One week ago it appeared that all worlds were heading towards a Nick Diaz vs. Georges St-Pierre Strikeforce vs. UFC Super Fight. Seven days later it is a dead deal and you can thank Showtime for robbing MMA fans of one of the most anticipated fights of 2011.
For such a big story, I am really surprised it hasn’t gotten any play at all on the major MMA websites at press time. This is bigger than the failed GSP vs. Diaz fight in that it is practically an assurance that it will be a long time before Dana White has the option to make any big Strikeforce vs. UFC fights. This is a real bummer for many MMA fans who were hoping to see some of those fights in 2012.
Dana White mentioned the Strikeforce agreement with Showtime as a potential holdup in making fights back when Zuffa, LLC purchased Strikeforce. However, both White and former Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker have said in recent weeks that they both felt that the fights could be made now. Coker told reporters that he didn’t think anything in the current Strikeforce contracts would prohibit interpromotional fights from happening back in April. White also said recently that he could “do whatever he wants”, when asked about contracts preventing a Diaz vs. St-Pierre fight.
This also may explain the random pairing of Jason “Mayhem” Miller vs. Michael Bisping on The Ultimate Fighter 14. Several MMA writers including Melzter, reported over the last week that all signs were pointing to a GSP vs. Diaz TUF 14 with a fight the following week at UFC 140. White has repeatedly shot down those rumors, but there is definitely some smoke to this fire. Miller was scheduled to fight this weekend at UFC 130 and was pulled from his fight over the last few days which tells me that this decision was something that the UFC and Spike just made within the last week.
All of the pieces to this crazy puzzle were falling into place for the Diaz vs. GSP fight up until it was officially nixed by Showtime. Again, White told reporters that he was interested in making the fight following UFC 129. On May 19 Diaz met with Dana White at the UFC’s headquarters. Two days later a press release states that Nick Diaz has pulled out of his scheduled September boxing match with Jeff Lacey because Diaz has taken an MMA fight. Sports books were already releasing odds on the fight when White became suddenly adamant last week that Diaz vs. GSP was not happening. Meltzer’s news explains everything.
I think Showtime is making a huge mistake here. Win or lose, Nick Diaz would become an even bigger ratings draw with a high profile fight against Georges St-Pierre. I could understand nixing The Ultimate Fighter for fear of overexposure but Diaz would have shined in the promotion leading up to the fight and introduced himself to a new sphere of UFC fans. Additionally, Showtime would have had more eyes watching their biggest MMA star in a fight against GSP than they would anywhere else. Talk about great advertising! Diaz could just as easily lose in his next fight on Showtime as he could against GSP! This is a big mistake and I say this not as a disappointed fan, but as an objective blogger.
So the UFC fans won’t be seeing Gilbert Melendez vs. Frankie Edgar, Alistair Overeem vs. Cain Velasquez, King Mo vs. Rampage Jackson, or Fedor Emelianenko against a UFC fighter anytime soon. Fans will have to wait until their contracts are up and hope that the UFC can re-sign the fighters to UFC deals. Dan Henderson will be a free agent following his upcoming fight with Fedor so my guess is that win or lose, Henderson will be the first Strikeforce champion to fight in the UFC.
I suppose the UFC can play a dicey game with Strikeforce fighters if they are adamant about matching one of its Strikeforce fighters against a UFC fighter. I am certainly not a lawyer but I imagine that the UFC can cut the fighter, releasing him of all Strikeforce obligations and sign him back up for a UFC deal. I don’t think that is the game Dana White wants to play right now, but I wouldn’t put it past him if things get ugly.
Scott Coker said over the weekend at UFC 130 that Nick Diaz’s next fight would be a Strikeforce welterweight title defense on Showtime. Maybe put GSP in a mask, call him the Midnight Rider, and give the fans the fight the fans want to see?
Well, maybe if this was pro wrestling.
Update: Nick Diaz signed a new contract this week with Zuffa that allows him to fight in both the UFC and Strikeforce. The UFC immediately announce GSP vs. Nick Diaz at UFC 137 making the fight official. Read all about it here.
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