Source Free agent Jay Hieron still not guaranteed title shot with new Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz | MMAjunkie.com
Following their respective wins at Saturday's "Strikeforce: Miami" event, newly crowned welterweight champion Nick Diaz and top contender Jay Hieron would seem logical opponents for an upcoming card.
However, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker isn't sure Hieron deserves the title shot, and Diaz said he'd rather fight big-name fighters – not "undercard fighters" such as Hieron.
And perhaps the biggest stumbling block of all? Hieron, who signed with Strikeforce in 2009 primarily because he was promised a title shot, has fulfilled the terms of the contract and now needs a new deal.
Talk to Diaz, Hieron and Coker, and you get the feeling none of them feels the bout is imminent.
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), in fact, did talk to all the parties following "Strikeforce: Miami" at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., where Diaz (21-7 MMA, 3-0 SF) defeated DREAM champ Marius Zaromskis in the Showtime-televised main event. Hieron (19-4 MMA, 2-0 SF), meanwhile, defeated fellow UFC vet Joe Riggs in a bout relegated to the night's preliminary card (and streamed – rather poorly – at EASportsMMA.com).
What about Diaz vs. Hieron?
Many in the industry, of course, were surprised Diaz vs. Hieron wasn't booked in the first place. The fight was supposed to take place in August, but Diaz skipped a mandatory pre-fight drug test and wasn't licensed, and Hieron instead fought – and defeated – "The Ultimate Fighter 7" finalist Jesse Taylor. Hieron then thought the Diaz fight would happen at a November event that aired on CBS, but it, too, never materialized.
So when their schedules aligned for this weekend's event, why wasn't the fight booked for the Florida show?
It depends whom you're asking. Hieron said he turned downed a proposed fight with Zaramoskis because he thought it would put pressure on Diaz to accept their long-awaited matchup. Instead, Strikeforce officials booked Diaz vs. Zaromskis for the night's championship headliner. Hieron vs. Riggs, meanwhile, slipped down the lineup and didn't even get main-card billing.
"The case with Zaromskis was that we (Hieron and his agent) didn't want to fight him because we thought we'd get Diaz if we threw that fight off," Hieron said. "So we kept saying no to that fight, hoping they'd go back and make Diaz fight us. But it didn't happen. That's the situation."
And though Hieron stressed the importance of patience prior to the Riggs win, he's making no secret that he now wants a shot at Diaz.
"Man, I've done everything they've asked me," Hieron said. "I came in and I fought Taylor. I came in tonight, and I fought Joe Riggs. ... The title shot should definitely be mine right now. I did everything they asked."
So why didn't Strikeforce simply book Diaz vs. Hieron for the Florida card? Coker said it was an internal decision and that many factors were involved. Hieron's manager, Ken Pavia, thinks Showtime officials may have nixed the bout and pushed for the Zaromskis bout. Diaz said he simply fights whomever they put in front of him.
Hieron, though, places the blame squarely on the champ's shoulders.
"Diaz didn't want to fight me," Hieron said. "That's the only reason I can think of. He didn't say that, but the fight was presented three times on the table. We never fought. I signed the contract every time. I came to fight. Fives days out, he didn't go to take his drug test and this and that. Then the next time on the (November) CBS show, we we were scheduled to fight, and Diaz turned up missing. He's on a milk carton. 'Where' Diaz at?' I don't know.
"That just gives me the impression that he didn't want to fight me. Then he's fighting Zaramoskis on this card. Zaramoskis is a tough guy, but America doesn't know Zaramoskis. Nobody knows him out here."
Diaz, though, claimed the same can be said of Hieron.
"I'd rather fight someone that's a little more important than Jay Hieron," Diaz said. "His fight wasn't even on the main card. Why am I going to fight him when no one saw [his fight]? I don't even know who he is."
With Hieron obviously feeling miffed by the lack of a title shot and his preliminary-card placement – "Me and Joe Riggs, we've both proven ourselves in this sport, and we shouldn't be on an undercard," he said – this round of negotiations could be a little more tricky.
Hieron signed with Strikeforce last year, and he ultimately turned down a deal a similar deal with the UFC, where he previously fought and had hoped to someday return.
So why did he choose Strikeforce over the UFC?
"He came here to fight Diaz," Pavia said. "That's why he signed with Strikeforce. That's the reason he's here. That's the fight he's been wanting."
And both Hieron and Pavia said they're going to make sure a new deal would guarantee not only the title fight but spots on televised cards.
"I [better be] on TV and everything," Hieron said of his contract demands. "I'm losing money being on the undercard. I'm not an undercard fighter."
That title fight, though, isn't necessarily a lock. Following Saturday's event, Coker said he isn't sure Hieron will be first in line for a shot at Diaz's title. Hieron was rocked in the fight, and though he persevered for the convincing win, he went to a decision for the third time in four fights. Coker said he'll have to go back and re-watch Hieron's fight before deciding what to do. But for now, Coker thinks DREAM fighter Hayato "Mach" Sakurai (35-10-2 MMA, 0-0 SF), who could join Strikeforce thanks to the fruitful Strikeforce-DREAM alliance, may get the next shot.
Hieron, though, remains optimistic he'll eventually get his fight with Diaz.
"We'll make that fight happen," Hieron said. "The longer we wait, the juicer it gets. The bigger it'll be. And hopefully they'll actually put me on TV and make it even juicier."