Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
MONTREAL -- Life is generally very good at the top. It is for Georges St-Pierre, the UFC's multi-millionaire poster boy who has blue-chip sponsors, a growing legacy and the adoration of millions. If it's good to be the king, it's great to be GSP. But things are about to get a wee bit more uncomfortable for the UFC welterweight champion. Even before returning after 19 months away and with Carlos Condit standing in the way, talk of a super fight with middleweight champion Anderson Silva began, and it's only going to intensify after St-Pierre's stellar performance at UFC 154.
St-Pierre asked for and will receive a break following his gritty performance, but a weighty decision lies in his near future. Namely, whether he should accept or decline an offered mega-bout against middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
This is a possibility that has been pondered for years, ever since St-Pierre began to solidify his hold on the welterweight division. At the time, there were few perceived threats to Silva, leading many to wonder how St-Pierre's unrivaled wrestling skills would play out against him.
Now, the landscape has changed and for the fight to happen, the UFC would have to look past potential Silva matchups with Chris Weidman or Michael Bisping, should either win their next bout. St-Pierre also has a clear top contender in Johny Hendricks, who won in smashing fashion at UFC 154 with a crushing knockout of Martin Kampmann.
That won't be hard to do considering the mind-boggling possibilities around the proposed bout. On Saturday night, UFC president Dana White publicly said the promotion's goal would be to draw 100,000 fans if the fight was held at the massive Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, a venue that has been targeted by the company in the past. Those staggering expectations require not just a super fight but a super card, and so far, the timing has never been right to line everything up correctly. The other time it was looked at was when the UFC negotiated with Fedor Emelianenko to fight Brock Lesnar.
This, however, is a completely different situation, as the UFC has both fighters under contract, and scheduled in sync. While a bout generating the GDP of some small nations would likely require contract renegotiations so each fighter could benefit from the financial windfall, White doesn't expect that to be a major hurdle.
Instead, nearly all the weight for the decision will ride on St-Pierre. White obviously wants to promote the fight, Silva is on the record as wanting it as his next match, and so the rest is up to GSP.
Though he didn't shut the door on it, St-Pierre didn't exactly sound very enthused about the prospect of fighting Silva, citing the size differential between them. It's hard to blame him. All he has to do is move up in weight to face MMA's G.O.A.T.? It's not the most favorable situation, even most proponents of the matchup would admit.
"To me it seems like Silva -- and this is going to sound bad -- but it sounds like he's picking on Georges, just based on size," UFC middleweight Tom Lawlor said earlier this week. "Like a bigger guy picking on a smaller guy rather than him and Jon Jones are kind of comparable in size, more so at least than St-Pierre and Silva. That's not a fight I personally want to see. I know a lot of fans do just to see who would walk out with the win, but I'm not one of them."
The fact that as Lawlor notes, there seems to be a growing sentiment that Silva might more appropriately match up with light-heavyweight champ Jon Jones in a super fight, provides St-Pierre with some ammunition to say no. But the fact is, most fans want to see any champion vs. champion super fight, a rarity in the UFC, and would be wildly enthused to see the pairing of the widely considered Nos. 1 & 2 pound-for-pound best once the fight is signed.
The flip side argument is that accepting the match would rub off some of the criticism of St-Pierre as a calculated and risk-averse athlete. His performance against Condit certainly lent itself to that change. Agreeing to the fight with Silva might erase it forever.
Moreover, a win would almost certainly leap frog him over Silva in the pound-for-pound greatest of all time debates. There's no question that whoever puts an end to Silva's invincible air will benefit from that in any historical argument. With St-Pierre's status as the matchup's smaller man, well, it's almost doubly impressive.
After 19 months away, St-Pierre returned with fire and gusto, and a smile on his face, saying he had fun again. Earlier this week, his jiu-jitsu coach John Danaher said that in the gym, he saw a young, fresh-faced kid instead of a weary champion who was only worried about keeping his belt. St-Pierre convinced himself that he was chasing Condit and not the other way around. The challenge fueled him.
Against Silva, he wouldn't have to pretend he was an underdog; he actually would be one. After he gets his upcoming days of rest, perhaps he'll see that there's no greater puzzle than the one Silva provides. Yes, the size differential is daunting, but the greatest reward requires the greatest risk. No matter what, the Quebecois is going to face a worthy adversary, and he owes us nothing, but if he wants to chase the ultimate challenge, St-Pierre vs. Silva is not just the fight for now, it is a fight for all time.
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