If you've been watching the build-up to UFC 129's main event between Georges St. Pierre and Jake Shields, you have no doubt noticed that the focus is on making Shields appear to be a major threat. Yesterday, Jonathan Snowden attempted to make the case that this over-hyping of Shields may actually cause a bit of a backlash in terms of pay-per-view business. From his article:
The UFC has spent an hour of programming time with their latest UFC Primetime series looking to build Shields back up. If you watched the reality show in a vacuum, you'd think Shields was the prohibitive favorite. Of course in real life St. Pierre is anywhere from a -350 to a -500 favorite. The only word for that is "overwhelming." And why not? The champion has won eight consecutive fights since his stunning upset loss to Matt Serra in 2007. He's made it look easy; destroying NCAA wrestling champions, muay thai strikers, and jiu jitsu standouts with equal aplomb.
That's the hidden secret lurking beneath the surface. Shields isn't being overlooked here. He isn't being punished for not competing in the UFC for most of his eleven year career. He's not being given much of a chance because he doesn't have much hope of winning. MMA fans have seen Jake Shields - and we have found him wanting.
MMA fans seem to key in on the fact that you need a fight to be sold as competitive to draw an audience. That simply is not true. You didn't market a fight between Mike Tyson and Pinklon Thomas, Tony Tubbs or even Buster Douglas by saying Tyson may lose. And when Tyson did lose to Douglas, that dominant aura turned Douglas into a popular culture star. Maybe a comparison to Tyson, who became must-see because of his violent style is unfair for the supremely skilled St. Pierre. Maybe Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a more apt comparison. No one really bought the idea that Mayweather was going to lose to Juan Manuel Marquez or Shane Mosely. But the fans still flocked to buy those fights because Mayweather has always been marketed as a dominant force in the sport.
Still, the point stands. For some reason, the UFC is far too hesitant to promote one of the two best fighters in the sport as the force he is. Despite being a major draw already and not even remotely struggling in a fight in going on four years, the UFC continues to seemingly push GSP's challengers harder than GSP himself in their promotional material.
In fact, as recently as last October, Dana White has made his feelings on GSP not being top 3 pound-for-pound in the sport clearly known:
Anderson Silva is a pain in my ass. This isn't Chuck Liddell, we aren't best friends. But you can't deny what the man has done...He (Silva) HASNT LOST in the UFC! The guy has not only cleared out his division, he's gone up to 205 (from 185) and beaten a guy like Forrest Griffin (former 205 champ), who beat Rampage Jackson AND (current champ) Shogun Rua...And Frankie Edgar is right there too. I might actually put him at No. 2. This guy is for real. He beat BJ Penn twice, and kicked his ass in their last fight. I love and respect Manny Gamburyan, but he's no BJ Penn. And the only thing keeping GSP (170 pound champ Georges St. Pierre) out of the top 3 is (a KO loss) to Matt Serra.
St. Pierre is charismatic, incredibly driven to be the best and amazingly dominant in a legitimately deep division. I maintain that UFC 129 should break the 750,000 PPV buy mark. But if it disappoints at the box office don't blame Jake Shields, blame the UFC for not marketing St. Pierre as the era defining force that he truly is.