On Saturday night at UFC 154, which takes place at Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon when he fights UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit in the evening’s main event to unify the belts and crown an undisputed welterweight champion.
But while Condit has the chance to play spoiler and ruin St-Pierre’s return, in my opinion that would be a very bad thing, not just for the UFC, but for the sport of MMA in general. The reason isn’t because Condit wouldn’t be a worthy champion or that he doesn’t deserve to be in the situation he’s in, it’s because Condit winning would nix a possible super-fight between St-Pierre and UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, a fight that needs to happen for the sport to grow.
The UFC, and MMA as a whole, has had a very rough 2012. While the year started on a high note with the beginning of the UFC’s seven-year deal with FOX, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan. Firstly, the UFC has dealt with numerous injuries that have cost the promotion, the fighters, and most important the fans, so many great fights. St-Pierre was supposed to fight Nick Diaz earlier this year at UFC 143, but he blew his knee out and the fight got cancelled. UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz blew out his own knee, too, and his UFC 148 bout against Urijah Faber was nixed. UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo also missed two scheduled title defenses, against both Erik Koch at UFC 149 and Frankie Edgar at UFC 153. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it’s come to injuries this year, as it seems like nearly every one of the 400-or-so fighters under the Zuffa banner has been injured.
The worst injury was no doubt when Dan Henderson hurt his knee and pulled out of his UFC 151 match up against UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones a week before their bout. As a result, UFC president Dana White had Chael Sonnen fill in on one week’s notice to fight Jones, but the champion refused to fight him, and when other contenders like Lyoto Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua turned down the fight, too, the entire event was cancelled for the first time in the history of Zuffa.
And while that was bad enough, Strikeforce too had its share of ups and downs as well. An injury to lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez nixed his title defense against Pat Healy, and the promotion’s September event was cancelled a week before it was supposed to happen, the first time in Strikeforce history that occurred, too. And then former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir — who had crossed over for a one-off fight against Daniel Cormier — hurt himself, and the Strikeforce event that was planned for this November was cancelled, too. So after a decade-plus of no cancelled events, Zuffa scrapped three events in the span of two months, which didn’t help anyone.
Suspensions to some of the sport’s biggest stars have also been a problem. First it was Nick Diaz, who tested positive for marijuana metabolites after his UFC 143 bout against Carlos Condit and who was suspended for a year by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, nixing any chance of a rematch with Condit. Then it was Alistair Overeem, who was flagged for elevated testosterone levels, scrapping his high-profile UFC 146 bout against UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. And then there’s that whole matter of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which is a whole other can of worms.
As well, pay-per-view sales have been poor in 2012 — look at UFC 147 or UFC 150 as examples — and ratings for “The Ultimate Fighter” were horrendous. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the demise of Strikeforce yet. Yeah, it’s been rough this year.
It seems like, to me, the sport has plateaued in 2012, which breaks my heart because I — as well as many others — really thought it was going to take off in 2012. But it hasn’t, and now people are wondering the sport is just a fad that’s worn off.
First off, MMA is definitely not a fad. But, there’s also no doubt that fan interest has cooled off this year, and the UFC needs to do something about that.
Cue the super-fight between St-Pierre and Silva.
Not only does the UFC need this fight for this own personal growth, but the sport of MMA needs this fight so it can continue growing, too, because Silva vs. St-Pierre is not only going to be the biggest fight in UFC and MMA history if or when it happens, but it is also one of the biggest fights in the history of combat sports. And that’s exactly why the UFC needs this fight to happen, and why Condit needs to lose on Saturday night. A victory for “The Natural Born Killer” would put a screeching halt to any more talks about it.
Fans want to see Silva vs. St-Pierre. It would be a fight between arguably the No. 1 and No. 2 pound-for-pound mixed martial artists in the world today — if not in history — and would help build buzz up for the sport and for the UFC at a time when it needs to start generating fan interest again at the most. This is a fight that could break UFC attendance and gate records. It’s a fight that will generate mainstream media attention. It’s UFC 129 all over again — an event where you can argue the UFC peaked — only it’s even bigger and better. And that can only be a good thing in every possible way.
Condit has earned his right to fight for the UFC welterweight title. But for the sake of the sport, he needs to lose, because St-Pierre vs. Silva needs to happen. We’ll have to wait until Saturday night to see what happens.