Call it coming full circle, just a great fight or a chance to get back to the top of the division after a loss. Whatever it is for Carlos Condit, his impending rematch with Rory MacDonald at UFC 158 in March is both welcome and somewhat unexpected.
It definitely wasn't the most obvious fight when he thought about what was next for him, but so what? In considering it, he believes it's a fantastic way to move forward in the UFC welterweight division, especially given the high point MacDonald has reached these days.
"No, not right off the top of my head," Condit told Ariel Helwani Monday on The MMA Hour in response to the question of whether fighting MacDonald was the top choice after the New Mexico native lost to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 154 in November.
But the more he thought about it after being called out publicly many times by MacDonald, the more the fight began to make sense. "When the opportunity arose everything kind just fell in line. It's a great fight. I'm excited," Condit admitted.
In fact, the more Condit pored over the idea, he realized not simply how good it was for him, but how badly MacDonald wanted revenge. "I know that his loss to me wasn't sitting well with him. I was excited, man. Like I said, it's a great fight. We're going to put on a hell of an entertaining fight. It was definitely what I wanted to hear."
And revenge is definitely the operative word.
This won't be the same MacDonald he faced before at UFC 115 in June of 2010, which was a MacDonald 'The Natural Born Killer' barely got by to begin with. Nevertheless, it was one he was able to defeat in the end. After being pummeled for more than two rounds, Condit staged a late third-round comeback to earn a TKO stoppage with seven seconds left in the fight.
For a fight that was almost a one-way beating at the hands of MacDonald, the late loss was both a learning experience and the beginning of a huge chip on the Canadian's shoulder.
Condit knows while he's improved on his own since then, there's no denying MacDonald is a different man as well. He's older, better and a whole lot angrier.
"He looked really good [at UFC on FOX 5]. His stand-up's come a long way. He's kind of developed a lot of new weapons and he looked great," he said. "I think more versatile. He has more tools in his tool belt."
That isn't the only change Condit's noticed. A mean streak has developed in MacDonald, to the point where he's publicly proclaiming on Twitter and in interviews his desire to do untold damage to and cause embarrassment in all of his opponents, Condit included.
"I've felt that vibe being around him the last couple of years. I think it's pretty legit. I think he's genuine," Condit said.
So is MacDonald crazy or just a colorful person?
"I think it's a fine line, right?," Condit wondered. "I don't know. He's a young guy and he's trying to figure out who he is. I think we all go through that. I don't really pay too much mind to that. My concern is the guy, the fighter that I am meeting in the cage."
Condit acknowledges, however, that whatever self-discovery process MacDonald is on, it's also a part of who he is when he competes. In Condit's mind, MacDonald isn't totally divorcing pre-fight antics with in-cage performances and that will be the key to his demise. "I gotta be better than I was in the last fight," Condit admitted. "He's coming into this fight with a lot of emotion, a lot of anger. I really feel like I'm going to be able to use that to my advantage."
A win over MacDonald puts Condit right at or close to the top of the division, which gives him a chance for a rematch against the division's champ. But UFC 158 isn't merely about the MacDonald-Condit rematch. Another pair of welterweights will tangle in the main event that evening. Coincidentally, two welterweights Condit himself has already faced: Nick Diaz and St-Pierre.
As the story goes, the opportunity Diaz received was initially promised to Johny Hendricks (Condit himself was almost fast-tracked to a title shot before St-Pierre injured his knee prior to UFC 137). Despite Hendricks putting Martin Kampmann away in a brutal first-round finish at UFC 154 and being publicly promised a title shot by UFC President Dana White, Diaz nevertheless got the call to fight GSP. This despite Diaz having most recently lost to Condit and spending a year on suspension for testing positive for marijuana metabolites after that UFC 143 loss.
Condit is sympathetic to the plight of Hendricks, but recognizes who you fight and where isn't merely a function of achievement. You just have to take the opportunities when you get them.
"Hendricks deserved the title shot without a doubt, but UFC is a business and the fight with GSP and Nick Diaz is going to sell a hell of a lot of pay-per-views and gets people very, very excited. I guess there's two different ways to look at it. I feel bad for Hendricks. He definitely deserves the shot, but it is what it is," he said.
And who does he give the edge to in that main event? After all, Condit dropped a decision to St-Pierre, but took a close victory over Diaz. If anyone knows what both offer in a real fighting context, it's Condit.
"I'm going to go with Georges," Condit stated. "When he fought me he was coming off a long layoff. I think he's going to be sharper in his next fight."
That doesn't mean things are hopeless for Diaz. In fact, Condit says discounting Diaz's chances would be a terrible mistake.
"I wouldn't count Diaz out. He's got a very unorthodox style. He may be able to use that to his advantage and pull off the upset."