For the past five years, Georges St. Pierre has been the top welterweight fighter in mixed martial arts. Over that time, the Tri-Star product became a sensation as he knocked off a constant stream of No. 1 contenders at every turn. In the process of defending his title, the 31-year-old French-Canadian cemented his place as one of the most dominant champions in UFC history.
While St. Pierre's status elevated in the spotlight of the sport's biggest stage, another champion kept his focus on the grind, patiently waiting for the chance to test himself against the reigning welterweight king. There was little doubt their paths would eventually cross, and this Saturday at UFC 154, Carlos Condit will finally have the opportunity he's been waiting for.
The matchup will pit champion versus champion as "The Natural Born Killer" looks to unify his interim title with the divisional crown held by St. Pierre. It is one the year's most anticipated fights, and with the date quickly approaching, the Albuquerque, New Mexico native is eager to get down to business.
"I'm really pumped and I'm ready to do this thing," Condit told Bleacher Report. "I've been training for about 12 weeks now and I'm sick and tired of training. I'm sick and tired of holding back. I'm ready to get out there, let loose, and display what I've been working on.
"Georges is a guy I've looked up to as a fighter for a long time. I really respect him and what he's done for the sport. I can't wait to go in there and test my skills and abilities against one of the best."
While St. Pierre is heralded for his dominance, Condit has built an impressive resume of his own to stand upon. Since 2006, Condit has won 13 out of his past 14 outings, with all but two coming by way of stoppage. The lone setback over this run came against Martin Kampmann in his Octagon debut.
Aside from his split-decision loss to "The Hitman", The Jackson's/Winkeljohn-trained fighter has wrecked shop under the UFC banner, working behind a mixture of versatile striking and slick submission skills.
There is no doubt Condit is one of the most well-rounded competitors in the welterweight division, but his ability to remain dangerous at every point of the fight, is perhaps his greatest attribute.
"I definitely think part of my success comes from just being scrappy and being able to fight somebody anywhere the action goes," Condit said. "That is definitely part of my training. When I first started out in mixed martial arts, I would do an hour of boxing/kick boxing and an hour of submission grappling. I worked on them every single practice and I learned all these different aspects of the sport at the same time."
After collecting four consecutive victories, and the merry-go-round that would become UFC 137, Condit found himself on the verge of a title shot. But after Nick Diaz defeated B.J. Penn, UFC President Dana White announced St. Pierre would be facing Diaz on Super Bowl weekend, and Condit was once again pushed aside.
While anticipating a bout with Josh Koscheck, an injury suffered by St. Pierre pushed the champion out of the picture. In his absence, the UFC decided to institute an interim title to be awarded to the winner of a bout between Condit and Nick Diaz at UFC 143. After a five-round battle, Condit emerged victorious and took his place atop the division.
Following the unanimous decision over Diaz, Condit announced he was going to wait for St. Pierre to return and would not be defending the interim title. While the decision drew criticism from both fans and fighters alike, it wasn't a conclusion Condit arrived at without conflict.
"I did question the decision to wait," Condit said. "There were definitely some legitimate contenders who were on serious tears. They were also guys I'd love to fight. I had to talk to people close to me and get some outside perspectives from the people I confide in and seek advice from. It came down to the decision that the big fight against the big star was the best thing for me and my career."
The result of the decision has turned into the biggest fight of his career. A title bout against one of the sport's biggest stars comes hand in hand with an increase in media attention and obligations, and while the process has taken some getting used to, Condit has found a way to get comfortable in the chaos.
"I'm getting used to it," Condit explained. "I'm used to the Countdown show being here because it's for a day, but the Prime Time show is a little bit more involved. Luckily, I was kind of eased into this as far as the media is concerned because of my time in the WEC. I did a lot of media and interviews when I was the WEC champion.
"It's not a huge shock. It's not like all of a sudden I get this huge rush of media and it's something completely new to me, but it's definitely something I'm having to balance. I always have something going on. If everything was going perfect and smoothly, it would be weird. Having some type of distraction or something going wrong is pretty much par for the course."
In addition to the pre-fight build-up to UFC 154, the showdown between Condit and St. Pierre has been receiving outside attention in the form of middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
"The Spider" has shown interest in a "super-fight" with St. Pierre in 2013 and talk of their potential matchup has hovered over the upcoming welterweight title fight. Interest in the hypothetical bout between Silva and St. Pierre hijacked a recent UFC 154 conference call, and while the topic appeared to irritate the returning champion, Condit saw it as a further motivation heading into his title fight.
"I really don't care about it," Condit explained about the proposed matchup between Silva and St. Pierre. "I'm used to being overlooked. I'm used to being the underdog or the after-thought. It's all good, man. I relish the opportunity to go in there and play the spoiler. I'm coming out of left field and if people are overlooking me or writing me off; after the fight they are going to realize they shouldn't have done that."
When the cage door closes in Montreal this Saturday night, everything Condit has been working towards will be standing across from in the Octagon. Years spent in the fires of combat have provided him with the skills and tenacity to find victory by any means necessary. No matter the situation, Condit is always a threat.
The challenge this time around comes in the form of the most methodical and intensely disciplined fighter to enter the cage. Condit will come to the Octagon with his belt in hand, but in his mind, the strap St. Pierre carries is the one that matters. Everything is on the line in Montreal and Condit is looking forward to an entertaining fight.
"Georges is the champion," Condit said. "He had been the champion for a number or years and beaten all the top guys in the division in decisive fashion. Until somebody beats him—he is the champion.
"I think it's going to be a fast-paced, exciting fight. I think Georges and myself are going to display a lot of different aspects of mixed martial arts and this is going to be a fight that you don't want to miss."