Il est temps!
Over the past year, the UFC has ballooned into a global presence, adding regular events to an enormous market like Brazil, re-establishing itself in Japan, verging on a groundbreaking show in China, making inroads to the subcontinent of India, and, above all, the monstrous seven year deal with the FOX network. Fighters from a myriad of weight classes have benefited and emerged as new stars, with household names like UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos and, most definitely, UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. But one name has been absent from the Octagon for these highly publicized past 19 months, one who previously was the undeniable face of elite mixed martial arts: Georges “Rush” St-Pierre.
On November 17th, GSP is back.
At UFC 154, at the Bell Centre in his hometown of Montreal, Canada, the UFC welterweight championship will become undisputed again as St-Pierre will meet the man who carried the crown in his absence: “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit.
On April 30, 2011, the UFC held its largest event in company history, with 55,000+ screaming Canadians in attendance packing the Rogers Centre in Toronto for UFC 129. The headliner was, of course, St-Pierre successfully defending his belt for a sixth time against grappling ace Jake Shields, and it would be the last time UFC fans would see GSP in the cage for more than a year. With the champ on the shelf due to an ACL injury, Condit stepped up to take on Nick Diaz for the newly minted interim title at UFC 143 in February, which Condit won with a memorable unanimous decision.
That is the main event’s predicament. Two belts, two champions. As tickets for UFC 154 go on sale this week, St-Pierre and Condit met with the media Thursday at the Montreal Science Centre with each of their 10 pounds of gold gleaming in front of them. While neither combatant has shown any real penchant for trash talk in the past, both “Rush” and “The Natural Born Killer” spent the press conference lauding the other with praise while presenting themselves as the even more humble cagefighter.
Up first is the 28-year-old former WEC welterweight champion, who was born, raised, and still fights out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. With a professional record of 28-5 and a perfectly mirrored 13 knockout and 13 submission victories, Condit has quickly become everything fight fans had hoped for and more since joining the UFC. Condit’s early stumbles in the Octagon are long forgotten, with his three-fight KO/TKO bonus winning streak followed by his claiming of the interim title against Diaz earlier this year. Nevertheless, Condit fully believes that a victory in a hostile arena in Montreal is what separates him from truly acknowledging his accomplishments.
“My goal in this sport is to be the best in the world,” tells Condit. “Georges is the best fighter in the welterweight division and has proven that time and time again. To be the best I have to beat Georges. I'm not the official champ. Until someone beats him, he's the undisputed champion. Until I beat him then I don't feel like I'm the true champion.”
On the other side of the Octagon is the 22-2, with 16 of those wins in the UFC, top pay-per-view drawing St-Pierre. At 31 years old, the Montrealer has maintained a nine fight win streak with all but one of those fights involving the welterweight title. St-Pierre has been a fixture in the UFC as far back as 2004, and has evolved as a martial artist throughout the years to be the best of the best in every area, whether it is striking, submissions, wrestling or anything else. Renowned for his athleticism as well as being an exemplary strategist, GSP is widely missed for the competitive gravitas he brings to each and every Octagon appearance.
“I'm fighting the most dangerous guy I have fought,” reveals St-Pierre. “The most well rounded martial artist I have fought. And I’m coming off the longest stretch of inactivity. That’s two challenges. In my contract, I was supposed to defend my title every year. I could not because of injury. It is up to me to take the title from Carlos.”
Adding to the intrigue of this 170-pound showdown will be a lack of Greg Jackson in either competitor’s corner. While Condit’s home gym is Jackson’s, St-Pierre has often trained there as well as had Jackson make the pilgrimage to his Montreal home gym of Tristar. Both are regularly cornered by Jackson, but neither will have him in his corner for this bout.
“Greg told us that he won't be helping either of us,” explains St-Pierre. “At the tactical point he won't help either of us. Carlos is training with his guys in Albuquerque, and I'm training with my guys in Montreal. On November 17th, we will be alone in the cage and the best man will win.”
As far as gameplans go, none have been effective on either fighter. While under the Zuffa banner, the two champions have been defeated a combined three times and have won a combined 26 times - neither fighter is accustomed to losing. As each had only complimentary comments about the other, both believed if there was anything to focus on going into this main event, it was to simply make sure they are at their peak because they take for granted their opponent will be.
“His opponents have said this is where he is weak and I think that was a mistake because Georges is one of the best fighters in the world - the best fighter in the world,” asserts Condit. “I am worried about being the best I can be and not worried about what Georges is bringing to the table.”
On November 17th at UFC 154 in “la belle ville” Montreal, the UFC welterweight division is officially back with a classic collision of contending champions between St-Pierre and Condit. “Carlos is a true gentleman, I am a gentleman, but on November 17th we won’t be gentlemen to each other - we will try to knock each other out,” affirms St-Pierre. No need for trash talk or pre-bout extravagances; what is driving this great matchup is once and for all winning this undisputed title, of which Condit simply states, “I'm trying to be the best in the world; that's motivation enough.”
Certainly motivation enough for fight fans to want to watch it.