The bad blood is flushed from his system. The hype machine is falling silent. And here's Georges St-Pierre. Still here. Still the welterweight champion. Still one of the best fighters in the world.
Sometimes you have to go forward to go back. Nick Diaz may not have been the most deserving contender or the sexiest super-opponent, but it seems that for St-Pierre, fighting Nick Diaz Saturday night at UFC 158 was a necessary evil. Though it wasn't overly emotional or bloody, St-Pierre's five-round smothering and subsequent unanimous decision victory over Diaz had to feel satisfying for the champ, if not for action-junky fans.
So with Diaz firmly in the rear-view, what lies ahead for Georges St-Pierre?
After Saturday night, the Montreal native has now defended his title a crazy eight consecutive times. With mentions of a superfight with middleweight champ and pound-for-pound kingpin Anderson Silva still lingering on the breeze, the urge to move to new pastures has to be real.
Who should Georges St-Pierre fight next?
But that's not the next step for St-Pierre. It can't be. Johny Hendricks saw to that Saturday night with his competitive but convincing decision win over Carlos Condit.
Hendricks' last four opponents, in order: Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Martin Kampmann and now Condit. In the cage after the fight, Hendricks told broadcaster Joe Rogan that "I earned it," meaning the title shot.
And he has. There is no way anyone can deny that now, including St-Pierre. If GSP can get past Hendricks, the division begins to look truly cleaned out. There will always be challengers, of course—Jake Ellenberger and Demian Maia come to mind—but if he really wants to move up to middleweight and fill Cowboys Stadium with Silva, or whatever they want to do there, a win over Hendricks offers a natural breaking point from the 170-pound division.
But right now, Hendricks is a 12-ton rig right in the middle of the road. First things first, and the bearded man with the nuclear left hand is first on St-Pierre's list. No way around it.