Dissecting the Log Jam in the UFC's Welterweight Division
The UFC has a major problem, folks.
After years of criticism for booking redundant matchups and the lack of qualified or legitimate challengers for the welterweight title, the UFC now has a plethora of fighters who have all been told they are next in line for the title.
To compound on this, current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre is still rehabbing a knee injury. His earliest return is set for November, while UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit sits idly by for his shot at the actual title.
While no official date for their bout has been announced, it is expected that they fight at UFC 154 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. I say "expected" because there is a legitimate possibility that St. Pierre will need additional time rehabbing his knee. His return could instead occur in 2013.
This alone sounds like a terrible situation for the UFC. The welterweight title is one of the most coveted in the sport, with the UFC's welterweight division widely considered to have the most depth. Outside of the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles, historically the welterweight division has provided the most marquee matchups for Zuffa.
What makes this even worse is that there isn't relief in sight.
Carlos Condit has opted to wait for St. Pierre's return. By keeping the welterweight division on hold, there is a possibility for fighters to either lose momentum or put together such a resume that they have a legitimate claim to a title shot.
That's the situation the UFC faces presently.
Prior to his bout with Josh Koscheck at UFC on Fox 3, Johny Hendricks was informed by UFC President Dana White that, with a victory, he would receive a shot at the UFC title. At the post-fight press conference, Hendricks didn't seem to be keen on fighting again lest he lose his shot.
That's all well and good, except that White has also said the winner of this weekend's welterweight bout between Martin Kampmann and Jake Ellenberger is also next in line for the welterweight title. It's what had added intrigue when the bout was first announced. There also hasn't been any retraction from Zuffa that Ellenberger and Kampmann aren't fighting for a title shot.
With Hendricks, Kampmann and Ellenberger all promised shots at the title, and Condit waiting for St. Pierre, what is the UFC to do with the welterweight division? First, I'm not sure that one fighter is more deserving of the shot than another.
All have put together impressive performances against top competition. All have also been extremely consistent and provide entertainment for the paying customer. These are qualities that are surely considered by Zuffa brass when discussing matchups.
There is a way for the UFC to resolve this issue, but it would require stripping St. Pierre of his title and naming Carlos Condit the welterweight champion.
It will be 18 months in between defenses, should St. Pierre return in November. There is precedent for this decision as the UFC stripped Frank Mir of his heavyweight title. The UFC promoted Andrei Arlovski from interim champion to undisputed champion while Mir was sidelined by injury.
By naming Condit the undisputed champion, it opens the welterweight title up for a defense and allows qualified contenders to fight for the belt. Should the UFC decide to not do this, they will experience a period where top contenders are willing to sit out for extended time periods to wait for their shots at the title.
That's just bad business.
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