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Smith looking to continue climb to top against Diaz

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Strikeforce middleweight contender Scott Smith has gained a reputation for never giving up.

Whether it was his last-ditch knockout of Pete Sell in 2006, his two battles with Robbie Lawler in 2008 or, most recently, his come-from-behind knockout of Benji Radach in April, Smith has certainly earned that reputation.

Next week, he’ll come back on less than two months rest to fight Nick Diaz in the co-main event of Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. It’ll be a tough fight for Smith against a great jiu-jitsu player in Diaz, who can also hold his own on the feet, as evident from his dominating TKO win against Frank Shamrock in April.

The bout will be contested at a catchweight of 180 pounds.

“I’ve been real fortunate the past year to be given great opponents to put on exciting fights,” Smith said Wednesday during a Strikeforce conference call. “This is just one of those fights. Nick is a top pound-for-pound fighter in the world in my eyes. He is the kind of fighters I want. I don’t want to fight a C-class fighter. I’m going to use everything I got beat him.”

Despite going into this bout with less than two months since his fight with Radach, Smith said he’s in better shape now than he was then.

“I had a pretty tough knee injury and I could not even do jiu-jitsu or wrestling practice going in,” Smith said. “I think part of the reason why I was so flat-footed was because I was so worried about the take down. I’m doing hardcore jiu-jitsu now. The knee is completely fine. This is the best shape I’ve been in for a fight and I’m healthy and ready to go.’’

Smith (16-5-0, 1 NC) will need to be in tip-top condition against Diaz (19-7-0, 1 NC), who, more than anything, is known for always being in great physical shape — and potentially even more-so now that he’s not cutting a lot of weight to make 170 or 160-pounds.

In fact, Smith said it “threw him for a loop” when Diaz said Shamrock would be too small for him.

“I really did think Shamrock was going to be the bigger, stronger fighter,” Smith said.

“I think it was combination of Shamrock looking a little beat up and Diaz picked him apart.  He fought a good fight.  But I was a little surprised with the domination.’’

Of course, Smith wants to stand with Diaz and sees himself knocking Diaz out. When that’s done, he wants to be in the mix for the Strikeforce middleweight championship held by Cung Le. Le, however, hasn’t defended the title since defeating Shamrock for it on March 29, 2008.

“The 185-pound weight class is the most stacked weight class in Strikeforce,” Smith said. “But the champion is not fighting and we have to do something about that. I definitely think I am in line for one of the top fights, but I do understand timing is everything.  (Robbie) Lawler’s last two fights were against me. I have won two fights since then. I do understand if I have to wait in line and wait my turn.

“We can’t just sit around and wait forever, especially after this card. There’s going to be some guys deserving of that title. He’s definitely the champion, he’s unbeaten, and hopefully I’ll be the champ someday to test myself against him.”