A belt up for grabs?
This is a preemptive strike—my "you heard it here first" moment, if you will. Follow along.
Supposing Georges St. Pierre rolls through Jake Shields in April (I'm counting on it), he is then set up for his super-fight with Anderson Silva. Regardless of the outcome of that fight, GSP should be permanently moved up to middleweight, thus vacating his welterweight title.
Assuming that happens, we should all be angling for a welterweight tournament to see who will be the UFC's new king at 170 lbs. It makes sense from every perspective.
Let's start toppling the dominoes assuming St. Pierre takes out Shields at UFC 130. From there, GSP moves to middleweight to fight Anderson Silva, and there's no reason this move shouldn't be permanent.
George's own trainer, Firas Zahabi, said on an episode of UFC Primetime last year that Georges has steadily put on muscle in these last few years and walks around at a weight higher than when he began. While that's not an admission of a future jump to the next weight class for Georges, it's certainly worth noting. Couple that with the fact that he'll have undoubtedly cleaned out the division, there's no reason for him to go back.
Recently, UFC President Dana White had this to say regarding the winner of B.J. Penn vs Jon Fitch:
“They’re definitely in the title picture. Let’s face it; the reality is BJ Penn has held titles in both weight classes. Fitch has fought for the title and has literally dominated that division for a long time; [he] just didn’t win the title. Either one of these guys that wins this fight is in the mix—the No. 1 guy.”
It's an odd quote to me simply because while White admits the winner takes top contender status, there's absolutely no mention of that fighter squaring up with GSP.
Furthermore, who really wants to see St. Pierre beat the tar out of either one of those guys again? I know I certainly don't. Outside of the Penn and Fitch camps, nobody gives those guys a realistic chance to even make it a fight worth watching. Each barely could in their last outing.
I'm obviously just snowballing theories and ideas here, but the fact that White never mentions the next opponent for the winner of Penn vs. Fitch is telling to me.
Consider also that GSP will fight Shields a full nine weeks after Penn fights Fitch. If GSP is to fight Silva after that match, you're talking about a grace period of as much as six months and as little as four, to get Georges physically ready to take on Anderson, then another four to six months to get him back to welterweight shape to take on the winner of Penn vs. Fitch.
That means one of those two would be waiting as little as a year and as much as a year and half, and possibly longer, just to fight again. You think Dana wants to shelve the welterweight title for that long? You think Dana wants to shelve Penn or Fitch for that long? You think Penn or Fitch want to shelve themselves for that long?
To me, that's the most glaring point of this whole argument. The math simply doesn't work out for GSP to hang around the welterweight division, especially considering this most recent announcement by White.
Surely, whether or not St. Pierre makes a permanent move to the middleweight division doesn't bring with it a tournament for the welterweights left behind. It's my own imagination at work.
Given the depth of the division, however, and the uncertainty as to which fighter is the best, I'd like to think it could be time for the UFC to take it back to the old days of the UFC, and dust off the tournament format to crown the newest welterweight champ.