Reflections on Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, and Potential Weight Shifting


Prior to UFC 94, Dana White was in favor of an Anderson Silva vs. GSP superfight.  After St. Pierre destroyed BJ Penn with ease, White's tune began to change.  He's retrospectively justified his attitude change by pointing to Anderson Silva's performance against Forrest Griffin, but the real reason he is opposed is a business reason.  

In Georges St. Pierre, the UFC has an incredible cash cow.  His fights draw such monstrous numbers in Canada that they're assured a successful number every time he fights.  He's a poster boy for moving the UFC to the next level with sponsors, he represents the sport well, and he's likely to draw huge numbers for years to come.  

Hilariously (sadly), there is a group of psuedo-informed MMA fans that actually like to bash Georges St. Pierre for not wanting to move up and fight a man that naturally walks around 40 pounds bigger than he does.  Apparently taking on a steady diet of top contenders in the most talented weight class in mixed martial arts is no longer enough to avoid being deemed a coward by keyboard warriors, even though 3 of his last 4 opponents have been bigger than him.

The truth is much kinder to St. Pierre's legacy than it is to Silva's or Penn's.  Unlike Penn, St. Pierre has never claimed to be bored in his weight class before demanding to move all over the place.  He's simply taken on all challengers with the desire to be the best.  Unlike Anderson Silva, he hasn't had injuries that depend on the drawing status of his opponents.  Regardless of the business implications of the fight, St. Pierre has done nothing but accept whatever opponent the UFC gave him, whether it was Matt Hughes, Jon Fitch, or Thiago Alves.  The fact that this discipline and respect for the sport is being held against him would be humorous if it wasn't so utterly insane.

This brings us to Anderson Silva.  On the Countdown to UFC 112, Anderson Silva talked about being interested in potentially testing himself at 170 pounds.  I blew the comment off at first, but I see he made the point again to Kevin Iole.  Silva is always looking for "big" fights because his compensation is tied to buyrates, and he knows a fight with St. Pierre will do a monster number.

I have no doubt Anderson Silva can make the cut if he wants to.  He noted on the Countdown, filmed nearly two weeks ago, that he was already down to 192 and would be 185 before even getting on the plane to Abu Dhabi.  He can make 170, but that doesn't mean he'll maintain his power, reflexes, and endurance at that weight.

Further, Silva no longer faces a complete absence of challengers in his own weight class.  Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, and Wanderlei Silva could all potentially challenge him in the next year.  But without strong semi-main events, none of those fights are going to draw big buyrates, and if Lyoto retains at UFC 113 he's not going to be doing much at 205 anytime soon. 

I believe we're seeing a little bit of boxing politics between St. Pierre and Silva.  St. Pierre is a superstar in his own right; he is a monster draw, and can make millions fighting a steady diet of contenders at 170.  He doesn't need to fight Silva to make spectacular money.  Silva, on the other hand, has a mixed track record as a draw.  He's never headlined a show that did a good number without a huge co-main event.  If Silva wants this fight, he's going to have to cut the weight and go down to St. Pierre's comfort zone rather than vice versa.

As far as the fight itself, I think it would be very interesting.  I think St. Pierre can take Silva down at will, but Silva's wrist control and length will present problems on the ground.  Given the immense size difference between the two men, making Silva deal with the cut down to 170 might make it a little more fair, all things considered.

Any worries that the loser of this fight will be damaged as a draw should be dismissed.  After BJ got destroyed at UFC 94, nobody knew what his future held.  There were rumors he'd retire, and some wondered if his drawing power, which had never been substantial, would be destroyed altogether as a result of such a severe beating.  The opposite turned out to be true: Penn's next two shows drew better numbers on pay per view than any show he'd ever headlined besides his fight with St. Pierre.

I've long been a proponent of this fight, because first and foremost I am a fight fan.  I want to see dream fights, and I want to see fights where I genuinely don't know what is likely to happen.  If Silva is really willing and able to make the cut, then I'm all in favor of this fight happening.


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