It's been more than a year and a half since Georges St-Pierre defended his UFC welterweight title. The sport's most popular fighter has left a gaping hole in the industry, his absence notable in every metric the UFC uses to track it's own success.
Short on stars after the retirements of its two biggest stars, Brock Lesnar and Chuck Liddell, the UFC could ill afford St-Pierre's extended absence. But St-Pierre, sidelined by a badly injured knee, is not to blame for the dearth of welterweight title fights while he's been furiously rehabbing. The lack of action is beyond the Canadian legend's control.
Blame, instead, falls squarely on the shoulders of UFC President Dana White. Counting today, the UFC has had an interim welterweight champion, Greg Jackson trained fighter Carlos Condit, for 263 days. And, for the 263 days since he beat Nick Diaz in a controversial fight, Carlos Condit has sat at home staring at his big gold belt. He's trained obsessively. He's gone to the store, gotten his haircut and gone about his life.
What Carlos Condit hasn't done, for 263 days, is step into the UFC Octagon. Rather than defend this manufactured title, Condit has chosen to wait for St-Pierre. And wait. And wait.
All of this begs the question—why even bother with an interim belt? The idea of an interim championship is to keep the belt in circulation while the real champ is temporarily out of commission. Instead, Condit has chosen to use his status as interim champion to crown himself as some kind of permatop contender. Rather than risk his shot at St-Pierre and defend his title, he's content to keep a firm grip on the chance of a lifetime.
You can see where Condit is coming from. The pay day for a St-Pierre match will be enormous, as it's a bout guaranteed to perform well on pay per view and at the box office. Beyond that, he will be getting a shot at one of the best fighters of all time immediately after knee surgery. St-Pierre will never be more vulnerable, his martial skills and fighting spirit rustier, his athletic superiority less an issue.
For Carlos Condit, the last 263 days make perfect sense. What makes no sense, however, is why the UFC has allowed him the opportunity to earn this interim title and then allowed him to sit at home twiddling his thumbs while St-Pierre recovers. In effect, the UFC hasn't just lost St-Pierre to a bad injury—they've lost Condit, one of their most exciting fighters, as well.
No one has gained anything from Carlos' extended absence. He's lost the chance to come out and defend his new belt, to let the fans see him as a champion. He had the chance, with a successful defense, to be seen, at least in some small way, as St-Pierre's equal when the two meet this month in Montreal.
Instead, he'll walk out to the cage carrying a title belt that means nothing. If he's not defending it, that interim title is about as real as the belt Chael Sonnen used to bring with him to press conferences to taunt Anderson Silva. It's a prop.
Carlos Condit wasn't ever the interim champion. Not really. He was the interim contender. And that makes no sense for the UFC, Condit, the fans, or the sport.