SACRAMENTO – With Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler booked for a shot at the UFC’s newly vacated welterweight title, UFC President Dana White on Saturday said he thought he had another high-profile fight booked for UFC 171.
Then Nick Diaz turned it down.
White said he offered Diaz (26-9 MMA, 7-6 UFC) a fight against Carlos Condit (29-7 MMA, 6-3 UFC) on Saturday night at UFC on FOX 9, but Diaz passed on it. White said the offer came in person with Diaz cageside for the fight card, which took place in Sacramento.
Diaz, though, will remain out of action – by his own choosing. He told White he might return next spring, and that he would return for a title fight.
“He doesn’t want the fight,” White said at the post-event news conference for UFC on FOX 9 at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena. “I thought he wanted the rematch – (UFC ranked) No. 10 (Diaz) vs. No. 1 (contender Condit). But he’s not interested. He said maybe he’d be interested in coming back in May.
“… He said, ‘I’ll fight the winner of Hendricks and Lawler.’ I said, ‘You’re ranked No. 10. It kind of doesn’t work that way.’”
Instead, White told MMAjunkie he’s faced with continuing the search for an appropriate opponent for Condit, who was slated to face Matt Brown on Saturday’s show before Brown was sidelined with an injury earlier this week.
“I’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” White said. “Condit accepted the fight immediately, but I didn’t get it done (with Diaz).”
Hendricks (15-2 MMA, 10-2 UFC) and Lawler (22-9 MMA, 7-3 UFC) were booked to fight for the title at UFC 171 on March 15 in Dallas after champion Georges St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC) on Friday vacated the title to take time away from the sport.
Hendricks recently fought St-Pierre for the title at UFC 167 and suffered a narrow split-decision defeat (though every major media outlet scored the fight for Hendricks) on Nov. 16. Prior to the setback, Hendricks had claimed No. 1 contender’s status with a six-fight winning streak. The former NCAA Division I national wrestling champ’s streak included wins over the likes of Condit, Martin Kampmann, Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch.
Lawler is enjoying a career resurgence since a drop down from middleweight. After rejoining the UFC and debuting at 170 pounds, the Strikeforce vet has posted three consecutive wins. The most recent, which came over highly touted (and St-Pierre training partner) Rory MacDonald, followed knockout wins over Koscheck and Bobby Voelker.
Condit recently got back on track after a title unification loss to St-Pierre and subsequent loss to Hendricks when he stopped Kampmann in the fourth round at UFC Fight Night 27 in August. He fought Diaz for the UFC’s interim welterweight title at UFC 143 and took a unanimous decision. Diaz tested positive for marijuana after that fight and was suspended for a year. He returned in March of this year and fought St-Pierre for the title, but lost a unanimous decision and then essentially said he was going to retire. He’s been out of action ever since.
White said he wouldn’t put pressure on Diaz to fight, though.
“It’s not even about negotiating – he’s under contract,” White said. “It’s do you want to fight, or not want to fight. Obviously the Diaz brothers are very unique individuals. You don’t pressure a guy who’s not interested in fighting. In this business, you’ve got to have the fire or you shouldn’t do it.”
For the latest on UFC 171, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Nick Diaz)