Nick Diaz and B.J. Penn are now set as the main event for UFC 137, but the Diaz camp is hopeful to make it a five-round fight within the next 24 hours.
Following an injury to UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre that forced him out of his fight with Carlos Condit at UFC 137, Diaz vs. Penn got the bump to headline the Las Vegas show.
Now with just under two weeks to go until fight time, Nick Diaz’s trainer and manager Cesar Gracie says they are hopeful for a five-round fight if Penn will accept.
“It’s up to Dana at this point I think. B.J., I tried to call their camp earlier, but I couldn’t get a hold of them. I think that if B.J.’s camp agrees to it, I think it would happen. Again, I don’t want to overstep my bounds or anything like that, but I don’t see a reason Dana wouldn’t let that happen,” Gracie told MMAWeekly.com on Tuesday.
“There’s no contractual obligation for anyone to do five rounds at this point. They both signed bout agreements for three rounds, and there’s no way they could make it happen, but we’ve already agreed to it, and if B.J.’s camp agrees to it, I think it would be great for the fans.”
As far as the timing goes, Gracie admits for as much of a cardio machine that Diaz is, they haven’t been training or preparing for a five-round fight anymore than Penn has, so they would hope to know something for sure within the next day.
“It would be nice within the next 24 hours. Nick hasn’t been training for five rounds at all. He’s been training for three rounds, so he’s in the same boat as B.J,” Gracie stated. “People that think Nick was training for five rounds before, well that was too early out. So we’re in the exact same boat as B.J. We just want to step up to the plate and keep this as a great card, worthy of buying and worthy of fans wanting to see.”
Gracie believes that the fight with Diaz and Penn was a main event level bout already, so why not give it that recognition with a five round fight at UFC 137?
“This should have been a main event fight no matter what. I’ve been saying that,” Gracie stated. “These two guys are great fighters, and they should be headlining a card. I just hope B.J. gets on board and we have that talk with Dana and let’s rock and roll.”
Whether the training camp has been structured for five rounds or not, Gracie is a big believer in fighters stepping up for a big moment and it doesn’t get much bigger than this.
He also believes that if the winner of Diaz and Penn are in line for a possible title shot against the winner of GSP and Condit, then they should be prepared to go five rounds right now.
“At this point in the game, you’ve got to prove you’re worthy of it. Who wants to see people gas out? If you can’t do five rounds, you’re not ready to be a champion,” said Gracie.
“That’s the way I look at it. I understand you’ve got to train for five rounds, but I also understand that to be the best you’ve got to be able to step up.”
There’s been no word from Penn’s camp if he’s willing or wants to do a five-round fight with Diaz. Earlier in the day, UFC president Dana White announced that the bout would remain at three rounds, but anything is possible when it comes to matchmaking in the UFC.