MMA: Martin Kampmann
Hendricks will need confidence, patience, discipline, intelligence, offensive and defensive grappling, stamina, feints, level changes, head movement, footwork and, maybe, some luck for good measure. A little luck never hurt anybody in a UFC title fight.
That left hand, though -- the reason you hear so much about it is because even though Hendricks (15-1) must take every tool he has into the Octagon against St-Pierre, at any moment that one left hand might be all it takes.
What is it about that left hand that makes it so dangerous and gives us reason to believe Hendricks could become just the third man to ever defeat St-Pierre (24-2), and first since 2007?
ESPN.com asked that question of Hendricks, as well as St-Pierre and five previous Hendricks opponents with firsthand knowledge of that stinging left.
Hendricks: "Realistically, [the power] comes from my legs and my butt. I walk around at 225. I have big legs and a big butt. That's where all the power comes from. And, you know, wrestling -- always being in that stance and ready to explode."
Handling Hendricks' power
T.J. Grant (lost to Hendricks via majority decision at UFC 113 in May 2010): "The thing is, he doesn't have to try to throw for power -- he just has it. He has always got his legs involved in every punch, too. That's when you murder guys, when you have your feet and hips involved in every punch. That's why Johny has so much power is all his life in wrestling. When he throws that big Popeye forearm at your head, you're going to go down."
St-Pierre: "His left is his signature move but he works on many things. He's a very complete fighter. He's probably one of the best in the division in knockout power and the reason why is he's so good you don't see it coming. The way he throws it, I believe you don't see it coming."
Martin Kampmann (lost to Hendricks via knockout at UFC 154 in November 2012): "I think the problem was I was preparing too much for the left hook and then he came straight with one. The one he got [Jon] Fitch with, he was throwing it wide, wide. With me, he came straight down the middle."
Rick Story (defeated Hendricks via unanimous decision at TUF 12 Finale in December 2010): "During the fight, when he was punching me, I thought, 'Eh, this is nothing I haven't felt before.' He's placing them. His punching power isn't seriously superior. To be able to place them you have to throw them and some people hesitate. He has got confidence in it now so he's throwing a lot more."
Josh Koscheck (lost to Hendricks via split decision at UFC on Fox in May 2012): "For me, it was no big deal. I like fighting southpaws. I prefer it. They are better for my style. When he throws the left, I throw the right. I think he has definitely got power in his hands because he has knocked out a lot of guys and the ones he hasn't have felt it because they've been knocked down, but for me it was no big deal."
Mike Pierce (lost to Hendricks via split decision at UFC 133 in August 2011): "It wasn't his straight left hand that caught me off guard. His left uppercut is kind of funky and then his coach [Marc Laimon] yelling, 'Cheeseburger, cheeseburger!' code names for combinations. He hits pretty hard but not the hardest. I got thumped pretty hard by Aaron Simpson, that was probably the hardest I've ever been hit."
Koscheck: "The game plan for Johny was to mix it up on the feet. You can hear [trainer] Bob Cook in the corner, it's crazy, he's always saying, 'Get off first! Be first!' That was pretty much our game plan -- get off first, get on him. With Hendricks, it's much easier to get off first and then get away from the big left hand."
Grant: "He has got timing. He puts his whole body behind his punches. He is accurate but a lot of times he also level changes with his head and hips and that kind of brings the guys' hands down. He 100 percent commits. He's a confident fighter. When you're confident, you don't hesitate and those milliseconds of hesitation are the difference between knocking a guy out or taking him down."
Story: "What's important for Georges is to stay out of Johny's range. What's important for Johny is to get into Georges' range. He's going to have to mix it up and get pretty creative. Georges has been doing this a long time."
Hendricks: "Whenever you're wrestling in college, you've got to do all these setups and your reaction from [outside of an opponent to inside] has to penetrate through all these distractions and get to the legs very quickly and explosively. That's what has really helped me out [in fighting]. They try to keep me at bay because I'm so short, but I use that explosiveness to close the distance."
Kampmann: "If Johny catches him on the button he'll hurt him, but St-Pierre is going to fight him smart. He's going to try to jab him from the outside the whole fight. Johny is good at closing the distance but he's going to get jabbed the whole fight. If Johny commits hard, that's how I think St-Pierre will take him down. Even though Johny is the better wrestler, I think St-Pierre can still take him down. That's how I think St-Pierre is going to fight him, but sometimes s--- don't go to plan."
Koscheck: "Johny Hendricks is a tough young fighter and I wish him the best but I think St-Pierre will outpoint him. Georges is smart. He's a game planner. He'll jab, use his wrestling at times, keep Johny at a distance and get off first. Georges is a lot faster than Johny. He'll end up winning a decision."
Pierce: "I'm definitely going for Johny Hendricks. I want to see him knock Georges St-Pierre out. In his past several fights Johny has really excelled at catching guys. St-Pierre has shown in the past he doesn't have the best chin in the world. We all saw him fall to Matt Serra and I think Hendricks has all the capabilities to do the same sort of thing and even more so."
Grant: "You can never count Georges out of any fight, but I think this is probably the most dangerous fighter he has fought just because Johny has that great wrestling pedigree. Unlike Koscheck, I feel like he's really good at making the knockout happen, whereas Koscheck wings a lot of right hands and if it doesn't land, he doesn't always have the second and third option -- I think Johny does. I give the advantage to Johny, personally."
Hendricks: "Whenever you get a guy that walks in at 190 to 195 pounds -- that's usually what I walk into the Octagon at -- and you get that moving pretty quick, he can throw a 50 percent punch and lay somebody out. It's about accuracy. You touch that jawline and anybody is going night-night."
There are only two welterweights who can claim to be better than Carlos Condit and neither is named Martin Kampmann. Condit not only exacted revenge Wednesday night at Bankers Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, he dominated Kampmann en route to a fourth-round knockout win.
The victory avenged a split-decision setback Condit suffered to Kampmann in April 2009. Their first fight was closely contested; not so the second time around.
Condit punched Kampmann in the face repeatedly throughout the bout, eventually leaving it bloody and puffy; he connected with kicks to the body, which slowed Kampmann’s attack and evaporated his confidence.
The performance was impressive, but more important it strengthened Condit’s case to get the winner of Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks -- those two are set to meet Nov. 16 at UFC 167 in Las Vegas. Normally it would be unthinkable to suggest that a fighter who lost his two previous bouts to the men slated to compete for the belt deserves to be next in line for the title shot.
Both ESPN.com and UFC.com, however, rate Condit the No. 2 welterweight contender behind Hendricks. Even UFC president Dana White can’t take issue with those rankings.
“It was an absolutely great fight. Carlos Condit just proved why he is the No. 2 [welterweight contender] in the world,” White said after Condit improved to 29-7.
Who deserves the St-Pierre-Hendricks winner more? The guy with the strongest counter is Rory MacDonald. But it’s not clear that MacDonald will step in against friend and teammate St-Pierre, if he is still champion after 167.
Besides, MacDonald needs to prove he has surpassed Condit before his case of being next in line to get a title shot is taken seriously. Condit has a victory over MacDonald -- a third-round knockout in June 2010.
MacDonald can claim that he is a vastly improved fighter since the loss to Condit -- there is no doubting that argument. But he should have to prove it, just as Condit did Wednesday night against Kampmann.
The only way MacDonald moves ahead of Condit in the title-shot pecking order is to prove it. Exact revenge on Condit and the debate ends. Until then, it should be all about Condit. Other than coming up short against St-Pierre and Hendricks, Condit did nothing to diminish his reputation as a top-rated welterweight.
“There are a lot of intriguing matches in the division, but of course, I’d like to get that title shot, possibly Johny Hendricks or Georges St-Pierre, whoever wins,” Condit said. “But there are other fights out here that are interesting also. We will see what happens.”
It sounds as though Condit wouldn’t mind further cementing his position as the No. 2 welterweight contender with a win over MacDonald. That fight, however, only makes sense if MacDonald is successful against Robbie Lawler at UFC 176.
As for Kampmann, he has some soul-searching to do. The loss was his second in a row -- to Condit and Hendricks. Losing to those guys doesn’t place Kampmann (20-7) in the steppingstone category. But the manner in which he went down, getting knocked out in each of those setbacks, will make it difficult for Kampmann to get a sniff at a title shot anytime soon.
Kampmann is now forced to play the waiting game. He entered Wednesday’s rematch ranked seventh by ESPN.com among 170-pound fighters, and sixth by UFC.com. Kampmann must now keep a close eye on where he falls when those polls are next released. Expect him to remain in the top 10 -- but barely.
Call it a sense of urgency, a must-win, maybe even the most important fight of his career. Any one of these phrases would adequately describe how welterweight contender Carlos Condit feels heading into his rematch Wednesday night with Martin Kampmann.
For nearly 11 years as a professional mixed martial artist, Condit has been driven to become champion. He’s sought ways to improve his skills while seeking to develop new ones to increase his fighting arsenal.
This approach has served Condit well, earning him WEC lineal and UFC interim welterweight titles. Even after a loss, including a split-decision setback to Kampmann in his UFC debut on April 1, 2009, Condit went into his next bout with the same level of determination.
But this rematch with Kampmann at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis feels different. Despite a two-fight skid -- losses to champion Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks -- he remains ranked among the division’s top contenders. ESPN.com ranks Condit third overall, while UFC.com has him second among the contenders.
But for the first time in his pro career, Condit openly admits feeling that he can’t afford to drop another fight. He, especially, can’t lose a rematch to Kampmann, who is ranked seventh and sixth by ESPN.com and UFC.com, respectively.
“Absolutely, it is [a must-win situation],” the 29-year-old Condit told ESPN.com. “I hate to lose. I’m a competitive person; I’m here to win. It would not be good to lose this fight.
“A win puts me right back in the title picture. This is a great opportunity to get me back in [title] contention. I look forward to getting another shot at one of the top five guys.”
Reflecting on losses to St-Pierre and Hendricks, who are currently the top two 170-pound fighters, does not diminish Condit’s sense of urgency, though he performed admirably against both. He went into those bouts expecting to win, and now he wants a chance to even the score with each fighter.
But he prefers to exact revenge in a title fight. And for the record, Condit believes that when he does get another welterweight title shot, it will be against St-Pierre. The reigning welterweight champion and Hendricks will meet Nov. 16 at UFC 167 in Las Vegas.
“Hendricks has the ability to win,” Condit said. “He’s got a puncher’s chance. But GSP is just too technical. I think he’s going to go out there and do what he’s been doing for the last couple of years and get a decision over Hendricks.”
But to keep his hopes of another title fight alive, Condit must first get by Kampmann. And this time around, Condit believes the outcome will be different.
He is a much better fighter now than the guy Kampmann faced four years ago. His ground game is better, as is his takedown defense. Condit also has better control of himself inside the cage; he’s a lot more poised. Mistakes from Condit inside the cage have become very rare.
“I was a little bit raw [in the first fight],” Condit said. “I had the skill, but I wasn’t as polished as I am now. And I’m definitely a smarter, more experienced fighter.”
Experience, maturity and a greater understanding of MMA have turned Condit into one of the best welterweights in the world. But he won’t be the only improved fighter in the cage Wednesday night.
Kampmann, too, has developed into a more skilled, more intelligent mixed martial artist over the past four years. Striking has been Kampmann’s primary weapon of late, but he hasn’t abandoned his submission skills -- as demonstrated during his come-from-behind victory over Thiago Alves in March 2012.
That knockout loss in November to Hendricks notwithstanding, Condit knows that Kampmann is eager to return to the win column.
“I see a lot of improvement,” Condit said. “In his last fight [against Hendricks] he got caught and knocked out. But that aside, I’ve seen a lot of improvement. I know that he’s been working his striking with Ray Sefo over there at Xtreme Couture. I see a lot of improvement in Kampmann’s striking.
“He’s always been so tough as a fighter. And he’s hungry; he’s coming off that loss. He was climbing up the ranks. He had that win over Alves, that win over [Jake] Ellenberger -- a second-round TKO in June 2012 -- then the loss to Hendricks. I’m sure he’s looking to get back in the mix like I am.”
Punches and kicks are expected to fly when these two begin their main-event showdown Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. On a number of occasions recently, Kampmann has stated his intent to finish Condit early.
Condit, however, isn’t insulted by Kampmann’s remarks. He views it as Kampmann just answering questions honestly. That’s Kampmann’s belief, and he isn’t alone: Condit also thinks this fight won’t last five rounds, only it will be his hand the referee raises.
“Whether he said it or he didn’t, that’s obviously his intention,” Condit said. “We’re not out there playing patty-cake. We’re there to put each other’s lights out -- to send someone home with a loss and a concussion. We have to do these interviews, but no matter what we say, we know the intention of our opponent.”
“Sixteen,” Kampmann interrupts. “Sixteen fights.”
If Kampmann and Michael Bisping ever go out for beers, it’s easy to picture them hugging it out at least once over one brutal similarity. These two have fought consistently well for years in the Octagon but have yet to fight for the title.
How many times has Kampmann pictured a fight against reigning welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre? He can’t give an exact number. But bring it up and he stares at the ground like a kid describing what he’s wanted for the past five Christmases -- and is still waiting.
“I’d love to fight GSP. I’d ... “ He breaks sentence and shakes his head. “I know it wouldn’t be an easy fight, but I feel I could beat him. I’d love to get the chance to fight him -- very much.”
Despite a first-round knockout loss to Johny Hendricks in his last bout, Kampmann (20-6) feels that fight is within his grasp.
To an extent, the UFC must agree. It booked Kampmann to a main event fight against highly ranked Carlos Condit on Wednesday, at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis.
“I think a loss always sets you back, but I think I’m still one of the guys at the top,” Kampmann told ESPN.com. “I was calling out [Nick] Diaz and Condit. I want to fight those guys coming off losses who are still ranked real high.”
It’s not as though Kampmann gives off a sense of desperation to get to the title, but the veteran understands he’s not an up-and-coming prospect anymore.
Whereas he used to consistently travel to different gyms for different looks when living in Denmark -- including Sweden, Brazil and Thailand -- these days he remains relatively grounded thanks to his wife and two sons.
While younger fighters typically return to the gym quickly following a tough loss or a rough sparring session, Kampmann has been cognizant of the need to let his body heal in between fights.
Even though he’s still confident in his chin, Kampmann knows he’s now suffered four knockout losses in his career.
“Of course I’m worried [about that],” Kampmann said. “It’s not going to make me any smarter getting punched in the head, but that’s the sport. That’s the risk. I think after the [Jake] Ellenberger fight I took a long break. It’s definitely something I’ve gotten more aware of in my career.
“I feel I have a good chin. I’ve had a good chin my whole career. If you get rocked too many times, though, and don’t respect it, I think that’s the problem.”
This week’s bout against Condit (28-7) is a rematch of a bout that took place in April 2009 that resulted in a split decision victory for Kampmann.
Kampmann doesn’t have a long history of fighting opponents multiple times. It’s happened once, against British welterweight Matt Ewin. It went well for him.
“In the first fight, I got on top, elbowed him, and I think I broke his orbital bone,” Kampmann said. “He didn’t come out in the second round. The second fight, he shot in, I sprawled and started elbowing him again, and he tapped out.”
If Kampmann can be as successful in the second rematch of his career, he’ll be once again in striking distance of that Christmas he’s spent seven years working toward.
When Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald step into the Octagon on July 27 in Seattle for the co-main event at UFC on Fox 8, it will be very easy to tell them apart. They’re cut from two very different cloths.
“We’re two different species,” Ellenberger recently told ESPN.com. “He’s a Cro-Magnon; I’m a Neanderthal. We have different bone density, power, pure instinct, savagery.
“He’d be better at painting caves; I’d be better at killing mastodons.”
There is, however, a tie that binds them. Both are highly-ranked contenders in the UFC’s welterweight division.
Ellenberger is ranked fourth by ESPN.com; MacDonald sits at No. 6. UFC.com places Ellenberger fourth, while MacDonald occupies the three-spot.
“The winner of their showdown is likely to land a 170-pound title shot if champion Georges St-Pierre and top contender Johny Hendricks settle their issues in the foreseeable future. But if a St-Pierre-Hendricks fight doesn’t materialize, Ellenberger envisions participating in a welterweight title eliminator.
Everybody in UFC is tough. But I've been building up, especially in my last fight. I have a new boxing coach [Carlos Ruffo] who focuses on my strengths and what I need to do to get better.” -- Jake Ellenberger on his improved boxing skills
“If [St-Pierre] and Hendricks doesn’t happen next, then I think Hendricks and me are going to decide who’s going to be the next No. 1 contender,” Ellenberger said.
In either case, Ellenberger knows his title shot isn’t far away. And when it arrives, he plans to be more than ready to secure the gold.
Since a second-round TKO loss to Martin Kampmann in June 2012 (a bout Ellenberger was in control of before a knee took him down and snapped his six-fight win streak), he has rebounded with two victories in a row. The Kampmann loss still stings, but Ellenberger doesn’t dwell on it.
Instead, that loss serves as motivation. Ellenberger has always worked to improve his fighting techniques. But the man who dons the Octagon these days is a complete fighter.
Because Ellenberger is a physically strong, highly skilled wrestler, no one has controlled him on the ground. But he is now equally dangerous standing.
Ellenberger has settled in as a proficient boxer. His skills in that discipline were on full display during his most recent fight, a first-round knockout of former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nate Marquardt at UFC 158 in March.
“My whole time in UFC has been about working my way up,” Ellenberger said. “It’s the hardest sport to be consistent at. But I’m focused on the big picture.
“Everybody in UFC is tough. But I’ve been building up, especially in my last fight. I have a new boxing coach [Carlos Ruffo] who focuses on my strengths and what I need to do to get better.
“I’m also in Las Vegas from time to time. Actually I’m there quite a bit; I only live about four hours from Vegas. And when I’m there I’m working with [renowned boxing trainer] Jeff Mayweather.”
Not a single stone has gone unturned in Ellenberger’s boxing development -- footwork, head movement, rolling with punches, jabs, you name it. And through it all, Ellenberger has not compromised his wrestling in the least.
Ellenberger has combined wrestling and boxing in a way that has onlookers shaking their heads. By the way, his jiu-jitsu, especially defensively, hasn’t suffered, either. He can accurately be labeled a full-fledged mixed martial artist.
So when Ellenberger speaks of being the Neanderthal to MacDonald’s Cro-Magnon, it’s not a slight at his opponent; it’s the description that best describes the action that will take place on fight night.
“I feel great about the fight,” Ellenberger said. “[MacDonald] is a guy who really motivated me to work harder.”
Ellenberger intends to be the more dominant man inside the cage in Seattle. He intends to put a vicious beating on MacDonald: Whether it’s on the ground or standing doesn’t matter.
When the result is announced, Ellenberger will lift his hands briefly if he wins -- a friendly acknowledgement to the fans -- then turn his attention to claiming the title. Ellenberger is all about becoming UFC welterweight champion. He won’t accept anything less.
The timing is perfect for Ellenberger to realize his goal: His skills are at peak levels, and his confidence couldn’t be stronger. Everything is in place, even his willingness to savagely pummel an opponent inside the cage -- and he possesses the tools to do just that, if need be.
Maybe Ellenberger’s description of himself as a Neanderthal isn’t too far off. But let’s be clear on one thing: Ellenberger remains a highly intelligent fighter. No one is going to catch him by surprise with a knee anymore -- he’s too smart to fall for that again.
“The timing is perfect for me,” Ellenberger said. “I’m in a good place mentally and physically. I couldn't be better.”
In Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz, the welterweight division has found its odd couple.
They despise each other, and we love it.
Headed into their clash for St-Pierre’s 170-pound title at UFC 158, we quite simply can’t get enough of it, thrilling in that singular way the fight business can at each and every cross word between them. They are perfect together, a headline-stealing machine, as GSP’s straight-laced French Canadian patience slowly unravels in front of the hypnotic skew of Planet Diaz.
It’s no wonder the other four fighters involved in last week’s prefight conference call couldn’t get a word in edgewise. This is a beef for the ages.
Yet even as the great Diaz-St-Pierre feud of 2013 gobbles up all the attention, two of UFC 158’s additional welterweight bouts -- Carlos Condit versus Johny Hendricks and Nate Marquardt versus Jake Ellenberger -- will arguably do just as much on Saturday night to plot the course of the division.
One need look no further than the show’s co-main event, where, as long as Hendricks can take care of business against Condit, it will be difficult to deny him the next available crack at the gold. Of course, that’s exactly what we all thought after Hendricks starched Martin Kampmann in 46 seconds in November and what we thought when he edged Josh Koscheck by split decision six months before that, too.
The story of Hendricks’ UFC career to date has certainly been one of delayed expectations. The guy is so overqualified to be the No. 1 contender, it’s astonishing to behold his 11-1 combined UFC/WEC record, his five straight wins, his nine stoppages in 15 career fights and realize he’s still waiting for his chance. By all rights it should probably be Hendricks fighting for title this weekend, were Diaz-GSP not worth its weight in pay-per-view gold.
The very fact that Hendricks is already so deserving of a championship opportunity is the most nerve-wracking thing about his upcoming fight with Condit. MMA can be a fickle mistress, after all, and if a guy is going to get the rug pulled out from under him in this sport it typically happens just as his fingers are about to close around the brass ring. Long story short: A Condit victory is certainly very possible here, and a loss by Hendricks could potentially be the most chaotic outcome of all.
It would certainly put guys like Demian Maia, Martin Kampmann and Rory MacDonald back in play for No. 1 contender status.
It would also probably do good things for the fortunes of Ellenberger, who could scrawl his own name near the top of the queue if he comes out on top against Marquardt. Ellenberger’s solid wrestling and heavy hands make him nearly as compelling a matchup for St-Pierre as Hendricks, if -- and this is a big one -- he came into their fight prepared to go five full rounds without slowing down.
Perhaps the biggest wild card of all is St-Pierre himself. Assuming he beats Diaz, will he stick around in the welterweight division long enough to fight Hendricks or Ellenberger or anybody else? Or will the champ finally concede to the pressure to head up to middleweight for a big-money superfight against Anderson Silva, leaving this fresh crop of challengers to fight it out among themselves?
Whatever happens, we should at least have a better idea where we’re headed after Saturday.
Unless Diaz wins, in which case all bets are off.
Cool. That's a fantastic fight. It was that way before UFC 137 -- back when it was on, then off -- and it is now. But today, it's a fantastic fight with all kinds of messy side effects. It's a fantastic fight out of time and place, even if it is very fun to think about.
Diaz is coming off a suspension, a loss, an all-but-forgotten retirement and that pre-UFC 137 bit of insubordination that got him removed from his last chance at St-Pierre. Johny Hendricks is fresh off annihilations of Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann, with a gritty decision in between over Josh Koscheck.
These things aren't equal. That's why it's complicated.
Hendricks deserves the fight, but he's only deserving. Diaz is alluring, plus three more things: He's a softer letdown from a "superfight" not happening; he's money; and he's Nick Diaz. If he beats St-Pierre, there's no nightmare attached. The same can't be said if the anonymous bearded guy beats St-Pierre. At least not yet.
But let's try to clarify the situation as it stands: Hendricks, the active No. 1 contender in the UFC's welterweight division, joins a growing list of heavy-handed wrestlers who have Octagon control but no control outside the Octagon (along with Dan Henderson at 205 pounds, and Chris Weidman at 185). You know how it looks? Like these fighters are being asked to keep earning title shots until they lose and title shots are no longer available to them. That's a tough swallow.
Then again, these things happen. Chael Sonnen, who hasn't fought at 205 pounds in half a decade and is coming off a definitive loss at 185, is fighting Jon Jones for the title. If that's justifiable, then this is nothing.
All of this started, of course, with Anderson Silva, who called out St-Pierre. We all knew that a "superfight" was going to involve hurt feelings from people near the top of either division. That's the nature of the big inter-division superfights: the backburners need to stay lit while the champions collide. Thing is, the idea of GSP-Silva is massive enough to trump a few slights. Even Hendricks understood that.
GSP-Diaz, though, isn't a superfight. It's a blood fight, one that lots of people -- St-Pierre especially -- are impatient to make happen. Hendricks, and many others, are having a harder time understanding that.
Complicating things further was the fact that White began chirping about GSP-Silva. It was a forgone conclusion that the bout was happening at one of three fancy venues (Cowboys Stadium, the Rogers Centre in Toronto or a big soccer stadium in Brazil). Silva even flew to Montreal to watch St-Pierre defend his 170-pound belt against Carlos Condit at UFC 154, and was shown on a big screen throughout the PPV reacting to every blow. It was a lot of expectation. It was on. It had to be.
Then it wasn't.
St-Pierre won, but afterward didn't seem overly excited for a Silva bout. In fact, he seemed peeved at all the presumption going on around him. Buzzkill. Then he went on vacation to heal and not think about fighting (a fib, because he was clearly thinking about Diaz).
St-Pierre wants Diaz. Silva wants St-Pierre. Diaz wanted Silva (remember that?), but he's cool with St-Pierre. That's straightforward enough. St-Pierre went last, so his vote is newest. He picks Diaz. Diaz isn't Silva, but, with no super-clash with Silva, it's better than Hendricks. He comes equipped with anticipation from the UFC 137 moment that never happened. He comes equipped with unfinished business, which is sellable. Plus, GSP-Diaz isn't a huge departure from GSP-Silva. In fact, GSP-Diaz might be bigger when you factor in the hype and lead-up.
Does any of that make it right? No. But it's not wrong, either.
More importantly, these guys hate each other. Why prolong the inevitable?
Not that any of that matters to Hendricks, who has very politely went about his business of knocking out or beating each guy placed in front of him. This is a raw deal for him. Not to mention a raw deal for people who trust the pecking order. Or for the purists, or those who believe Hendricks is a far scarier challenge to St-Pierre than Diaz.
These people may be right. I tend to think this way, too.
But the UFC was promising GSP-Silva. And when that couldn't be made, it went to the next big thing. And that's GSP-Diaz. With so many promises floating around out there at once, the UFC chose the route of disappointing the least amount of people possible.
Now there's really only one thing left to say about it: Sorry, Johny.
Five questions answeredThe knee? First Adrian Peterson. Now Georges St-Pierre. Maybe it's time to stop making such a big deal about major knee injuries.
Ring rust? The welterweight champion said he felt effects of the absence, although it hardly hurt his performance. Ring rust is real, but when fighters prepare to the level St-Pierre did, it turns out not to be a significant factor.
And the real champ is? I didn't think there was much of a question here, but the UFC billed Saturday's fight between St-Pierre and Condit as a clash of champions. GSP retains "the man" status.
Your next welterweight contender? Fear the beard; Johny Hendricks didn't trifle with formalities. He simply plowed through Martin Kampmann for the early knockout.
What about the guru? Trainer Greg Jackson went off into the New Mexico desert Saturday night, which is too bad, because he would have enjoyed GSP-Condit. Both welterweights showed up to win and fight, and neither seemed off kilter without Jackson around.
Five new questionsWill the superfight get made? A major hurdle was cleared with St-Pierre's win. Now the onus is on the welterweight champion to say yes to Anderson Silva. St-Pierre will take a few weeks to announce what he wants to do, but the UFC and Anderson Silva are on record as being fine with the fight in May.
Silva, Jones or St-Pierre? Who's the best mixed martial artist on the planet? I consider it a 1, 1-A, 1-AA scenario, but it's clear the top three have separated themselves from the pack. If these superfights take place, the answer will become clear. Otherwise, let the debate rage on.
Can GSP take down Johny Hendricks? This is one you'll hear a lot over the next few months. It's a good question, but just remember that MMA isn't wrestling.
Hey referees, what's the deal? OK, this is hardly a new question or concern. Call it a reminder that referees and judges hold immense power over fighters, and Dan Miragliotta's back-of-the-head block party in the Patrick Cote-Alessio Sakara contest was shoddy work. Officials must be held accountable.
Is Canada the UFC's top market? Montreal came out to see St-Pierre to the tune of a $3.1 million gate. Not quite a sellout, but 17,149 fans in attendance at the Bell Centre isn't bad. If Canada remains in the top spot, that gap has closed in a big way with the rise of Brazil.
Five matches to makeSt-Pierre vs. Silva: Well, yeah. Still needs to be said. The potential for this fight has reached critical mass. And I want to see it because I'm not in the camp that thinks GSP will be outgunned against Silva if they meet at a catchweight around 180 pounds.
St-Pierre vs. Hendricks: Part of me wants the champion to take on Hendricks next. There are more than a few entertaining possibilities for GSP at 170, and Hendricks' power, wrestling prowess and get-'em attitude all smack of the right stuff.
Condit vs. Kampmann: Sure, it's a rematch, and others to fight are out there, but their first contest in 2009 was tremendous. Before the St-Pierre loss, it stood out as Condit's lone blemish in 14 fights.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov: Nurmagomedov needs to beat Thiago Tavares first, and if he does, a fight with dos Anjos is one I want to see. Dos Anjos is extremely physical, and his athleticism is beginning to shine through when he fights. Nurmagomedov seems to possess the correct ingredients to challenge the Brazilian lightweight.
Darren Elkins vs. Chan Sung Jung: Time for a step up for Elkins, who's unbeaten in four fights at 145 pounds and looked really good Saturday against Steven Siler. Jung could be too big of a leap, as the Korean Zombie is one of UFC's biggest names in the division, and he seems set up for a title shot. But Elkins' grappling pressure is something I'd like to see against Jung.
Stock reportGeorges St-Pierre: Up. Returning for the first time in more than a year and a half, the UFC champion was impressive in all facets. He took on a legit threat in his return, no tuneup here, and now the 31-year-old Canadian is lined up for the biggest payday of his career or another tough test at 170. The sky is still the limit for St-Pierre.
Carlos Condit: Steady. True, he fell short. But Condit proved he deserved to be in the cage with St-Pierre, going so far as to dare to hurt the champion in Round 3. There will be plenty of fights for Condit, and people will want to watch.
Johny Hendricks: Up. Way up. A title shot is likely next. People want to see him fight GSP, and some will think he's the guy to dethrone the champion. Either way, Hendricks' attitude continues to be great. The guy is having a great time, and he's just figuring this fighting stuff out.
Francis Carmont: Down. This was a reality check. The judges split and sided with Carmont, but he didn't look particularly dangerous against Tom Lawlor. A win is a win, but momentum behind Carmont was slowed for the time being.
Mark Hominick: Down. Four straight losses for Hominick starting with Jose Aldo last year says it all. He'll stick around the UFC despite the bad streak, but Hominick comes off as exposed and utterly beatable.
St-Pierre has coolly told anybody and everybody who's bothered to ask that he isn't thinking about Silva. When informed that Silva will be in Montreal to see him fight, surely not by any kind of coincidence, St-Pierre said he wouldn't be uncivil and ignore him. He would at least say hello. But right now he is focused on Condit. You know, Condit, the reason we're all here.
But the specter of Silva is everywhere.
Martin Kampmann's wrestling coach Kyle Griffin said at least half the questions directed at Kampmann were about St-Pierre-Silva. Never mind that Kampmann is thrice removed. Dan Hardy has been asked to break down a fight between Silva-St-Pierre, too, by ESPN U.K. and others.
If the periphery is being quizzed on the fight, imagine what the monkey wrench in the scenario must be thinking.
People forget that Condit is standing right there in the room. How does he feel being the invisible obstacle?
"It's fine, man. I'm used to being overlooked," he told ESPN.com. "You know, when I fought Nick Diaz [at UFC 143], they were talking about the Georges St-Pierre-Nick Diaz fight next. No big deal for me. I'm focused on Georges St-Pierre."
Open workouts a strange bit of theater
The UFC 154 open workouts were a little misleading Thursday. For starters, what people were doing in the cage at the New City Gas nightclub in Montreal couldn't rightly be called a workout. Closer to performance art, really.
It began with Tom Lawlor, who was wearing his standard Ambrose Burnside whiskers and a Sheraton bathrobe. He and his cornermen -- Seth Petruzelli and Kyle Holland -- did the media rounds in white robes before they were ushered to the cage. Underneath the robes? Adult diapers. Oddly clumpy but perfect for the faux sumo wrestling tournament they engaged in.
St-Pierre arrived to a nice ovation with his entourage (among them Francis Carmont, Phil Nurse and John Donaher), and they entered the cage and proceeded to, like, span time. St-Pierre signed shirts, gloves and action figures. He casually talked to Nurse. He tossed memorabilia to his fans. All this generosity was backdropped by the thumping sounds of 2 Chainz’s "No Lie." At one point, St-Pierre stretched; this was the only move toward anything athletic.
Just brawl, baby
Sometimes he gets hacked down. Sometimes he gets hacked down but gets back up. Sometimes he flattens his opponent (don't remind Alexandre Barros). You ask the Dane's cornermen if Kampmann digresses from the game plan, and they laugh. That's just him, they say, a technical striker who can't help becoming a technical brawler.
"He just loves to fight," Xtreme Couture's Griffin said.
You have to wonder, though, how it plays out against a heavy-handed wrestler like Hendricks. Kampmann was able to weather Ellenberger's first-round onslaught to come back and win. Ditto Thiago Alves in March. It's true that Kampmann has been the picture of endurance and perseverance in his run back into welterweight contention, but the reality is he had to come back because he put himself in trouble to begin with.
Bottom line: If he puts himself into a bad spot against Hendricks, there may be no coming back. Then again, if he wins dramatically, as he did in his previous fights in 2012 against Alves and Ellenberger, Kampmann has to be considered for fighter of the year.
MONTREAL -- It’s easy to spot Johny Hendricks among the fighters who are scheduled to compete Saturday night at Bell Centre: He’s the one with the biggest smile on his face.
Hendricks has exuded nothing but happiness in the days leading into his UFC 154 welterweight title eliminator against Martin Kampmann. And it isn’t nervous energy.
Hendricks is primed for battle, mentally and physically. He points to the six months that have passed since his split-decision win over Josh Koscheck in May.
“My weight is 10 pounds over [the 170-pound limit],” Hendricks told ESPN.com on Thursday. “That’s the best I’ve been for any fight. I’m just excited.
“Fighting every four months would be perfect. But sometimes it’s good to step away. That’s what I did this last fight and I came back hungrier and stronger to fight again. I needed to step away and be a family man, spend time with the girls. It made me that more excited to fight again."
Wrestling remains Hendricks’ base discipline, but his striking skills -- punching in particular -- have gotten much attention in the past year. The focus has centered on Hendricks’ powerful left hand. But during preparation for this fight against Kampmann he expanded his striking range.
It’s a major reason Hendricks believes his striking game is on par with Kampmann’s.
“My power gives me [an edge] on the feet,” Hendricks said. “No matter what, he knows he can’t eat too many of my left hands.
“Also, my left hand now creates other shots. If he’s defending my left hand or even my hook, my hook has gotten stronger, lead uppercut has gotten stronger.
“That’s what I focused on these past several months. Everybody’s looking for this thing [left hand], but now it might be this thing [right hand] that knocks you out.”
Hendricks said he hurt a few training partners during training camp with a variety of punches. And he did the damage wearing 8-ounce boxing gloves -- while his sparring partners donned headgear. Oh, and by the way, Hendricks points out that the damage was done with his right hand.
Despite the improvements in his stand-up game, Hendricks expects his wrestling to play a major role during the fight.
“My stand-up is much better,” Hendricks said. “It might just open up my wrestling.
“It’s been six months since I last stepped in the Octagon; a lot has changed. I can’t wait.”
It starts with knocking out Johny Hendricks in the co-main event -- a logical place to start.
Next is securing a fight against Carlos Condit or Georges St-Pierre, who are scheduled to unify the UFC welterweight title in the main event.
This is where the plan gets a little ... unique.
“I’m just going to knock Johny out and stay in the [Octagon],” Kampmann told ESPN.com. “That makes it easier. I’ll just stay in there. One of them will have to fight me.”
It’s likely the good folks of the Bell Centre security team in Montreal will eventually remove Kampmann from the cage. But you get the point.
The soft-spoken welterweight believes a win over Hendricks elevates him to the top of the division -- now.
Should Condit upset St-Pierre in the main event, Kampmann might get his wish. Other than an immediate rematch with the Canadian (depending on how the fight goes), Kampmann would likely be first in line to challenge Condit for the title. He is responsible for Condit’s only loss in the Octagon, a split decision in 2009.
If St-Pierre wins, it’s not as easy. The UFC appears focused on promoting a superfight between St-Pierre and middleweight champion Anderson Silva in 2013.
Kampmann acknowledges he has something to gain if that fight falls through but said if a superfight does take place, it should be between Silva and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
“I think [St-Pierre] is going to get knocked out. That’s my honest answer,” said Kampmann, on what would happen in a Silva-St-Pierre fight. “Everything aside, I’d much rather see Anderson Silva fight Jon Jones. [Silva] is calling out the smaller guy. I’d like to see him fight Jon Jones. I think that’s a much more interesting fight, and that’s not just from my personal perspective. It’s also from a fan’s perspective.”
Everything aside, I'd much rather see Anderson Silva fight Jon Jones. [Silva] is calling out the smaller guy. I'd like to see him fight Jon Jones. I think that's a much more interesting fight and that's not just from my personal perspective. It's also from a fan's perspective.” -- Martin Kampmann, on why a bout between Silva and Jones -- not Silva and Georges St. Pierre -- would be the super-fight
Kampmann (20-5) said he understands everything starts with the first part of his plan: beating Hendricks. He is well aware of how dangerous his opponent this month is. The two used to train with each other in Las Vegas.
They were never best friends but were close enough that Kampmann stored an extra bed he owned at Hendricks’ house because there was no room for it in his apartment. They are definitely familiar.
Kampmann said he can’t afford another slow start like the one he overcame in a win over Jake Ellenberger. Whereas he knew he had to weather a storm with Ellenberger, Kampmann said Hendricks is dangerous at all times.
“He’s a very strong guy with knockout power,” Kampmann said. “Combine that with some of the best wrestling pedigree in the UFC and you’re bound to succeed.
“I know this opponent way better than a lot of others I’ve had. I feel confident going into the fight. At the same time, you can change a lot in a couple years, so I’m not coming in with the mindset of ‘this is how Johny fights.’ I have to come in with an open mind and be ready for whatever.”
When it comes to mixed martial artists, one would be hard-pressed to find a fighter more at peace before a high-profile bout than Johny Hendricks.
The former Oklahoma State University wrestling All-American isn’t one to get involved in verbal tit-for-tats with upcoming opponents. But heading into his Saturday night bout against Martin Kampmann, a UFC welterweight title eliminator, Hendricks is revealing a little hostility.
Hendricks’ hard feelings stem from Kampmann's vowing to knock him out and their days training together at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. Hendricks says that time became a source of his confidence.
“I’ve worked hard and I’ve beaten some tough dudes to get my title shot, and right now Johny Hendricks is in my way -- and I’m going to knock his a-- out to get it,” Kampmann said in a UFC 154 promotional clip.
“Hendricks punches with a lot of power and his punches come from different angles, but his biggest strength is his wrestling. I used to train with him in Vegas. I still feel I’m a lot slicker than him. My wrestling has come a long way, so I reckon I can beat his a-- and defend the takedown.”
Hendricks doesn’t hesitate to admit that Kampmann often got the better of him in sparring when they trained together at Xtreme Couture from 2007 until 2008. But that’s when Hendricks was a very raw fighter, an infant in MMA.
Hendricks' peaceful nature dissipates when he reflects on his experience training with Kampmann.
“I trained with him for about a year and a half,” Hendricks told ESPN.com. “The thing is that about the last half of the year he didn’t want to train with me anymore. That’s why I transferred over to Striking Unlimited.
“Once I got to a point where I could somewhat compete with these guys, they didn’t want to train with me anymore. They wanted to learn from me, learn my wrestling, but once I got to where I could learn from them, to strike with them, they didn’t give back like I thought they would.
“They stopped working out with me, and that’s when I went to Striking Unlimited, which was a blessing in disguise.”
When Hendricks entered MMA, striking was a glaring hole in his game. He took his share of lumps from more seasoned strikers -- Phil Baroni once knocked him out during a sparring session.
I trained with him for about a year and a half. The thing is that about the last half of the year he didn't want to train with me anymore. That's why I transferred over to Striking Unlimited.” -- Johny Hendricks, on training in the past with Martin Kampmann
But at the new gym, Hendricks never felt anyone was out to take advantage of him. He’d dispense his wrestling knowledge while learning valuable stand-up techniques from teammates.
And Hendricks proved to be a quick learner. He absorbed everything -- from always being in the proper stance, to moving his head side to side and keeping his hands high, to accurately moving his feet.
These days Hendricks is as dangerous a fighter standing as he is wrestling. His ability to sit on his punches has made him one of the most feared strikers in the 170-pound division.
“When I started in MMA, I knew that I had to get people scared of me, scared of my hands,” Hendricks said. “I really needed to work on my stand-up; that way, people would start really fearing my hands. That would make the takedowns much easier.
“Now my stand-up has gotten to the point where I can choose which way I want to go -- standing or taking a fight to the ground. That’s a huge confidence builder.”
Hendricks will take a ton of confidence into his fight with Kampmann. And like his opponent, a large chunk of that confidence can be attributed to their days at Xtreme Couture.
Kampmann is a solid fighter, and Hendricks is aware of it. He has experienced Kampmann’s skills firsthand. But it’s that experience with Kampmann in the gym -- while observing his progress over the past few years -- that has Hendricks salivating when thoughts of their fight at Bell Centre in Montreal enter his mind.
“Kampmann’s at his peak,” Hendricks said. “When we trained together, he already knew everything about striking; he was already in the UFC fighting at 185. He’s added a few things, but not much. Once you hit your peak, it’s hard to add new stuff. But he is durable and he is tough.
“I was there with him when he started cutting down to 170; I’ve known this guy for a while. For him to sit there and say that I haven’t developed is just nonsense. I’m not the fighter I was two years ago or a year ago; I’m so much more advanced.”
Hendricks wants it known that his growth as a mixed martial artist isn’t limited to wrestling and striking. He is very confident in his submission game and would be overjoyed if he gets to show it off Saturday night, if the opportunity presents itself.
“I go to New York City and train with [Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt] Marcelo Garcia after every fight, and sometimes during training camp,” Hendricks said. “My jiu-jitsu is actually better than my stand-up. It’s just that so far I haven’t had the opportunity to show it.
“I want to show more of my [grappling] game, so that people know that I’m more than just a wrestler. I have a strong ground game and feel more comfortable with it. I’m improving constantly. I’m constantly learning all aspects. I haven’t hit my peak yet.”
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.
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.
Despite its much ballyhooed influx of new talent, the UFC welterweight division has been lacking something important during the last few months: Momentum.
Depending how you look at it, the 170-pound class is currently either without its champion, or it has one too many. With Georges St. Pierre still on the mend from a serious knee injury and Carlos Condit reportedly on the shelf until he returns, the suddenly healthy crop of welterweight contenders has been left to fight it out amongst themselves.
The problem, of course, is that nobody knows exactly what they’re fighting for. After the decision came down that Condit would wait for GSP, the welterweight class has been thrust into a weird suspended animation; one where the rest of the division is forced to keep engaging in real fights with very unreal, undefined consequences. Case in point: Martin Kampmann’s upset victory over Jake Ellenberger last Friday, wherein we’re led to believe one guy gained significant ground at the expense of the other, we just have no idea where that ground is leading.
The sum total makes for a situation that is unfair to everyone, most of all fans, who are allegedly supposed to keep track of it all.
With that in mind, here are three ways to get the welterweight division back on its feet and feeling vibrant again:
1. Have Condit defend his belt.
In the wake of St. Pierre’s injury, promoters spent considerable time and effort creating an interim champion from Condit’s UFC 143 win over Nick Diaz. Nobody likes an interim title, but under the circumstances it was probably the right move. Unfortunately, no sooner had Condit claimed the belt by somewhat disputed unanimous decision, the UFC announced he wouldn’t actually be doing anything with it. Instead, he’ll just hold tight until St. Pierre returns, so long as GSP can do that in the timely manner he’s promising.
Yeah, that was probably the wrong move.
For the record, an interim champion whose only duty is to cool his heels until the real champion comes back isn’t an interim champion at all. He’s just the No. 1 contender with a belt. The sole reason to create an interim title, in fact, is to preserve the division’s forward momentum while the real champion recuperates. If that’s not going to happen, then it makes no sense to even have an interim champ.
Granted, nobody will recognize Condit as the real champion until he beats St. Pierre. At the very least though, the notion that the interim belt could be up for grabs would make fans feel like something was happening. Without it, these next few months run the risk of turning into season eight of “Dallas,” with matchmakers wiping the slate clean and pretending like it was all just Kampmann’s dream once GSP is healthy.
2. Create some narratives.
If fans are going to invest three hours watching a fight card -- or, even worse, shell out $54.99 to watch one on pay-per-view -- they want to feel like what they’re watching means something. That feeling is sorely lacking at 170-pounds right now.
An important part of pushing Condit back into action would be to create a sense of meaning at the top of the welterweight class. As it stands now, Ellenberger -- who rightly should have been “in the mix” for a No. 1 contender spot under normal circumstances -- saw the momentum he’d built during a six-fight win streak unceremoniously halted with his upset loss to Kampmann, and for what? Nobody knows, except that we’re all pretty sure it’s bad that Ellenberger lost.
Conventional wisdom now has Kampmann ticketed for a future bout with Johny Hendricks but, again, we’re not totally clear on why. Kampmann versus Hendricks can’t be a No. 1 contender match because Condit is already the No. 1 contender and will remain that way for a seemingly indefinite period of time. As a result, Kampmann and Hendricks may engage in a bout just as meaningless as Kampmann versus Ellenberger, one where nothing particularly tangible is at stake except for the vague notion that you don’t want to lose. Especially if your name rhymes with Sohny Fendricks.
That changes if Kampmann and Hendricks are fighting for the right to face Condit for some version of the welterweight title. That means something.
3. Let GSP rest in peace.
No, that’s not nearly as ominous as it sounds, but there has (understandably) been much handwringing over the speed of St. Pierre’s recovery from knee surgery. Can he get back before the end of the year? Can he be the same dominant champion post ACL-snapping as he was before it? Will he be psychologically ready to take on the top challenger right out of the gate?
To all of this, it feels necessary to say: Dudes, chill. Let the man rehab and -- dare I say -- let the man rehab at his own pace. The worst thing an athlete can do is hurry back from a devastating injury. If we want GSP to return in tip-top shape, it’s advisable that we give him the breathing room necessary to make that happen.
And at the risk of beating an ailing horse, it’s not like the welterweight division particularly needs him for the next few months. With a roster full of exciting young guys like Condit, Hendricks, Kampmann, Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald and (here’s hoping) Diaz, there is more than enough talent to keep the division afloat and relevant until GSP is ready to return.
The athletes just need a reason to fight and the fans need a reason to watch, to care. If only there was something tangible they could fight over, like … oh, I don’t know ... a belt.