At UFC 143, Carlos Condit became the UFC Interim Welterweight champion by defeating the toughest opponent of his career. Nick Diaz was on a powerful winning streak and seemed destined for a fight with Georges St. Pierre, but Condit got in the way. The result of that fight is not without controversy. Many think Diaz should have won, and many think Condit only got the win by running away in a boring performance. Yet the results speak for themselves – in the end, it was Carlos Condit who had his hand raised, Carlos Condit who became the new champion, Carlos Condit who now moves on to face GSP. But when he does face St. Pierre, he’ll be doing so without one of the best tools in his arsenal.
Greg Jackson, the long-time coach to Condit and occasional trainer for St. Pierre, is in all likelihood going to sit this fight out, choosing to corner neither man. In the lead-up to UFC 137, during the period when it looked like GSP vs. Condit would headline that show, Jackson addressed this issue with MMA Fighting:
Ariel Helwani: Greg, two of your star fighters are going to fight each other in October. What will do you?
Greg Jackson: Teammate protocols are pretty clear in this situation so everybody knows what happening. I step out, the other coaches -- John [Danaher], Phil [Nurse] and Firas [Zahabi] -- will take care of GSP and probably [Mike] Winkeljohn and some of the other guys here will take care of Carlos. But I step out of it, so I won't be cornering either guy. They'll fight each other. Those are the new teammate protocols. We knew this would be coming -- it will probably be coming again --but this time we are very well prepared.
Carlos trains in Albuquerque full-time, while GSP's home base is in Montreal, so how will you not offer advice when you see him in the gym?
Carlos is still training with a team. I am just not going to do game plans and private lessons and everything that I normally do for the guys because usually it's a pretty intense process -- I give them private lessons all the time -- heavy on the game planning, heavy on the personal growth plan, and for this, I'll just let the other coaches do that for both Georges and Carlos. So I'll just step out. They're all amazing coaches. Geez, I'm the worst coach on the team. They'll all do their thing.
Though he has not yet spoken about this in the aftermath of UFC 143, it seems likely that Jackson’s stance will be the same, and that Condit will find himself without his head trainer’s services during the fight. And that is a serious blow to the new champion.
In his defeat of Diaz, Condit’s greatest strength was his game planning, led by Jackson. Jackson and Condit figured out how to deal with Diaz’s unorthodox striking and successfully nullified the high-volume puncher over the course of 25 minutes. It was clear they studied tapes and formulated a plan that would lead to victory. Without that gameplan, expect a very different result from Condit vs. Diaz.
Against GSP, Condit will need an even greater emphasis on strategy. St. Pierre is one of the most cerebral fighters in the game, a champion who always forces his opponents into their areas of weakness, while never showing any weaknesses himself. Unlike some champions, and some great fighters, GSP doesn’t have an obvious hole in his game. That’s not to see he is unbeatable – no one is – but finding the path to victory against him will be difficult. Greg Jackson is the kind of master strategist and coach who perhaps can find that path – but he won’t.
This past weekend, Carlos Condit took the biggest step up in competition of his career, and he succeeded largely on the strength of his strategic approach. Against GSP, he’ll take an even greater step up, and his key partner in that strategic planning will be taken away from him. I said after the Diaz win that I was finished underrating Condit, and I am not going to go back on that now. But the loss of Jackson will make an already difficult mountain to climb just that much harder. This will be the true test of what Carlos Condit is made of. Can he pass?
For more on this issue, check out "Carlos Condit and Greg Jackson Solved Nick Diaz" by Kid Nate.