Exclusive: Cesar Gracie Interview Part 2- Nick Diaz Return Bout, Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields
To read part one of our interview with Cesar Gracie click here:
It’ll be a few more months before we see Nick back inside the Octagon as the former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion is serving a yearlong suspension for testing positive for marijuana following his loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 143 in February. His return is being met with great anticipation about who he will face in his first fight back. There are no shortage of potential opponents including Josh Koscheck and Diego Sanchez who have taken to twitter with their desire to fight Nick.
“I think Diego may have been dipping into a little win the night he posted his Tweets,” joked Gracie. “I’m sure he’s a great guy and everything, but there was something going on. He was misspelling everything, I don’t know, I thought it was funny! I was asked by a Brazilian magazine about Koscheck and Demain Maia and it grew some legs because of my response. I said if I had to choose between one of those two and it was my decision I would probably go with the Koscheck fight just because people know him better. They are both really tough guys, but if we had to pick we’d go with Koscheck.”
“In no way am I trying for that fight, Koscheck is a tough guy, but he’s been winning and losing, winning and losing. As far as I’m concerned and I think would say this too, he wants big fights. He wants fights that motivate him and fights that will get him somewhere if he beats the guy. He’d love to fight GSP and I think a lot of the fans want to see that fight as well.”
“Maybe Nick can fight Johny Hendricks, but I think Hendricks and I think he has every right to do it, wants to wait for GSP. To be honest with you I really don’t know where we’re at right now. As far as Sanchez I’m not even sure if he’s even a top 5 guy in the division. He’s talking about fighting Nick, he’s talking about fighting Nate at 155 and it’s all good. He’s probably a really cool guy to hang out with, but I don’t know what’s going on with him. Nick and Diego would be great, especially in a five round fight because they had a really good fight once. You have to give it to Diego because he goes for it, if those two met again it would be really funny, I was there the first time and Nick threw a shoe at him. That was a great fight, Diego had more take downs and he was all bloodied up and Nick was bleeding a bit too. It was kind of cool I think the fans like that kind of stuff.”
Speaking of GSP, he made a successful return this past Saturday at UFC 154 after a 19 month layoff and defeated Carlos Condit via unanimous decision. It may not have been the finish people were looking for, but many feel as though the champion was more aggressive than he had been in a long time including Gracie.
“That was a great fight between GSP and Condit, I thought GSP came in and decided to put stuff on the line again,” Gracie offered. “He had been fighting really safe and people were getting sick of it, but in this fight he decided to stick his neck out. He almost got his head kicked off, but I think the fans appreciate that. That’s the type of fights that the fans want, I know Condit was fighting back too and I would have loved to see Condit fight that way when he fought Nick because that’s when people get their money’s worth.”
Ronda Rousey has been getting just as much attention if not more than any male mixed martial artist and for good reason, she recently became the first female fighter signed to a UFC contract. Rousey trains with Gracie and the Diaz Brothers on occasion and much like a lot of the MMA community, he is very excited to see her step foot in the Octagon. There are a few other females that Gracie got amped up about who may join Rousey in the UFC sooner rather than later.
“It’s exciting, she trains a lot with the Diaz Brothers more than anyone else,” Gracie stated. “I really can’t take that much credit for her skill set to be honest with you. She trains a lot with her Judo team and we recently had Manny Gamburyan here and he taught me a really cool Judo throw. She’s opening doors for everyone else; I have girls on my team that are about the same weight who want to fight her.”
“I have Alexis Davis who has been trying to get a fight, but I stay out of that one! We also have Leslie Smith; if you don’t know who she is make sure you look her up she’s bad. She was supposed to fight Sarah Kaufman, but Sarah just pulled out, I think she might be injured. I texted Sarah and tweeted her wishing her a speedy recovery. I was really looking forward to that fight because both of those girls love to slug it out. I thought that would’ve been a very memorable fight and hopefully when Sarah heals up they can put that fight together and we can see what happens.”
The fighters that train with Team Gracie are extremely close and it’s highly unlikely they would ever fight each other. Gilbert Melendez has long been considered one of the top three lightweights in the world and has been the Strikeforce Lightweight Champion for the past three years. With Strikeforce looking to close its doors and Diaz fighting for the UFC lightweight strap the obvious question is what will Melendez do should Diaz defeat Henderson on December 8th?
“We’ve actually had this discussion and it’s never been a problem because these guys always seem to get out of each other’s way,” offered the 7th Degree BJJ Blackbelt. “We have an understanding and if you look at the AKA guys they don’t fight each other. The Team Jackson guys don’t fight each other, Rashad Evans left the team and that was a big deal, but that’s their business. There are a lot of teams that don’t fight each other it makes it weird for training partners to help one another. It’s like I’m helping you, but you might be fighting me, so why should I help you?”
“The way we’d handle that is, if Nate wins on December 8th Gilbert Melendez will fight someone else at 155 until Nate is no longer champ. Option B and people forget this, Melendez used to fight at 145. He actually weighted 143.9 and he was the number one rated guy in Shooto. He demolished everybody in that weight class. There’s stuff he can do and we’re not there yet. If for some reason Nate doesn’t win his fight then who knows, Melendez might have an instant title shot. These guys respect one another and if one of them is the champ then the other guys won’t try and fight him for his title.”
Jake Shields is another one of Gracie’s top fighters and he has had his ups and downs in the UFC. He lost via unanimous decision to St. Pierre at UFC 129 and just weeks after losing his father, he lost via first round TKO to Jake Ellenberger. He would fight once more at welterweight defeating Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144, but then announced he was moving back up to middleweight. At UFC 150 he defeated Ed Herman via unanimous decision, but was subsequently suspended for six months following a failed drug test. Shields hasn’t made up his mind whether he’ll fight at 170 or 185 when he returns, but Gracie will support him in whatever he decides.
“We’ve been talking about it (170) and he’s been walking around a bit lighter too,” admitted Gracie. “He’s fighting some big guys at 185 who are cutting down from 220. We’re still talking about it and he’s been discussing things with the UFC. I can tell you he has told me he has an interest in dropping back down to 170. Jake is a great guy, you can’t ask for a better training partner and he’s a tough guy. His standup is getting better, he had a couple of pretty crappy coaches, but he’s working with Rob Kaman and he’s got Jake looking good. I’ve never seen Jake look this confident with his stand-up and I’m expecting some big stuff from him.”