint on Season 7 of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show. It will be a three-round non-title fight, according to promoter Scott Coker.
Diaz, whose license expired July 25, was informed by the commission that because he had a past drug test violation (he failed a marijuana test in Nevada in 2007), he would have to pass a drug screening in order to get a new license.
The test initially was scheduled to take place prior to a show this past Friday night in Sacramento, Calif., according to William Douglas of the CSAC. Douglas said Diaz's camp, including manager Cesar Gracie, were informed that last Friday was the deadline to ensure the results would be back in time for Diaz to be licensed for this weekend's fight.
Diaz, who had been training in Florida, was being advertised as the special guest at the Sacramento show, and was also scheduled to corner a fighter. Problems arose when Diaz didn’t appear at the show because he allegedly was "in the mountains" training, according to sources close to the fighter, although Douglas said the commission never officially was contacted by anyone in Diaz’s camp.
In an attempt to save the fight, Coker said he and the commission arranged for Diaz to fly to Los Angeles on Monday morning, where the urine sample would be hand-delivered to the World Anti-Doping Association lab at UCLA, even though it was not guaranteed that results would come back by Friday.
The commission said it attempted to contact Diaz and Gracie a total of six times between Saturday night and Monday morning in an effort to arrange a time for him to take the test in Los Angeles but never heard back.
"In between myself and inspector [Sid] Segovia, we have contacted the promoter as well as the Diaz camp on numerous occasions beginning at approximately 6:45 p.m. on Saturday evening to ensure the drug test was completed today," Douglas said Monday morning. "Those communications have not garnered a response from any individual until [earlier Monday] when the promoter made contact with Inspector Segovia informing him that attempts to reach Cesar Gracie were being made."
Diaz's camp may have believed that the fighter had been excused from the test, as Gracie had a conversation on Aug. 5 with the commission claiming that due to Compassionate Use Act – which allows for medicinal use of marijuana in California – Diaz and former CSAC executive director Armando Garcia had agreed last year that Diaz would only be tested on fight night, according to Douglas.
However, Garcia resigned from the commission until turmoil in November, and Douglas said nobody at the commission had spoken with Garcia since. Further, Douglas said nobody at the CSAC was aware of such a secret deal and was skeptical of the claim.
He also noted that since Douglas resigning from the commission, rules regarding drug testing had changed. Douglas said all fighters and managers were distributed information on new drug testing procedures when the new regulation was put into effect earlier this year allowing fighters to be randomly tested at any time.
Diaz-Hieron was to establish the first Strikeforce welterweight champion, on a show airing nationally on Showtime. At one point there were four championship matches on the bill, headlined by Gina Carano vs. Cris "Cyborg" Santos, which establishes the first women’s championship, in the 145 pound weight class, for any major MMA promotion.
The women’s fight, around which the show has been built, is the only original title bout remaining. Heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem pulled out of his title defense against Fabricio Werdum after a hand injury suffered in a bar fight in Holland was slow to heal.
Lightweight champion Josh Thomson wasn’t medically cleared after suffering a broken ankle in April and a second leg injury during training for his title defense against Gilbert Melendez, who now will now face Mitsuhiro Ishida in a five-round match for the interim lightweight championship. The winner will face Thomson when he is healthy.
Hieron himself was a late replacement for Joe Riggs, who pulled out of the match with Diaz over a bad reaction to medication.
This marks the third time marijuana and/or drug testing issues have impacted Diaz (20-7, 1 no contest).
On Feb. 24, 2007, Diaz tested positive for an unusually high concentration of THC – the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana – after submitting Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi in a non-title match in Las Vegas. Diaz was suspended for six months and the victory was changed on his record to a no contest. Diaz asked for leniency at a commission hearing and claimed he had learned a lesson and would never use the drug again.
Diaz later was scheduled to face Jae Suk Lim on Mar. 29, 2008, in San Jose, Calif., in a Showtime event, but Garcia and the CSAC pulled him from the show when, on a prefight application 16 days before the show, he had admitted using marijuana to combat ADD. At the time, Diaz had not given the commission proof he had a medical marijuana card.
"Because something is considered allowable in California doesn’t necessarily mean it is legal for combative sports," Douglas said.
Prior to his win over Frank Shamrock in March, also in San Jose, Diaz had talked openly about his marijuana usage.
"I can pass a drug test in eight days with herbal cleansers," he said in a Los Angeles Times interview that caused controversy. "I drink 10 pound of water and sweat out 10 pounds of water every day."
At a press conference Monday morning, Coker had said he thought Diaz, who had been scheduled for the conference, was on his way to Los Angeles to take the test. He at first sounded confident Diaz-Hieron would be taking place. Coker did admit to having a backup plan in case things didn’t work out.
"We will promote him again," Coker said regarding Diaz when it became apparent the match was becoming less likely to take place. "but we’ll have to have a conversation with everyone involved if he doesn’t make it to Los Angeles."
Coker told the commission in the early afternoon, when it became apparent Diaz wasn’t coming to Los Angeles, that Taylor would be the replacement.
Taylor himself has had problems that have affected his career. He earned a shot last year in the finals of "The Ultimate Fighter" against Amir Sadollah. But after a drunken escapade in Las Vegas, UFC president Dana White pulled him from the show. White said he didn’t think Taylor was mature enough to handle potential UFC stardom.
Taylor later asked for forgiveness and was brought back but was dropped a second time after losing a match and being critical of the company for not punishing Quinton Jackson after his arrest for reckless driving and police evasion following a police chase that made national headlines.
Taylor has since gone on a seven-fight winning streak and is coming off his biggest win of his career over Dong-Sik Yoon on a Dream show on July 20 in Saitama, Japan. Taylor, a two-time junior college All-American in wrestling, won the match in 1:02 when Yoon suffered an ankle injury.
- Nick Diaz
- Jesse Taylor