The downside to Georges St. Pierre’s reign over the welterweight division has been that as soon as a fighter looks to become a star they run into the champion. Thiago Alves appeared to be a Muay Thai wrecking machine and then ran into the takedown intensive wrestling machine many opponents have fallen before. Jon Fitch was Purdue’s wrestling captain and couldn’t stay off his back against the Canadian. Josh Koscheck, an undefeated NCAA champion, was taken down at will by GSP in their first fight and unable to do anything but eat a jab in the rematch. Dan Hardy looked to be the first British UFC champion and GSP dismantled him in every facet of the game. Jake Shields has top notch wrestling and submission credentials and couldn’t get GSP to the mat.
In MMA’s toughest division, its dominant champion rules the roost like no other. And with his ACL injury changing up UFC 143, the last two men scheduled to face the champion have a rare opportunity rarely afforded a fighter in the welterweight division: the ability to become a star in his absence.
With GSP out for up to a year, and the interim bout scheduled for the beginning of the year, the welterweight division now has the rare ability to make a star out of someone that’ll make GSP’s return that much bigger. It’s put Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz into perhaps the most enviable position possible in all of MMA: the driver’s seat in the division.
For Diaz it could potentially turn him into the big star of the sport that he wants to be. Diaz’s rants about money and fighter pay are near legendary but he isn’t a known commodity to the casual MMA fan. His dismantling of B.J Penn was his first UFC appearance in a significant amount of time and he was a known commodity to most hardcore MMA fans but not the casual UFC viewer. Diaz’s strengths as a fighter make for an intriguing stylistic matchup with GSP as well as his off-beat personality endearing him to many fans.
Carlos Condit is in a similar position but is a bit more of a known commodity to that same casual UFC viewer; he’s risen through the welterweight ranks since he came over from the WEC to become a legitimate challenger to GSP. One of the intriguing aspects of what was supposed to be his fight with GSP is his finishing rate, including three straight knockouts. Condit may not have the personality that Diaz has but his fighting style has made him plenty of fans.
No matter who wins that night, GSP’s downtime will keep him out until perhaps this time in 2012. With the title fight scheduled for January 2012, the winner of Condit/Diaz could potentially fight two more times as interim champion before facing a returning GSP. By the time GSP is ready to come back in late 2012, you could have an interim champion who has also put the title on the line against Jon Fitch and/or Josh Koscheck when all is said and done, both AKA fighters on the outside looking in after dominant losses the champion. A young challenger such as Rory MacDonald could get a title shot under the right circumstances as well as any other handful of fighters in the deepest division in MMA. Some interesting matchups are bound to happen and whoever is holding on to the interim title by the time GSP is ready to fight.
And whoever is the champion will make for the most intriguing GSP fight in some time.
Imagine the credibility Nick Diaz would have against the Canadian, having hypothetically beaten Carlos Condit and Josh Koscheck in the first half of 2012, going into a career defining match with GSP? How about Carlos Condit having toppled Nick Diaz and Jon Fitch in successive fights? Or even Koscheck having beaten the winner of Diaz/Condit and perhaps another top tier fighter? Even Fitch, coming off beating the Diaz/Condit winner and another victory over another top contender, has a much higher stake in a rematch with a belt around his waist than without one.
And those are just the four top guys right now in the division that aren’t Georges St. Pierre. That’s not including Jake Ellenberger, Alves, Jake Shields, Martin Kampmann, McDonald and perhaps another half dozen guys that could vault into the title mix in the next 10-12 months GSP is out injured.
The possibilities are almost endless and whoever winds up with what could be a hot potato of a welterweight interim title will make for something GSP needs as champion: intrigue. Diaz and Condit are fresh faces; Fitch and Koscheck would be resurgent fighters with whom he already has history. One can only imagine the buzz that Nick Diaz with two interim title defenses under his belt would have going for him.
When GSP comes back, he’ll have more at stake than before. He’ll be coming off a massive layoff against an opponent who could have had defended a title two times in his absence. The intrigue on that fight is worth its weight in gold and GSP’s injury could wind up being something that helps the UFC in the long run.
Tags: Carlos Condit, Georges St. Pierre, Mixed Martial Arts, Nick Diaz