MMA: Jeff Lacy
After Nick Diaz announced his intention to box before returning to mixed martial arts in 2011, the Strikeforce welterweight champion has not suffered from a lack of willing participants.
Count among that group former super middleweight world champion Jeff Lacy, who, along with Fernando Vargas and Sergio Martinez, were mentioned by the Diaz camp as desirable opponents.
“Honestly, I was a little stunned," said Lacy, a resident of St. Petersburg, Fla., in a prepared statement. "Nick has accomplished a great deal in mixed martial arts and is certainly one of the best in the sport. But getting in the ring with me for a boxing match is a path he needs to be very wary of taking. I’m willing to put it all on the line anytime, anywhere."
Lacy's interest no doubt stems from the fact that he's fallen on hard times as a boxer. The 33-year-old former U.S. Olympian, unbeaten in 21 fights before losing a unanimous decision to Joe Calzaghe in 2006, has dropped three of his last four bouts, including an embarrassing decision to journeyman Dhafir Smith in December. Lacy (25-4) also lost on points to Jermain Taylor and Roy Jones Jr.
Diaz, under contract to pro boxing Hall of Fame promoter Don Chargin for a bout this year, is available to box in 2011 under the parameters of his current contract with Strikeforce.
“For the right price, I’m more than interested in heading to his turf and put my fist in his mouth and silencing him," Lacy said.
Nick Diaz is seriously contemplating a move to professional boxing, and possible opponents are starting to materialize.
However, former two-time boxing world champion Fernando Vargas, originally mentioned as a likely opponent in an interview with HDNet’s “Inside MMA” by Diaz’s manager, Cesar Gracie, told Sherdog.com that he has not been approached with the proposed contest.
“Nobody has contacted me or my team about a fight with Nick Diaz for a supposed September fight,” said Vargas. “I have not been in the gym but I have been running and keeping myself in shape. If they're serious about fighting me then put the money where their mouth is and let's see what they're talking about.”
On Thursday afternoon, Gracie told Sherdog.com that former IBF super middleweight champion Jeff Lacy is the frontrunner for Diaz's potential 2011 boxing debut.
“We've already signed on with [boxing promoter] Don Chargin to take the fight. He's contacting [Lacy's camp],” said Gracie. “[Lacy] is a scrapper. I think he and Nick could [put on a great show].”
According to Gracie, Diaz's contract with Strikeforce allows him to fight one boxing match in 2011. Though Lacy is at the top of Gracie's list, there are several other potential opponents in the mix.
“There are a couple of names. There's [Ring Magazine middleweight champion] Sergio Martinez. I don't know if he even knows about this,” said Gracie. “[Ricardo] Mayorga isn't out of the question. I think Don King has his contract. But we're looking at big names. Guys with name recognition.”
Diaz is often quoted as expressing dissatisfaction with his paydays in mixed martial arts, citing boxing salaries as a reference. Gracie agrees with the sentiment, asserting that the MMA pay scale is far too low, especially for a fighter as dynamic as Diaz.
“A lot of people get on Nick for his comments about not making a lot of money. And yes, you could take a guy who works nine to five for one year and it's still not as much as what Nick makes in one day, and Nick understands that,” said Gracie. “But you also can look at a boxer who [is not at the same level as Diaz is in MMA], and he's making $1 million [per fight]. Or take a baseball player who isn't even getting hits, and he's making [millions of dollars]. Nick is one of the most technical fighters on the planet, and he's fighting for peanuts.”
However, this does not represent the entirety of why Diaz may make the move to the sweet science. As Gracie tells it, Diaz is disenchanted with the sport of mixed martial arts itself, a sport which requires tireless dedication and a high pain tolerance if one is to make a serious living as a fighter.
“You've got to understand that it's hard to keep these guys motivated when they've been fighting for so long. Nick's been doing this for like 10 years,” said Gracie. “So we might have to get Nick out of MMA for a while. Maybe we'll do some jiu-jitsu tournaments.”
According to a release from HDNet, Gracie has stated that unless UFC President Dana White offered Diaz a bout with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Diaz's next bout would take place in a boxing ring. When asked if bouts with the UFC's top welterweight contenders might sway Diaz to postpone his boxing bout, Gracie was frank in his response.
“Remember when Anderson Silva wanted to fight GSP at a catchweight? Why not fight Nick Diaz at a catch-weight? Nick will go up to 178 tomorrow,” said Gracie. “GSP would be the guy [Diaz would want to fight at welterweight]. But GSP is fighting [Diaz's teammate] Jake Shields [at UFC 129], and Nick thinks that Jake is going to beat him. So why would Nick be in the welterweight division?”
Gary Randall contributed to this report.