When UFC President Dana White announced that the bout between Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz scheduled for UFC 143 would be for the UFC Interim Welterweight Title it made sense. Both men were scheduled to face reigning champion Georges St. Pierre at one point in time or another. Diaz lost his first opportunity because of his inability to follow directions and like Condit before him lost an opportunity when GSP was injured.
The reason the interim title was created in the first place was because of the severity of the knee injury GSP had suffered. Surgery would force the Canadian to be out of action until late fall of this year. By having Diaz or Condit become interim champion the UFC could keep the title active until St. Pierre was healthy enough to face whoever was champion at the time of his return. It’s not like there was a shortage of competent challengers waiting to face the winner of the UFC 143 match-up.
After what many felt was a controversial decision that went in Condit’s favor the talk turned to having the two rematch sometime in the middle of the year. This would allow the title to be defended at least once before GSP was ready to unify the championship. As luck would have it Diaz was popped for smoking pot and is facing a lengthy suspension. There goes a high profile rematch between the two, but does that mean Condit should remain on the shelf for the next 9-10 months?
I can name a few legitimate challengers to Condit’s title beginning with Jake Ellenberger. Back in September of 2009 Condit narrowly defeated “The Juggernaut” in his UFC debut. During the first round Condit was floored three times but came back to win a Split Decision. Ellenberger has since won six fights in a row highlighted by a first round knockout over Jake Shields and last night’s thrilling unanimous decision victory over a dangerous Diego Sanchez.
Not only is the story line already in place, but Ellenberger is a legitimate threat to both Condit and St. Pierre. Fans and media are both clamoring for the match-up not only to see the title defended but to see what could be a potential fight of the year. Both fighters have been on a tear since they fought and a case could be made that Ellenberger has improved greatly; that if not for some Octagon jitters would have walked away the victor that night in Oklahoma City.
If not Ellenberger why not the winner of the Josh Koscheck-Johny Hendricks bout scheduled for May in New Jersey? Koscheck has been near the top of the division for years now and would give Condit all he could handle should he be able to get by the man who knocked out Koscheck’s former teammate Jon Fitch in just twelve seconds. Hendricks is 7-1 in the UFC and 9-1 overall under the Zuffa umbrella. He is a dynamic fighter with power in his hands and an ever growing legion of dedicated fans.
Assuming the winner came away injury free they could be ready to face Condit in August or September. That would set up a bout between the winner and GSP for the New Year’s Eve card in Las Vegas. Not only would the UFC be giving fans a great fight between Condit and anyone of the three contenders I have mentioned, but they would allow GSP to be fully prepared to face the winner on a card that has historically been a very successful show.
No matter who Condit faces it is completely unfair to ask him to sit on the sidelines for nearly a year while waiting for St. Pierre to rehab his knee. It also is a slap in the face of the fans that paid good money to watch Diaz and Condit vie for a title that will never be defended. What sense does that make? It’s not like everyone is dying to see Condit take on “Rush” anyway. In all likelihood GSP will out-wrestle “The Natural Born Killer” on his way to another dominating decision.
Against Hendricks or Ellenberger he would face two very good wrestlers who can use their grappling both offensively and defensively all the while having the ability to land that one punch knockout to the long reigning champion. Obviously the only drawback to having Condit face the Hendricks-Koscheck winner is the possibility of GSP having to face “Kos” for a third time. If that’s the case let Ellenberger and Hendricks go at it with the winner facing Condit. The timing makes sense and so do the match-ups, make it happen Dana!
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC