In theory it sounds like a great idea. Take two generational talents who have proven themselves to be in a different league than the rest of their respective divisions and have them face each other to determine who is the pound for pound best fighter in all of mixed martial arts; in the process fans get a battle for the ages and the UFC has a chance to shatter all of its pay per view and box office records.
In practice though it's not so simple.
Recently it seems nearly every day brings a new wrinkle in the ongoing Georges St. Pierre/Anderson Silva/Jon Jones superfight triangle. As the situation currently stands Silva wants to fight GSP but is noncommittal about facing Jones, GSP is at his wits end answering questions about Silva, Jones is starting to warm up to the idea of fighting Silva after some initial reluctance, and Dana White wants to do whatever he can to make both fights happen.
For years the GSP/Silva fight was the holy grail in mixed martial arts. The idea of the two most dominant champions in the sport meeting inside the octagon held captive the imaginations of fans and journalists alike. Yet for some reason the fight never came together. It became a moot point when St. Pierre injured his ACL last year.
During GSP's nineteen months on the shelf Jon Jones has racked up four consecutive successful title defenses as light heavyweight champion and cemented his status as one of the greatest fighters fighters alive. Consequently the buzz has shifted from St. Pierre to a potential dream fight between Jones and Silva. However, MMA fans are notorious for their "what have you done for me lately" mindset. A St. Pierre victory over Carlos Condit in a few weeks would once again open the floodgates to more Silva/St. Pierre superfight speculation.
The question is does GSP want the fight? And if not - as it would appear judging by recent interviews - why?
Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to take a look back at the evening of January 31, 2009 when GSP dominated BJ Penn for four punishing rounds en route to a corner stoppage victory at UFC 94. As GSP had his way with an outclassed Penn he gained first hand experience of an adage that's as old as the fight game itself: a good big man beats a good little man nearly every time.
Sure, Penn's skills may not have been at GSP's level on that night. However, the reality is we'll never know if it was skill alone that won the fight for GSP because his superior size allowed him to muscle around the much smaller Penn and in the process better implement his game. When it comes to wrestling, scrambling for position, battling in the clinch, and being able to land strikes from the outside - size matters.
Which is why GSP isn't in a hurry to fight Anderson Sliva. He knows how the story ends when a much smaller fighter - no matter how talented - goes up against a bigger man who also happens to be one of the all time greats. Every advantage Silva has over GSP in terms of his overall game would be exacerbated by the difference in size between the two. For GSP his main advantage over Silva - his wrestling - would be more difficult to implement against a much larger opponent. Don't think for a second a fighter as cerebral as GSP hasn't thought about this a thousand times over.
This shouldn't be misconstrued that GSP is "ducking" Silva or that he's afraid of him. Why would he be in a hurry to take a fight where the deck is stacked against him due to a disparity in size? St. Pierre is currently the UFC's biggest pay per view draw. A big part of his appeal is based on his dominance inside the octagon. He's got big money sponsors in Gatorade and Under Armour to consider as well. While none of this is likely to change with a loss to Silva, GSP hasn't made it a secret in the past that wins and losses are very important for him. One loss in a superfight might not be the end of the world, but what if it's followed by another loss back at welterweight? What if he suffers an injury against the much larger Silva? At 31 years old can he afford to sit out another year and a half of his athletic prime? For GSP a loss to Silva could be the blow that sends sends his hard won dream life tumbling down like a stack of dominoes.
Of course St. Pierre would have one consolation if he lost a superfight with Silva: money. And lots of it. For GSP the Silva match up represents the largest payday he could earn for a single fight. The gamble is whether or not he's giving up more potential earnings in the future to cash in on a guaranteed monster payout.
With the above in mind it's easy to see why Silva's camp is campaigning for the GSP fight and seems lukewarm on the idea of him facing Jon Jones. Even with the weight cut it would take for the two to meet at a 178 pound catch weight, Silva would still have a huge size advantage over GSP. We're talking about a man whose last fight was at light heavyweight coming down to face a relatively small welterweight. Throw in the fact he stands to get paid a sum that would redefine the term "Anderson Silva money" for a superfight with St. Pierre and you might gain some insight into the Spider's thought process right now.
This isn't to say Silva is a bully looking for an easy win; he simply wants to take the advantageous match up first before moving onto the more challenging one.
Silva is in the enviable position of being the common denominator in both of these superfight scenarios. He potentially has the opportunity be part of two of the biggest fights in history if he plays his cards right. A win over St. Pierre would serve to make Silva a hotter commodity than ever going into a subsequent superfight against Jon Jones. In that case he's looking at two paydays that would redefine Anderson Silva money.
For Jones the superfight also makes sense. He's heavier than Silva and possesses a considerable reach advantage. What's more, one of his main strengths is wrestling, which is an area where Silva has struggled at times in the past. Jones is young enough in his career and has been dominant enough thus far that he'd likely be able to bounce back from a loss to the greatest fighter of all time. If he wins though, then he gets to lay claim to that lofty title himself.
But would it really prove Jones was the greatest if he beat Silva? The term "pound for pound best" gets thrown around when discussing superfights but that's a misnomer. "Pound for pound best" refers to is an imaginary scenario whereby we could determine the best fighter in the world if all things were equal. The problem with this is that when it comes to differences in size, all things will never be equal. That's why weight classes were implemented in the first place. It's also why the idea of a superfight crowning the mythic pound for pound best is flawed. It's impossible to know who the truly better man was when a larger fighter beats a much smaller one.
Which isn't to say superfights between GSP/Silva and Silva/Jones shouldn't happen. Both are exciting fights that would do huge business. It isn't often a fight comes along that captures the public's imagination the way both of these fights could. When it does it's a promoter's job to move heaven and earth to make it happen. Despite his misgivings, St. Pierre will likely acquiesce if the price is right. Silva is already on board to fight GSP so expect the long awaited superfight between the two to finally come to fruition next year if the welterweight champ beats Condit in a few weeks.
As for Jones and Silva, they are both likely playing coy in order to drive up their asking price. Silva will be 38 in April and knows the clock is ticking on his career. With Jones eying a move to heavyweight it would appear next year might be the last chance for the two to face off against each other. Dana White has gone so far as to "guarantee" the fight will take place but there are still a lot of moving parts in play before it can become a reality.
If all the pieces fall into place the UFC has the potential to do two of its biggest pay per view numbers of all time in 2013. Superfights might not always be fair from an athletic perspective, but they can make a lot of money for all parties involved.
At the end of the day that's usually what makes the world go round. Or in this case, the fighters step in the cage.
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