Nick Diaz | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Nick Diaz offered little in the way of trash talk in the lead-up to his Strikeforce welterweight title defense against Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos. After submitting the Brazilian with a second-round armbar on Saturday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., the generally brazen 27-year-old refused to attribute that fact to some newfound sophistication and reiterated his respect for Santos.
“Everybody thinks I’ve matured and grown up, but it’s just how it is,” a serene Diaz said at the post-fight press conference for Strikeforce “Diaz vs. Cyborg.”
“I have respect for fighters that come out and fight,” the champion said of Santos. “He wasn’t trying to score and run. He was coming straight forward and trying to fight. I give a guy like that a lot of respect. It has nothing to do with me growing older.”
Prior to the fight-ending submission, Diaz and Santos engaged in a hard-hitting dogfight, which saw Cyborg rack up chopping leg kicks while Diaz scored with his trademark volume boxing style. When Diaz’s strikes began to take their toll, Santos took the fight to the floor -- something Diaz expected from the jump and was prepared to capitalize on.
“I did see him taking me down from taking too many punches. I did figure I’d be able to ladder up and finish an armlock or a triangle choke on a guy like that,” said Diaz. “I think I put on a decent performance. Cyborg is a really worthy opponent. It’s not like this guy is some joke.”
But while Diaz heaped praise upon his just-dispatched challenger, he had few positive words for those potentially in line for a shot at his title.
Next up for Diaz looks to be British slugger Paul Daley, who is first booked for a Feb. 26 bout with Deep champion Yuya Shirai in Manchester, England. In his most recent Strikeforce outing, Daley notched a scorching knockout of Scott Smith, whom Diaz submitted last June.
“I’m not really impressed with Paul Daley as a mixed martial artist,” said Diaz. “He’s got great stand-up, sure, [but] I wouldn’t judge him from the Scott Smith fight.”
Diaz went on to criticize Smith, a fellow Californian, for what he sees as a lack of desire to improve as a fighter.
“I know who Scott Smith is. I’m from Stockton, Lodi. He’s from Elk Grove. He’s never come down to train with us. He’s never tried to get better,” Diaz said. “He does his tae bo, or whatever, you know what I mean? Then Paul Daley knocks him out and everybody is like, ‘Look at Paul Daley!’”
And how would Diaz approach a fight with Daley?
“I just might do some karate ... some wushu,” Diaz deadpanned before offering a dispassionate breakdown of the matchup. “I see me putting punches on him, maybe him trying to take me down, getting caught in a choke. He can run from me. I’d run him down and take him down and beat him on the ground. I dunno.”
Diaz, who signed a multi-year contract extension with Strikeforce in December, seemed similarly disinterested in a match against unbeaten up-and-comer Tyron Woodley, who has won six straight inside the Strikeforce cage.
“I don’t wanna talk bad about anybody. I don’t really have anything about him that impresses me,” he said of the two-time NCAA Div. I All-American. “I didn’t think he was a wrestler, but then I heard he was a wrestler. It was like, ‘OK.’”
So, the question seems to be: what opponent would Diaz want to fight?
“I’m interested in fighting people ranked above me and upping my status, but, whatever,” he said. “I fight for [Strikeforce CEO] Scott Coker here, and they’ll have to work that out here.”
Jordan Breen contributed to this report.