(“I am not im-pressed wit my lack of title de-fense.”)
It’s time to strip Georges St. Pierre of his UFC welterweight championship.
Ok, perhaps not at this very moment, but come May 1, it will have been over a year since the UFC champ has defended his 170lb strap. St. Pierre hasn’t run from challenges or fights, he’s just had several consecutive knee injuries (the most recent one, a torn ACL that required surgery to repair) that have forced him to pull out of scheduled belt defenses.
Carlos Condit just won a razor-thin interim title bout against Nick Diaz at UFC 143, but would have to wait until the new year is almost over before being able to fight GSP. The Canadian says he won’t be ready to fight again until November. Unfortunately, we’ve seen these situations in the UFC before and a standard has emerged of champions needing to defend their titles at least once a year. In 2004, UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir was in a motorcycle accident that put him on the shelf. Initially, when it was unknown if and when he would return, an interim title was created and was won by Andrei Arlovski. When it was clear that Mir would go longer than a year without defending his belt, the interim champ was made the “full” champ. It wasn’t about punishing Mir, it was simply about letting the division continue, with significant matchups made and fights promoted well.
Even GSP seems to agree that he shouldn’t be considered the UFC champion while going so long without defending the gold. “The way I see it, I am not the champion anymore on Saturday night. I have not fought since April, against my will, but I understand the champion must fight. You have to put the belt on the line in order to call yourself champion, the best in the world. Right now I am not the best in the world, I am injured,” he told UFC.com shortly before UFC 143.
UFC President Dana White was asked about immediately rematching Condit and Diaz at the UFC 143 post-event presser and said, “I don’t know. That’s crazy. That’s crazy.” Then again, he said it with a grin on his face. One has to guess that White wouldn’t mind another grudge match that features lots of Nick Diaz doing this in the lead up promotion.
But the only reason an immediate return bout for Condit and Diaz would be “crazy,” is if it wasn’t for the UFC welterweight belt. Condit having to beat Diaz twice for a shot at St. Pierre smacks of unfairness.
But take St. Pierre out of the immediate title equation, because he, like past injured champions, is not able to defend his title within a year, and you’ve got Carlos Condit as the defending UFC welterweight against his new shit-talking nemesis who just went blow for blow with him in a close five-rounder.
Automatic title rematches after close bouts are almost the norm in the UFC. See Randy Couture versus Pedro Rizzo in 2001, Lyoto Machida versus “Shogun” Rua in 2009 and 2010, and Frankie Edgar versus Gray Maynard in 2011. The only reason most haven’t been calling for the same to happen with Condit and Diaz is that there is currently the pesky matter of multiple champions.
Before UFC 143 the welterweight division had a love triangle of GSP, Diaz and Condit. Hell, St. Pierre was even a central character in Condit and Diaz’s Primetime special. After their close stand-up battle last weekend, and with GSP still unable to fight, we’ve basically got the same top three guys in play. It would be unfair to expect Condit and Diaz to go the better part of a year without the wages another fight would earn them while everyone waits for St. Pierre to heal up. And having either or both of them fight other men could just confuse the title picture further and push the rivalries that we’ve come to care about these past few months to the back burner.
White has said that Diaz fighting Koscheck next is interesting to him, but would it be to that many others? I, for one, am more interested to see if Koscheck can actually earn a win against someone like Mike Pierce after a gift decision Saturday. And with his wrestling Koscheck would have a good shot at beating Diaz, placing him closer to a third fight with St. Pierre that no one without a curly bleached FresnoFro wants to see. I’d much rather see Josh Koscheck and Javier Mendez square off after recent events.
St. Pierre is the best welterweight the UFC has, but unfortunately injuries have taken him out of the game for the time being. He can’t defend his title the way champions have historically had to, or in a manner that even he feels is sufficient.
Don’t make Condit sit out almost a year without earning a purse, the guy has a wife and kid to take care of, after all. Give the man the title he’s earned by winning against the number one contender and by essentially being on call for big fights for the last seven months and then let him earn his paper by taking on the man who made the “Natural Born Killer” turn to masterful tactics over his usual reckless abandon.
With Condit vs. Diaz II, the fans would have another evenly-matched blockbuster on their hands between two men who will start to resent each other more and more with each passing day. Would it suck for St. Pierre? Absolutely, but it wouldn’t be unfair to him.
Here’s an added bonus: Think St. Pierre doesn’t go for the finish anymore? Imagine the aggressive riddum he’d bring when he returns to bear on the man who holds the belt he never technically lost.