Dana White announced today via twitter today that UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre had torn his ACL, required surgery on his knee and would be out of action for at least ten months. In that same tweet, White announced that the February 4th match up of Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit would be for the UFC Interim Welterweight Championship.
It is said then when a door shuts a window opens, but in this case for UFC welterweights the window has flown open.
The shadow St. Pierre casts over the division is long. When he first became champion, there was no shortage of challengers but as his dominance grew challengers where picked because they represented a new style that could possibly give the Canadian troubles.
Elite Welterweights who had their chance at St. Pierre and faltered have been relegated to gatekeeper status, but keep scrupulously away from the most promising prospects so not to derail new possible challengers to the Champion. But now those concerns are a thing of the past, at least for a year. Welterweights under UFC contract had extra energy in their training today because they have a chance for UFC gold if they can put a few wins together.
On February 5th either Nick Diaz or Carlos Condit will be the defending champion of the division, and then the question of who is next can be addressed.
The welterweight schedule is wide open as the majority of high level welterweights are currently still waiting for their next fight. Names like Jake Ellenberger, Diego Sanchez, and Martin Kampmann were already in title talks before this news and now they are almost certainly one big win away from a title shot.
I fully expect Jake Ellenberger vs Diego Sanchez fight winner to be matched with the winner of Diaz/Condit. And even after that there is still a long line of possible challengers; John Hathaway, Rory McDonald, Mike Pierce, Johny Hendricks and even Rick Story are win or two away from being in the title picture.
And then there is the laundry list of elite fighters that have already had title shots against GSP. Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, and BJ Penn are still top level welterweights who were left searching for their place in a division where a title shot was no longer an option. While they likely will not be the first in line for this interim title because Zuffa brass may fear the image of a man GSP has already beat being hailed as champion, but it is highly likely that the UFC will be less nervous about throwing these elite fighters in against each other and against prospects.
This is not meant to celebrate the injury of a great champion and fighter, I wish Georges St. Pierre a swift and complete recovery. One thing is certain, when St. Pierre returns from injury there will be a new cream of the welterweight division chopping at the bit for a chance to face him.