"I want to fight the guy who is ranked the best and I think that is Nick Diaz." - Georges St-Pierre
Ask and you shall receive, or for those fight fans fluent in French, demandez et vous recevrez.
On March 16th at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, the 170-pound division will be on full display with an undercard filled by top contenders and its headliner highlighted in 12 pounds of gold. It’s the main event that solidified itself in MMA minds the world over in April 2011, when Diaz and St-Pierre successfully defended their respective welterweight championships and were assigned to collide only months later inside the Octagon. As both Diaz and GSP have been fan favorites and experienced 10 fight win streaks as of late, this clash has been slowly burning on the back burner for much longer than that and it’s finally happening.
Depending on whose perspective one chooses, this hotly anticipated title fight has been in the making for at least the past two years or nearly a decade. As all recent Octagon historians know, this particular battle for the 170-pound belt was originally slated for October 29, 2011 at UFC 137 and GSP had to pull out of the fight due to an ACL injury requiring surgery. But as those familiar with the challenger’s cage career will attest, Diaz has been hunting for that undisputed recognition of being the division’s best throughout his Strikeforce title reign and for years before that. While Diaz and GSP were literally set to tangle 15 months ago, these welterweight sharks have been circling each other since they both were young up-and-comers on the UFC roster way back in 2004.
On Wednesday in the MTL, in front of fans and media alike, St-Pierre and Diaz discussed this unusual and, at the same time, expected title fight. “I want to fight the guy who is ranked the best and I think that is Nick Diaz, that is truly what I believe,” explains St-Pierre, who expressly asked UFC president Dana White for this bout with Diaz to be revisited. “It's his chance, he deserves it, and I'm happy to give it to him. I believe he is the man to beat in my division.”
As for the division itself, many think the top contender is the heavy-handed Johny Hendricks, who is riding a five fight win streak, including three Knockout of the Night bonuses, and who will be fighting Jake Ellenberger at UFC 158. From St-Pierre’s point of view, he didn’t score in favor of Hendricks in his razor thin split-decision with Josh Koscheck, who GSP has defeated on two prior occasions. On top of that, GSP believes not much has changed with the Diaz fight that everyone previously wanted. Last year, both GSP and Diaz made one Octagon appearance and it was against former UFC interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit. The full 25 minute battles were close and did little to distance the fighters from each other.
For Diaz, at 29 years old with an impressive overall pro record of 27-8, 1 NC, a win over GSP will be validation for all the Cesar Gracie product’s talk, training, time, traveling, and competing in different organizations to prove what he set out to prove all those years ago: he’s the best. “I've been training to fight Matt Hughes since I was 18 years old and Georges got to fight him first,” tells Diaz, which in one sentence astutely sums up his thoughts on St-Pierre, the UFC welterweight division, and his own career. “I've been promoting this since I was fighting in Elite XC. I'm always aiming to fight the best there is out there. You have to work it right and win the right fights until the people recognize you're the right guy.”
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old welterweight boss with the nearly immaculate 23-2 record, that burning desire to silence critics and to challenge himself is still as bright as ever before. “I know when I'm going to fight him, he's going to push me to the edge,” affirms St-Pierre, who is ready to answer the questions that were raised in April 2011 after Diaz won so emphatically against Paul Daley and St-Pierre won in a pedestrian decision over Jake Shields. “He wants what I have. He's going to make the best of me come out.”
On March 16th at UFC 158, two of the unequivocal best MMA fighters the UFC welterweight division has ever known will finally trade fists and feet for that number one spot on top of the mountain. It’s champion vs. challenger, it’s “Montreal Mauler” vs. “Stockton Slapper”, it’s 514 vs. 209, and it’s GSP vs. Diaz for the UFC title belt. No matter how one says it or how long they’ve been asking for it, it’s finally here and it’s going to be good. You’re welcome, fight fans; de rien.