Nick Diaz is really the rage in Canada.
Shortly after Firas Zahabi -- the head trainer for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre -- revealed that his fighter was open to fighting 185-pound kingpin Anderson Silva in the future, but Diaz is viewed as the
next popular number one contender -- company president Dana White dropped a nice nugget after the UFC on FOX 5 pre-fight press conference this afternoon.
Diaz, not Silva -- or even the red-hot Johny Hendricks -- is the likely next opponent for "Rush." And the reason is pretty simple: St. Pierre prefers to fight the Stockton, Calif., scrapper before anyone else.
White breaks it down (via MMAFighting.com):
"Georges St. Pierre went on vacation, but when he came back we were talking about Anderson Silva. He said, ‘I want Nick Diaz. Me and Nick Diaz have unfinished business. We were supposed to fight. That's the fight that I want.' So, Georges St-Pierre has been a phenomenal champion, just a great guy to deal with for us. He doesn't ask for things. So if he wants to fight Nick Diaz, and Nick Diaz wants to fight him, then that's probably the fight we'll make.... Georges has been off for a year. (Silva is) a tough fight for him to come back to. He asked personally for the (Diaz) fight."
That "unfinished business" might have something to do with their championship fight at UFC 137 on Oct. 29, 2011, which never happened because Diaz flaked on several mandatory promotional appearances. White famously reacted by replacing Diaz with Carlos Condit and demoting him to the co-main event to fight B.J. Penn.
St. Pierre was ultimately forced to withdraw from the Condit fight because he blew out his knee in training, while Diaz went on to batter "The Prodigy" in the re-worked main event. After the win, an interim welterweight championship bout between Diaz and Condit was booked for UFC 143 earlier this year, which the "Natural Born Killer" won via controversial decision.
Condit was content to wait for St. Pierre to recover; however, he was eventually convinced to accept a rematch with Diaz -- who "retired" from MMA in disgust -- to keep the division moving. But, before the rematch could be announced, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) announced that Diaz had failed his post-fight drug test because marijuana metabolites were detected in his bloodstream.
Diaz appealed the finding, failed to convince the NSAC that metabolites weren't banned substances and was subsequently suspended for 12 months. Condit, meanwhile, stuck to his original plan and waited for St. Pierre for most of 2012, welcoming him back to the Octagon at UFC 154 just last month, only to lose a bloody five-round decision unanimously (watch video highlights here).
While all this was happening, Hendricks was knocking the snot out of top division contenders like Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann. It certainly didn't go unnoticed because, well, that would be impossible. Despite his dominance, as well as his "number one contender" eliminator match against "Hitman," White feels like he owes it to St. Pierre to give him what he wants.
"Listen, Johny Hendricks has had great fights. You talk about winning in spectacular fashion, this guy hits people so hard they skid across the Octagon. (But) he's in no position to demand anything. Georges St. Pierre is the champ, he has been forever. If that's the fight he wants, then that's probably the fight we'll give him if Diaz accepts it."
At press time, Diaz had yet to accept White's public offer; however, it would seem like a no-brainer considering that his trainer, Cesar Gracie, recently called out the French-Canadian and Diaz himself more recently branded St. Pierre a "pussy." The sticking point, clearly, is Diaz's suspension, which he has vigorously fought all year and even tried to circumvent.
The good news, for St. Pierre and Diaz, is that the suspension is expected to be lifted in Feb. 2013. That's little more than two months away, which isn't that long for "Bigg Rigg" to sit on the sidelines and wait for his turn at the title. Shortly after his win over Kampmann, Hendricks said he'd wait for St. Pierre if he went on to face Silva in the much-publicized "super fight."
Now that the focus has shifted to Diaz, Hendricks re-iterated his stance via Twitter today:
"Yes I will sit out if I don't get a title shot."
Barring a Diaz victory, that wait could last a full year if "The Spider" is once again inserted into the equation. And you can bet your bippy that he'll be cageside (again) if and when St. Pierre and Diaz finally finish their business.