Monday, December 3, 2012

GSP's trainer thinks Nick Diaz, not Johny Hendricks, the No. 1 contender in UFC's welterweight division


By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Though the UFC wants to put together a fight between Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre, the UFC Welterweight Champion and his team feel he's got fights remaining at 170 lbs. Now, while the Silva fight is still in play, the question turns to which of the welterweight fights could also be in play.

For St-Pierre's trainer, Firas Zahabi, there's a clear No. 1 contender in his mind, and it's not the man who believes he should be in that spot, Johny Hendricks.

"I think [Nick] Diaz is the guy who deserves it most," Zahabi said in an interview with "His fight with Carlos [Condit] was so close. Who knows? People judge it both ways. [Diaz is] the guy who is the Strikeforce champion. He climbed up the ladder all the way. Johny deserves it very much, but Diaz has been there longer and done more fights and has bigger wins."

"If you want to be really fair about it, he is the guy who beat the most amount of names in the biggest fights."

For now, St-Pierre is on vacation after his win over Carlos Condit, not ready to make any decisions on who he'll fight next. And though the Silva fight is there, the ever-fluctuating divisional picture has brought out a number of contenders at 170 lbs. once again.

"There will be plenty of time to discuss it," Zahabi said. "Everybody wants to know, and that's normal. But at the end of the day, he needs to enjoy himself. I'm sure we'll all get on the phone sooner or later."

"After he beat B.J., people were like, 'The division has been cleared out.' But then it always seems to be the same thing. Some other guy gets a big win, and the division is not cleaned out. You just saw the same thing. Hendricks got a big win, and it's like there's still Hendricks on the table and still Diaz on the table. [Jon] Fitch just beat Erick Silva, so that name is back in the mix."

Penick's Analysis: Zahabi's got some good points, and really there's more competitiveness in the top end of the welterweight division than there's been in some time. Fitch getting back into the mix is another realistic future opponent, but if he's bested by Demian Maia, then Maia takes his spot in that mix as well. Both Diaz and Hendricks could be potential challengers as well, or they could fight each other if St-Pierre fights Silva. Regardless, there are more options for St-Pierre now than there have been in recent years.

[Nick Diaz art by Grant Gould (c)]

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