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Should No. 1 contender fights be five rounds? Carlos Condit says yes

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

DALLAS -- Atop a small elevated stage in the corner of Dallas' American Airlines Center, next to the black and white posterboard that bears his name, Carlos Condit leans forward into his high-chair and explains his idea.

"I think if it's a title eliminator, it should be five rounds," he says, scratching his thick black stubble.

"Whoever wins, whoever gets that title shot, is going to have to fight a five-rounder. I think you should have to go in there and perform in a five-round fight, and show that you have the ability. Because if you're gassing and you're fading in three, you may or may not be a worthy contender, as opposed to somebody who's pushing through and really finding their stride in those rounds."

It's an interesting proposition, and one obviously influenced by Condit's own unique circumstances. With welterweight's once unflappable final boss now removed from the equation, "The Natural Born Killer," a barbarous disciple of Greg Jackson's school of violence, who at a time called himself interim UFC title holder, finds his stock once more rocketing towards the real thing.

Aside from Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler -- the two men already vying for Georges St-Pierre's suddenly vacant throne -- four other highly-ranked welterweights are set to collide at UFC 171. Among them though, only Condit truly controls his own fate. A win over Tyron Woodley at UFC 171 all but guarantees Condit his chance at gold, so says the powers that be.

Yet why, then, would he want to make the road that much more challenging?

"It's something that I've had on my mind for a while," Condit says. "Looking at, particularly Johny Hendricks, he's a guy who in some of his fights has kind of faded in the third round. In my fight, in Josh Koscheck's fight.

"In boxing you look at it, and guys who are fighting in the upper echelon, whether it's a title fight or it's not a title fight, it's 12 rounds. Once you get to a certain level, everybody's fighting 12 rounds, so in the upper echelon of the sport, there's not this distinction."

Of course Condit's pitch, interesting as it may be, brings to mind an important question which asks, well... what exactly constitutes a UFC title eliminator?

Does UFC 171's co-main event count, simply because Condit's title hopes are in the direct line of fire? What about the possibility of a Woodley upset? It's doubtful a win would mean the same for the division's No. 11 fighter as it does for No. 2.

But let's assume all of the nitty gritty details can be ironed out, and move from semantics to logistics. Could a five-round title eliminator clause even be possible given the UFC's time restraints on fight night?

"I think there can be," says Condit's striking coach, Brandon Gibson. "We see pay-per-view events where there's two titles being held the same night. They could fit in two five-rounders, even if they're not both championship fights."

Gibson's point is hard to argue against. After all, any chance for an extra 10 minutes of mayhem certainly wouldn't be the end of the world, especially for fights where massive financial stakes are on the line between two world-class competitors.

It's easy to forget, but even non-title main events used to be contested for three rounds as recent as mid-2011. Then a few months after the rule change went into effect, Shogun Rua used his extra newfound time to go nuclear zombie mode on Dan Henderson. And who wants to live in a world where that masterpiece ends before it truly starts?

Though that's not to say support for Condit's idea is unanimous.

"Ask them why they want it to be five rounds," Woodley points out. "I think they're looking at this particular match-up, this particular fight, and they want it for this particular fight because it puts him more in the driver's seat.

"They're in favor of it because he's a slow starter, and that's why they want five rounds, because they know I'm going to come out like a damn bat out of hell and I'm going to be all over him like white on rice, and he can lose the first two rounds and then he has to go for the kill. I'm not an easy animal to kill."

It's true that, at least in Condit's case, it's easy to suggest that everyone do more work than is already required of them when cardio issues are the farthest things from your mind. If every fight lasted until it couldn't tangibly last anymore, something tells me Condit wouldn't exactly mind.

Although, Woodley also points out another issue of contention that, at least upon first thought, would be something often overlooked by non-fighters.

"I just think they don't pay enough money for fourth and five rounds," he says. "It's called championship rounds. Your payment is the same unless you're fighting for a world title. I feel like if you're getting paid three-round fight money, you should get paid three-round fight money to fight three rounds. You shouldn't get the same pay to fight two more rounds. I don't agree with it.

"But I know why they're [asking for it]," Woodley continues, "Because it's exciting. You watch fights like Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger, and you watch Carlos Condit vs. Johny Hendricks -- two more rounds and Carlos Condit probably would've pulled that fight out because Johny was easing up on the gas tank. So I think for the fans it's great, but for us fighters, you should be honored to be in five rounds. It should be something that you earn. It should be a title fight."

For someone on the outside looking in, that's a harder point to reconcile. Because really, fans and media, we just reap the rewards. We're not the ones out there doing the actual hard work, killing ourselves day in and day out to prepare these hardened sacks of meat and bone for legitimate and potentially catastrophic physical combat.

Still, Gibson reasons, if the UFC has already committed itself to staging an event seemingly every week, complete with Fight Night cards where No. 6 and No. 9 contenders carry their work into these aforementioned ‘championship rounds,' shouldn't the same luxury be afford to the fighters who consider themselves at the pinnacle of their profession?

"I just think it's silly sometimes that we'll have five rounds for guys who aren't even ranked in the top-10, but they're main events. But, a title contending fight can't be five rounds?" Gibson asks. "And maybe I'm just biased. I think if we would have had one more round against Johny Hendricks, we have a different match-up right now for this vacant title.

"I just think Carlos against Tyron could be headlining any other card, but they want to do these mega-pay-per-views, these awesome almost grand prixs -- why can't we have more than one five-round fight on it?"

Ultimately, Condit acknowledges, it's just an idea; not only that, but one that obviously works in its creator's favor.

Nonetheless the game is always evolving, and if the many kinks could somehow be hammered out, five-round title eliminators could be an intriguing possibility to consider moving forward.

"I don't know. We'll see if it happens at some point," Condit finishes with a shrug. "Maybe it's just a pipe dream."