"I think Diaz is the guy who deserves it most," Zahabi said. "His fight with Carlos (Condit) was so close. Who knows? People judge it both ways. [Diaz is] the guy who is the Strikeforce champion. He climbed up the ladder all the way. Johny deserves it very much, but Diaz has been there longer and done more fights and has bigger wins. If you want to be really fair about it, he is the guy who beat the most amount of names in the biggest fights."
From MMAJunkie.com, the preceding paragraph is a quote from famed mixed martial arts trainer Firas Zahabi, the man who helps guide Georges St-Pierre, Rory MacDonald and others to career-best performances.
I should preface what I'm about to say by telling you that I know Zahabi, and I respect him a great deal. When our Bleacher Report team was in Montreal to cover UFC 154, Zahabi opened the doors of his Tristar Gym to us one evening and gave us more than we could possibly ever ask for.
You'll see the results of those efforts in the coming weeks on our very own Ultimate Show, hosted by Kenda Perez and occasionally featuring yours truly ranting about whatever is chapping my hide on that particular day.
But even though I do respect Zahabi a great deal and I think he's a very wise man and an exceptional trainer, I have to say that he's wrong about this one. Nick Diaz is not, nor should he be, the top contender for St-Pierre's welterweight title.
I don't know if Zahabi truly believes what he's saying. He might be going along with the party line established by St-Pierre, and I can't blame him for it, just like I can't blame St-Pierre for wanting a fight with Diaz.
I think we're well and truly past the idea of St-Pierre fighting Anderson Silva, and so St-Pierre is looking for the biggest fights possible in his own division. With all credit to Johny Hendricks, who has firmly established that he deserves a title shot, Diaz represents the biggest money fight available to St-Pierre.
You can't blame a guy for wanting to make money. But even so, Diaz doesn't deserve the fight. Not by a long shot. Not yet, anyway.
For starters, Diaz lost to Carlos Condit. You may think otherwise, and I know there are plenty of people who disagree with me. That's fine. But the result stands, and Condit emerged victorious. That alone should knock Diaz down a peg or two in the standings.
But more importantly, Diaz also failed a post-fight drug test. He's been suspended for a year for failing that drug test.
What kind of message will the UFC send if they grant him an immediate title fight coming off that suspension? They weren't willing to do it for Alistair Overeem, who had to beat Antonio Silva in order to get the shot he earned before being suspended last year. Why would they make an exception for Diaz?
Yeah, money talks. The UFC gave Chael Sonnen an undeserving fight with Jon Jones, so they've established that they're willing to gift title shots if they see a big-money fight in the offing. That's all fine and good, because the UFC is a business and they need to make as much money as they possibly can.
But the UFC is also striving to be more than just a pay-per-view company; they're trying to make inroads into the mainstream sports world. Consistently giving title shots to those who don't deserve them simply because they're going to make you a boatload of money, isn't a good way to establish credibility.
I want to see Nick Diaz back in the cage just as much as you do. And yes, I want to see him fight St-Pierre as much as the next guy.
I remember being in Dana White's office for an interview over a year ago back when Diaz had just been pulled from his title fight with St-Pierre for skipping out on scheduled media opportunities.
On a massive table in White's office, he had the promotional poster that would have been released for St-Pierre vs. Diaz if the fight had gone on as planned. And let me tell you right now that this poster was fantastic; it featured a giant facial photo of a mean-mugging Diaz staring down at a full-body shot of St-Pierre. It sent chills down my spine, and I still get all hot and bothered just thinking about it today.
So yes, I want to see the fight; I just want to see it when Diaz actually deserves it.
Bring Diaz back when his suspension is up. Put him in the cage with Josh Koscheck or someone else coming off a loss, and let him earn his shot in the cage. It's the only right way to do things, and it will mean so much more when Diaz does earn his shot and finally steps in the cage with St-Pierre.
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