Photos from Tom SzczerbowskiZuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
The road to a superfight between UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva and welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre has been rocky. It is a road ripe with posturing, with changes-of-heart, with Catch-22 decrees of "cleaning out divisions."
I've clamored for this fight since 2009. Silva went through a three-fight streak where he jumped up to 205 pounds to fight James Irvin in the UFC's attempt to counter Affliction's debut PPV followed by two fights against overmatched middleweights Patrick Cote and Thales Leites. St. Pierre had just wrapped up the top guys at welterweight, knocking off perennial number two Jon Fitch, lightweight champ B.J. Penn, and Thiago Alves.
Instead of opening up to the idea of a Silva/St. Pierre superfight, Dana White and the UFC opted to give Dan Hardy a title shot against GSP, and asked Anderson Silva to sojourn back to 205 to fight Forrest Griffin followed by a defense of his belt against another overmatched middleweight in Demian Maia.
The UFC President and his business partner, Lorenzo Fertitta, started to change their tune prior to Silva's title defense against Vitor Belfort at UFC 126. White's concerns about Silva's size advantage over St. Pierre gave way to the obvious fact that neither fighter has much left to prove at their natural weights.
St. Pierre, who for the longest time has been the most consistent in his interest for the bout, has reverted to posturing of his own, specifically about the difficulty of moving between weight divisions:
"Right now, I am a 170-pounder. If I were to fight at 185 pounds, it would be a complete reorientation of my career. We've seen in the past with boxers like Roy Jones Jnr. In my opinion, what ended Roy Jones' career-winning streak was when he went up in weight and tried to go back down. It's not the fact that he went up; it's when he tried to go back down that messed him up. For me, it's a good example because Roy Jones was known as one of the best of all time before he started losing. It makes me think twice sometimes [about changing] weight; it's not really going up that hurts you, sometimes it's to go [back] down."
St. Pierre has remained adamant that any move to middleweight would be a permanent one, and would include a lengthy period of time off in order to safely put on the necessary bulk.
Stablemate Nate Marquardt may have let the cat out of the bag, though. After defeating at UFC 128, Marquardt surprised everyone by announcing his intention to drop down to 170 pounds. Guess who gave him the idea?
"Actually, he brought it up me," Marquardt said in comments made to ESPN.com. "He asked me what I was walking around at and said, 'Wow. You should drop to 170.'
"I was like, 'I don't know. You're the champion there. I want to be a champion.' He told me not to worry about it, that if that's what is best for me I have to do it. I didn't even think about it until he said it. Once I went back to my own camp, it made sense to me."
"Honestly, I'm not thinking about [a fight with GSP] and if it's ever an issue I'll deal with it then. I don't know if [St. Pierre] is planning on moving up but I definitely know he's considering fighting Anderson. I think that's a great fight and I think he has the perfect style to beat a guy like Silva."
It seems very odd for Georges St. Pierre to propose a situation that would put Nate Marquardt's title aspirations in jeopardy, no?
As for Silva, who's been his usual mercurial self when discussing the possibility of this fight, he's firmly on board Team Superfight.
"I really have no interest in getting revenge against Yushin Okami. We already fought. He lost. He got knocked out. Let's move on. But really, I'm in here to fight the best, and if he's credentialed to fight me, and he's up there to get a title shot, then he deserves it, and we've got to do it...
Georges St-Pierre is one of the best. He's shown that he's a great athlete, and I really train hard everyday to fight the best. I do believe it's a superfight, and it's a fight that must happen someday.
It really is a great superfight. I'm just happy that I know people are looking forward to watching this. I think this fight will make the fans happy. It's something they've been waiting for, and Georges St-Pierre is one of the best. I'll be very happy to give this pleasure to all my fans."
Silva has no interest in the Okami fight, and neither do I, but he's signed up to defend the title against him anyway at the UFC's show in Rio de Janeiro in August. The thinking might be that with GSP requesting significant time off to put on the weight and injuries to champions Cain Velasquez and Jon Jones that the UFC absolutely needed a middleweight title defense in the summer.
It's been two long years, but it looks like we're just a couple speed bumps away now.