It was said by many a writer that Georges St. Pierre’s unfortunate gymnastics/Vitor Belfort-induced knee injury was a blessing in disguise for the welterweight division. For years, GSP had ruled the top spot with such authority that the rest of the division seemed laughingly uncompetitive by comparison. It was sort of like how I imagine the Justice League would be like – Superman, and a bunch of other people who are there to get him water, or balance his chequebook, or something.
The irony for most folks (myself included) is that we said the one most blessed by this turn of fate was Jon Fitch. Finally, “The Son of a Fitch” (not his real nickname…too bad) was going to get his (second) moment in the sun! Hendrick’s fist made quick work of that little fantasy.
Sidebar: wow, who would have thought that one month would see BOTH Jon Fitch and Mark Hominick knocked out in the time it takes you to put your pants on in the morning.
In lieu of a St. Pierre title defense – his most hotly anticipated one in a while – we now have an interim title fight that’s almost as good. Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit. Sure, neither of these guys has the distinguished resume of a GSP, but they’re not too shabby. Combined, there’s two world titles and plenty of elite-level scalps between them.
Plus, this fight is a guaranteed war, for as long as it lasts. Like eating bad sushi (and paying for it the next morning) there’s nothing you can do. It’s inevitable. Just grab a comfy seat, and wait for it to come.
And with this fight comes a question that strikes me as seriously silly, but let’s hear it (otherwise why are you reading this?):
“Should the winner of Diaz vs. Condit take another fight before GSP comes back?”
Of course he should. This seems like a no-brainer to me. But before I explain why, lets breakdown the reason why someone might think this was a bad idea.
First off, it’s the interim title. The interim title. Yuck. To most fans, just mentioning those words causes them to go a little queasy. “It’s not the real title,” they say accusingly. “It just dilutes the title lineage, confuses fans, and takes the focus off the rightful champion. Boooooooooooooooooooooo!” And so it goes.
There’s something of a historical precedent there, as the interim champ usually faces the returning actual champ in his next fight. Think BJ Penn vs. Sean Sherk, Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar, or GSP vs. Matt Serra II. The interim champ facing the actual champ one fight after winning his “interim” title is usually how business is done in the UFC.
But so what?
Yeah, it’s that simple. So what? So what if it’s an interim title or not? Why argue that the title picture is diluted when by even making the interim title, you already done the “damage”. You’re already calling another guy champion. You might as well let him defend his belt, seeing as how we know he’s going to face that other guy you call champion sooner or later.
And really, that’s the crux of my argument: a strong interim title will create interest, draw fans, and produce readymade storylines for PPV main events that are an easy “sell”.
Just picture it: Nick Diaz wins the belt Superbowl weekend, flipping everyone and their mothers off while he does it. Put a mic in his face and mention the name “GSP”, and watch Diaz sell the s*it (literally, and every other word George Carlin said you can’t say on TV) out of that fight. Cut to GSP in the crowd, fuming in his seat, and a feud is born. Or rather, is enhanced, since most fans want to see these guys scrap anyways.
Then have Diaz defend the belt against…oh, let’s say Jake Ellenberger. That’s another guaranteed fun fight (see the name Diaz? That’s usually a good sign.) with two guys who could offer interesting challenges to the returning GSP.
Joe Rogan: “Alright I’m here with the winner, Nick Diaz/Jake Ellenberger, the UFC Interim Welterweight champ! Tell us what’s next for you…”
Interim Champ: “I may have won tonight, but I won’t consider myself the true champion until I beat Georges St. Pierre… LIVE MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND AT THE MGM GRAND GARDEN AND CASINO IN LAS VEGAS NEVADA, LIVE ON PPV, TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE!”
I think you get my point.
If it’s Condit who prevails over Diaz? Even better. The UFC could play up the “both of us used to train at Jackson’s, Carlos once stood in GSP’s shadow but no more, GSP left Jackson’s and is there any bad blood?” storyline until the cows come home. Lord knows the UFC’s got a serious case of “must sell Team Jackson’s drama” blue balls over their inability to put together Rashad Evans vs. Jon Jones.
To my mind, there should be no question about this. The welterweight division is one of the most stacked in the UFC, and it shouldn’t be frozen like Han Solo in carbonite just because one guy is hurt. The division will do just fine without GSP in it – ok, no one will make nearly as much money in their title fights, but aside from that.
All an interim title (and defending it) does is give GSP a built-in opponent, storyline, and PPV super fight when he returns.
Near as I can tell, everybody wins.
By Elton Hobson