Given the apparent magnitude of Georges St-Pierre’s impending showdown with Carlos Condit, it may seem dubious to advance the notion that the fight’s importance has actually been understated.
But that is precisely what has happened.
The UFC has certainly not skimped on the pageantry of St-Pierre’s return, welcoming the welterweight champion back with all the pomp and splendor of a Roman emperor.
And the immediate impact the match will have on the welterweight division is equally evident, even if the champion vs. champion angle has been somewhat eclipsed by the grandeur of St-Pierre’s return.
The potential excitement of the fight has also figured prominently into the building anticipation of UFC 154, with many fans believing that Condit has a better chance of dethroning St-Pierre than any of the champion’s recent opponents.
Yes, all these elements point to the fight’s importance and relevance, but all these components that have been featured so robustly during the pre-fight buildup are of a common thread that inherently mitigates their significance—they are all concerned with the immediate.
St-Pierre’s return, the crowning of an undisputed champion, an exciting bout between two of the best fighters in the world—all close, immediately gratifying aspects of the match.
What they neglect to address is the long-term condition of the sport’s biggest star.
St-Pierre’s lengthy 19-month layoff has been well-documented, as has his recovery from the ACL injury that sidelined him for so long. But once again, these are present and past concerns.
Apprehensions over St-Pierre’s ability to regain his pre-injury form have been floated by fans and media alike, but have been too quickly swept away by the euphoria of the impending fulfillment of UFC 154. But the fact is, the degree to which St-Pierre has recovered is what really matters here—for him, for the fans and for the sport.
A loss at UFC 154 is not another Matt Serra-type upset that can be excused as an aberration. A loss is the signification that things will be different in the welterweight division—and the sport as a whole—from now on.
That’s because while Condit is an elite fighter, there is no way he is what GSP has been the past several years. And if Condit wins, it won’t be because he’s risen to a new height no welterweight has ever been before, it will be because St-Pierre has come down from the level he’s solely inhabited during his time as UFC champion.
Yes, upsets happen and sometimes the superior fighter loses. And sometimes ring-rust is a legitimate excuse for a favored fighter’s failings. But when we look at St-Pierre vs. Condit, it’s all too convenient. A loss is a bad sign. A sign that St-Pierre's knee injury has changed the athlete we know him to be.
That is what’s really at stake on November 17, despite all the burning spectacle we have to cut through to find the fight’s deeper meaning. Once we do that, we are left staring squarely at long-term effect, not short-term stimulation.
Granted, St-Pierre’s future position in MMA won't be indefinitely defined by the result of his upcoming fight, but the result he achieves at UFC 154 will form all hypotheses of fans and media regarding his career trajectory until the next time he competes.
That’s why a win for St-Pierre is so meaningful—not just for the apparent reasons, but for the intangible future ones as well.
His aura, his reputation, his stardom—all of these hinge on St-Pierre’s assurance that he is still the fighter he was 19 months ago.
And in a sport where two men enter a cage and physically fight one another until a winner is declared, talk is most definitely cheap. So the only way St-Pierre will provide the necessary assurance is by posting a W.
Enjoy St-Pierre vs. Condit on November 17—there are countless reasons to enjoy it. But remember the impact of St-Pierre’s performance and the result that makes his performance tangible, because those are what will make this contest a pivotal moment in the UFC’s burgeoning history.