5 UFC Fighters Who Could Replace GSP as the Franchise Player
In case you didn't hear, Georges St-Pierre is on hiatus. It was pretty big news for a day, but then Demetrious Johnson headlined a Fox show and suddenly losing the best welterweight of all time apparently wasn't that important anymore.
Only it is.
It's basically the only guy the promotion can't afford to lose. The only true guarantee for big-time pay-per-view revenue. Life goes on, as Dana White is quick to point out, but the UFC needs a new franchise player in much shorter order than White would like to admit.
Here are five fighters who could be ready to carry that torch.
Perhaps the logical choice given his close bout with GSP at UFC 167 and the fact that he'll fight for the vacant title in March, Hendricks has seen his star rise over the past two years.
He's got the highlight reel to draw attention, a unique look provided by his fight camp beard, and a humble charisma.
With the loss to St-Pierre, he also became something of a folk hero, an uncrowned champion growing in popularity due to a groundswell of support coming off a bad decision.
It will take work for him, but he could be a star for the UFC one day if he's promoted properly and he keeps winning in spectacular fashion.
Condit is the other guy at 170 who the UFC might be able to promote into a superstar, as he fights to finish and will be worth the money every time he steps into the cage.
The juxtaposition of his calm demeanor against his near-psychotic pursuit of in-cage carnage is the exact type of thing that sells well in promos and fight hype, too.
In terms of style and substance, few guys can match him. He's flashy in the cage and professional outside of it, young enough to still be around for a while, and he's held titles basically everywhere he's ever fought.
There's no doubt that he'll fight the winner of Hendricks and Robbie Lawler in that man's first title defense—it's those three at 170, then everyone else.
Perhaps the UFC can parlay that into superstardom for Condit starting in 2014.
In a sport that still finds itself with plenty of detractors, answering plenty of questions from those who believe it to be barbaric, there may be no better single response than to point wordlessly at a picture of Ronda Rousey.
Nothing imaginable is more progressive than for a woman to be the face of a combat sport, and though she's on this list as a potential franchise player now that GSP is gone, the truth is that she might have usurped him anyway even if he'd stayed around.
To put it mildly, Rousey has that "it" factor. People either love her or hate her, want to see her smash or be smashed, and they'll pay a handsome sum for the chance to do it.
She could easily be next to sit on the proverbial throne of the UFC.
All Anthony Pettis needs to become a superstar is a little bit of luck—a year, maybe two, where he can fight three or four times and bask in the marketing and hype it would provide.
The guy would have his face on magazines and video games and anything else he ever wanted.
However, that luck has been hard to come by.
The UFC lightweight champion is the first guy with crossover appeal to hold that crown since BJ Penn, but he can't avoid the injury bug. He's caged lightning whenever he makes it to his date, but he just can't do it consistently.
If he ever gets on a run, there's no telling the heights he'll go to. He finishes people, does crazy things we've never seen before, and he's got a big belt with no obvious candidate to take it from him in the near future.
He is without question the smartest dark-horse pick to become the next big thing in the UFC.
The obvious choice to overtake St-Pierre over the course of the next year, Jon Jones is the type of crossover athlete that MMA needs.
He's the guy that can appear on television and billboards and promote himself, and people will be interested. His NFL-heavy family tree alone is enough to get him mentioned weekly during football season, which is something no one else in MMA can compete with.
Plus, there's the fact that he's been utterly lethal in the cage. He's demolished everyone in his path aside from Alexander Gustafsson, who he beat in one of the best fights of 2013, and who he'll likely see again in 2014.
He's also guaranteed to be worth the money when you put him on the marquee, and that's something not even St-Pierre could claim during his dominant run.
He's not everybody's cup of tea, but you'd have to think with GSP out of the running that we're really going to see what the Jon Jones era is all about in the months ahead.