The UFC threw the MMA world a welcome curve ball today when it announced that Nick Diaz will challenge Georges St-Pierre at UFC 137. This marks the first official UFC vs. Strikeforce Super Fight since the merging of the two companies.
The news is a big surprise after Dave Meltzer reported over the weekend that Showtime had blocked plans for a Diaz vs. GSP Super Fight. Dana White also fielded questions over the weekend at UFC 130 about the fight and flat out denied any plans for a fight. At one point White accused the MMA media of “making too much out of this thing.” Regardless of the change, the fight is official for October 29th.
The announcement however is consistent with numerous media reports that indicated that a Diaz vs. GSP fight was a done deal. Meltzer reported at one point that the UFC and Spike TV were planning on making both fighters head coaches for The Ultimate Fighter season 14. Those duties will go to Jason Miller and Michael Bisping.
The story behind this fight is almost as fascinating to me as the fight itself. If Showtime really did attempt to block the fight, how was it made? Did the UFC find a loophole in the Showtime contract? Was this a negotiating ploy from one of the parties? Will the UFC give Showtime some kind of a make good? I am curious to hear if Dana White will address this at some point or just shoot the rumors down entirely.
A USA Today article on the fight reports that Zuffa began looking into making this fight immediately after the Strikeforce purchase became official. Diaz’s manager Cesar Gracie also told USA Today that Diaz recently signed a brand new eight fight deal with the UFC. Under the terms of the new deal, Diaz will continue to fight for Strikeforce in addition to the UFC. The new deal also prevents Diaz from boxing while under contract.
The new contract is reportedly what made the deal happen. When I wrote about Showtime’s resistance to the fight I mentioned in my blog that the UFC could just either cut him and re-sign him or negotiate a new deal. I have to believe that this will be the plan of attack going forward on any future fights that the UFC desires to make that Showtime block.
It should also be pointed out that reports indicate that only the UFC welterweight championship will be on the line. I don’t know if that means Diaz will retain his belt regardless of the result or if there will only be one unified championship under the UFC banner as of October 29. Now this is where I could see the Showtime contracts being an issue with Strikeforce’s broadcast partner not wanting to lose one of its belts.
The fight also opens up the question about other Strikeforce vs. UFC Super Fights or championship battles. Now that the damn is finally broken, will the UFC begin importing other Strikeforce fighters into the promotion? Will Zuffa simply cut and re-sign fighters they wish to integrate into the UFC? Will there be any other fights between both companies before the end of the year? What is the point of even keeping Strikeforce open if all of the top guys will be fighting in the UFC?
This would also mark the first time that Georges St-Pierre has fought three times in one year since 2007. GSP tends to fight a two-fight annual schedule, but a recent report indicated that he was interested in trying to fight as much as possible from now on. This will also mark the first time GSP has defended the welterweight title three times in one year.
An early look at the fight would point to GSP having a big advantage over Diaz on the mat and in the stand up game. Diaz has rolled off ten wins in a row but hasn’t fought anyone like GSP during his streak. Most MMA observers expect GSP to smother Diaz on the ground with his superior wrestling skills. Diaz’s manager Cesear Gracie told the USA Today reporter, “Nick is going to counter his wrestling with true black-belt jiu-jitsu, Gracie jiu-jitsu.”
Going to the ground with GSP? Good luck with that one.
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