(Video courtesy of YouTube/HDNet)
HDNet caught up with Nick Diaz this week ahead of potentially the biggest fight of his MMA career against BJ Penn this weekend at UFC 137 and the former Strikeforce welterweight champ revealed the biggest key to beating the resilient Hawaiian. According to the surly Stockton native, he needs to first and foremost go into the fight not looking at Penn as one of the guys he looks up to most in the sport or else he might show him too much respect Saturday night.
“For this fight…my biggest obstacle I think is kind of overcoming my own personal faith in BJ Penn, because you know, after all he’s pretty much a guy I, you know… I don’t look up to a lot of guys, but I’ve looked up to BJ Penn for a long time, but he came from my school, okay? You understand? He came from my academy. Whether he says he does or whether he says he doesn’t, that’s where he came from, so… That’s where he started learning jiu-jitsu,” Diaz explained. “I actually had his first mixed martial arts fight on video. I don’t even know if he’s ever seen it, but I had it on a tape — like a cassette tape and I used to watch that before anyone even saw him fight in the UFC. We’ve trained together, too before so that’s kind of… a lot of that is really the difficult part about this fight, other that that he’s a great fighter. It’s probably going to be a lot harder for me fighting this guy because…it makes it a lot easier for a guy like Georges [St. Pierre] to go out their and hold him, stall for the rounds, but I go out there and I fight. He knows me and I know him too. He knows what I do and I know what he does too, so…I wouldn’t have picked this fight if I had my choice, that’s for sure.”
As far as his prediction of how he sees the fight going, Diaz doesn’t see it being an easy challenge for him and he isn’t necessarily picking himself as the winner.
“I think he’ll probably try to slip the jab and throw the overhand right, make a body lock or a single-leg takedown. Maybe push me against the fence. I think I’m gonna have to deal with a lot of that type of stuff. It’s BJ Penn, you know, so it’s a really difficult fight, especially for somebody like me who is actually going to go and fight and not just try to hold him and win rounds,” Diaz said. “I would say I have the advantage if this fight goes into the later rounds because I think that he’s coming up in weight and I’m more of an endurance athlete in general than most MMA fighters. But there’s not really many late rounds because it’s only a three-round fight, so…”
Nick says that he feels a lot of extra pressure, not to perform, but to play the game like the other fighters do and while he is slowly realizing that if he toes the line just a bit more, he’ll open some doors for himself as far as sponsors and the media goes, he doesn’t like the rules that fighters are expected to abide by.
“There’s always extra pressure on me. I don’t get a lot of support…not fan support, just support as in I don’t get a lot of sponsorship. I mean I do…I’d like to thank my sponsors. They hook me up. I make good money from my sponsors, but as far as people coming to me and trying to find me and offer me gigs and things like interviews or press or publicity, I don’t have a lot of people helping me out in that department, so I just gotta do the best I can with it and try to get in there and do some of the stuff that these other guys are doing,” he pointed out. “They’re all on camera and doing the whole Twitter thing with each other. I think it’s kind of funny or whatever. I think that it’s pretty funny that a lot of these guys play along with it. I’m playing by the rules or whatever. It’s like everybody that fights in the UFC and then they fight each other. I don’t agree with that. I don’t think that’s good for fighting.”
He says that in spite of his disappointment at being dropped from his title fight with St-Pierre — which likely would have been postponed due to GSP’s recent knee injury — Diaz says Penn is a much more dangerous opponent which will likely lead to a much more entertaining main event Saturday night.
“I believe BJ is a much more dangerous and better fighter than GSP. If I lose a fight to Georges, it’s him holding me and not fighting me the whole time. If I lose to BJ Penn, he’s probably going to take me out with a right hand or go on top some way and take position. He’s gonna look to take the mount, take the back, put a choke — finish the fight. Georges is just gonna look to just do enough to win the fight [like] every fight that he does. I thought that would have worked out with me, the same way that it does with a lot of other fighters. I think I have the tools that it takes to make something happen in five rounds,” Diaz said. “It’s real disappointing for me that I’m not fighting Georges St-Pierre. I was supposed to fight for the title. I didn’t go back on that. It wasn’t me. They went back on that. People want to blame me for spoiling that, but they spoiled that deal for the fans. It wasn’t that I spoiled that deal. You tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Nobody’s telling me, ‘Hey, show up for this press conference or you’re not fighting.’ It’s like, ‘Yeah right.’ Like I’m not gonna show up when people are gonna know that I don’t want to fight him. I do want to fight. That’s why I’ve been fighting my whole life, training and representing my team. I’m not trying to let my whole team down and the rest of the fans too for that matter.”