Print and Go Back ESPN.com: MMA [Print without images]

Sunday, July 29, 2012
'Tis the season of curious call-outs

By Chuck Mindenhall

Former Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz says he wants current UFC titlist Anderson Silva -- when Diaz comes back from his suspension. The time away has apparently opened up his imagination, and out flies his always-fascinating fancy.

Silva’s camp says that a fight with Georges St. Pierre at a catch weight of 180 pounds is the only one that makes sense right now. Silva’s manager, Jorge Guimaraes, in stating his full slate of druthers to ESPN.com, was quick to add “in Brazil” to that reasoning.

Hey, when stating your preferences, go whole hog. Besides, they’re owed one after the whole Chael Sonnen switcheroo.

Jon Jones has a fight with Dan Henderson on Sept. 1. Should he defeat Henderson, he has no interest in fighting his mutual admirer Silva. He wouldn’t want to be the one to have to beat him, he says, which has its interpretations, ranging from cocky to tender caring. And besides, to listen to the UFC tell it, Jones’ next opponent will be determined next weekend in Los Angeles, where within the settling dust of Ryan Bader-Lyoto Machida and Brandon Vera-Mauricio Rua at UFC on FOX 5, a challenger is hoped to appear.

Where to begin in all of this?

That the Silva-St. Pierre fight makes sense is true, and the compromise of a catch weight does make it a little more foolproof, but it’s complicated. In fact, it’s so complicated that the fight makes almost no sense. Not right now. Truth be told, there is no "right now." There’s only “when possible,” which feels like “maybe never.” That’s the strange space we find ourselves in.

Forget about the middleweight division’s renewed intrigue over the last few weeks for a minute, and begin with the 170-pound picture. Carlos Condit is holding an interim title white-knuckle tight while waiting on St. Pierre to return from his ACL surgery. That fight has to happen for the unconventional logic of shelving an interim belt to prevail, and it’s still looking like the bout will happen in November at UFC 154.
Carlos Condit
All Carlos Condit has to do is sit and wait for his title shot ... right?

If we’re dissecting the circumstances in trying to accommodate Silva, the soonest a victorious St. Pierre would be able to fight him would be late first quarter 2013. And let’s not forget that this is St. Pierre, who doesn’t take the idea of yo-yoing between weight classes lightly (even at catch weights), so he would need the time to stuff himself with the right kind of muscular insulation. That could add some more months to the process.

As for Martin Kampmann and Johny Hendricks, the two who are fighting in Montreal for a shot at the welterweight belt? They would be recycled back into the fold, while Silva-St. Pierre played out. As would the crop of emerging contenders at 185 pounds -- guys such as Chris Weidman, Tim Boetsch and Michael Bisping, who are vying for their own shots, through recent actions and pitchmen.

All of that can be overcome. A few hurt feelings and a long time to think about it for a superfight like St. Pierre and Silva is just the condition of the thing. There will never be a perfect time for a superfight so long as contenders are in business -- and contenders are always in business. Cleaning out a division is next to impossible. Unless you’re Jon Jones and you fight four times a year and handle each confrontation as a weed whacker handles a bed of roses.

But the common link is the 185-pound champ. Slice it how you want, but this has become the Silva sweepstakes. The only one not holding a ticket is Jones, but he’s young and perhaps persuadable.

Diaz wants Silva out of left field, but he doesn’t have the merit. He is suspended for those pesky marijuana metabolites, for one thing, and for another he lost to Condit in his last fight. That means we mention him in the Silva sweepstakes only for fun.

St. Pierre has too many obstacles in his path to contemplate Silva. There’s the knee, then there’s Condit, and then there’s the promised Kampmann-Hendricks winner, and in the back of his mind is Diaz. All of this is great if you’re trying to avoid Rory MacDonald (as he sort of is), but not great if, as a fan, you want to see him fight Silva. For him to take the Silva challenge, he -- and the UFC -- will have to just close down the road and divert all traffic around him.

So, whom will the 37-year old Silva face next?

It’s very difficult to sort out, and it depends on the January “megacard” that’s being discussed. The simple thing to do would be to make the Weidman fight for ordinary pay-per-view and keep the divisions from bleeding into each other. But that’s so unimaginative, particularly after the immensity of the Sonnen rematch. Weidman is 9-0 overall. He’s still green. He’s not greatly marketable. And from Silva’s perspective, that singlet looks daunting for a fight that won’t generate the kinds of interest that St. Pierre would.

The fight that could make most sense to everyone is the one that the fighters themselves want nothing to do with. That would be Jones and Silva, should Jones beat Henderson. By the same logic as Silva’s camp is using for St. Pierre, it can be applied to Jones. And there are no conditions to it. Jones would be ready to roll in December or January, same as Silva. No timetables.

But if Rua, Bader or Machida is catapulted back into the title mix to spice up intrigue next weekend, even that doesn’t make sense. Not a lot does right now. There are too many promises and possibilities overlapping.

It’s UFC matchmaker Joe Silva’s job to make sense of it, and he’ll be right (and wrong) no matter what.