UFC 154 is just around the corner and will mark the return of welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre after a long layoff with a knee injury. St-Pierre was out for over a year, and someone had to keep the belt warm while he was away.
Carlos Condit defeated Nick Diaz to earn the honor of interim title holder, and he will now get his chance to make it real by defeating St-Pierre on November 17th. Make no mistake, Condit is top of the food chain in the division and will give GSP all he can handle in his return.
Both of these men have been competing in MMA for years and at the very top wherever they were fighting throughout their careers. It seemed inevitable that these two would be on a path to clash at some point or another, and let's take a comparative look at the career timelines of the two best welterweights in the world.
Georges St-Pierre—21 years old
St-Pierre was a professional bouncer for a club in Montreal before he turned to pro fighting in 2002. He made his professional debut against local veteran (and current UFC fighter) Ivan Menjivar.
Menjivar was already 4-0 in his career, and St-Pierre stopped him in his tracks with a TKO at four minutes, 59 seconds of the first round. GSP was on his way as he would have two more fights and wins in 2002, winning and defending the Quebec regional TKO welterweight title in the process.
Carlos Condit—18 years old
Condit made his professional MMA debut in 2002, as well, at the age of 18 and three years younger than GSP. Condit's first fight was at the Aztec challenge in Juarez Mexico.
Condit had a very quick debut as he tapped out Nick Roscorla at 0:52 seconds of the first round via rear naked choke submission. It is Condit's one and only fight of 2002.
Georges St-Pierre—23 years old
St-Pierre makes his UFC debut at the beginning of 2004 with a unanimous decision win over a tough Karo Parisyan at UFC 46 in Las Vegas. He then beats Jay Hieron with a first round TKO to get a shot at the welterweight champion Matt Hughes.
St-Pierre is 7-0 and 2-0 in the UFC but is seemingly rushed into this title shot with the dominant champion Hughes. GSP makes a mistake and loses via armbar at 4:59 of the first round to suffer the first loss of his career. He is clearly destined for big things in the future.
Carlos Condit—20 years old
Condit has an incredible year in 2004 with six fights in the regional circuit near his home in New Mexico and Colorado. After three wins to start the year from January to May, Condit suffers the first loss of his career to Carlo Prater. Ironically, the fight is in his hometown, but Condit quickly bounces back with two more wins to end a 5-1 year.
His professional record is now 10-1 and the UFC is nowhere near in sight.
Georges St-Pierre—25 years old
GSP starts the year with a very tough fight against B.J. Penn for a chance to fight Hughes for the title. St-Pierre starts the fight very slow and suffers a broken nose from a Penn uppercut before turning the tables and winning the next two rounds and the fight. It sets him up with a rematch with the champion Hughes.
St-Pierre wins the UFC welterweight title at 25 years old with a TKO victory over his idol, Hughes. It is GSP's second chance at the title and he declares himself the best 170-pound fighter in the world. His professional record is 13-1.
Carlos Condit—22 years old
Condit is still paying his dues and slugging it out in the smaller shows of the mixed martial arts world and he is really making a name for himself in the process.
He fights six more times in 2006, including taking part in the prestigious Rumble in the Rock welterweight tournament. Condit makes his name by beating Renato Verissimo and Frank Trigg in the tourney before losing in the finals by decision to Jake Shields.
Condit ends his year by going over to Japan and getting three wins in the famed Pancrase promotion. His professional record is 18-4.
Georges St-Pierre —28 years old
Following a tough time after losing his title to Matt Serra in a big upset defeat, St-Pierre is now back on top and leading the UFC to new heights as the poster boy for the promotion.
Coming off a war in which he defeated Jon Fitch, GSP enters the year set to take on Penn in the biggest UFC superfight in years. It is champion versus champion for the first time in a long time, and St. Pierre is more than ready for it. He batters Penn for four rounds before Penn's corner throws in the towel before the start of the fifth round. St-Pierre is on top of the MMA world.
He has one more fight in 2009 with a solid decision win over the dangerous Thiago Alves where he injures his groin badly and is out of action until March of 2010.
Carlos Condit—25 years old
After slugging his way through the regional ranks for years, while gaining and defending the WEC welterweight title, Condit is finally signed by the UFC.
The 23-4 fighter makes his UFC debut against tough fighter Martin Kampmann and loses by unanimous decision in his debut. The young fighter is getting no freebies as his next fight is against young lion Jake Ellenberger.
Condit defeats Ellenberger by decision and bounces back to even his record to 1-1 in the UFC.
Georges St-Pierre—31 years old
St-Pierre is still on top with an incredibly long reign as the UFC welterweight champion. He has not fought since April of 2011, where he beat Shields in a unanimous decision. It was a similar performance to many recent GSP performances as it left many wanting more.
Knee injury aside, it is getting tougher and tougher for St-Pierre to keep his spot at the top with elite fighters like Condit, Diaz and Kampmann constantly on his heels. Condit poses many problems for GSP with his movement and his length on his feet.
If St-Pierre can win, no matter how he wins, he will once again declare his dominance in his division and as one of the greatest fighters of all time.
Carlos Condit—28 years old
Even though Condit has been making his steady climb, he has not been the most active fighter in the UFC since he arrived in 2009. He has only had four fights and one in 2012 to set up this date with GSP.
Condit defeated Diaz in February and then decided to wait for this title shot with GSP to come, instead of staying active, sharp and defending his interim belt. Considering the amount of activity early in his career, Condit has earned his right to wait, but it doesn't make his interim tag any more legitimate in doing so.
If Condit can win, he will definitely be able to bask in the joy of defeating and dethroning GSP. It is how he does it that will really tell the tale for Condit and show if he is the new sheriff in town, or just a passing tenant to the penthouse of the UFC's toughest division.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and MMA freelance reporter