(Kevin Marshall's opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Spike.)
UFC Interim Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit
has received a bit of flack for his decision to wait until Georges St-Pierre
returns from injury this Fall rather than providing someone with an interim title shot.
There are two issues at hand: should fighters like Condit be allowed to wait and pick their spot, or be forced to defend their interim titles? And, perhaps the bigger question, why have an interim title at all?
Firstly, it needs to be stated that much of the hand-wringing over Condit's decision not to defend his interim title exaggerates the depth of the Welterweight division and subsequent need for an immediate title defense. Let's face facts: this division's rankings are St-Pierre at number one and everyone else in a distant second (Nick Diaz
was closer right up until his loss to Condit). The only thing that might change this is if St-Pierre comes back a different fighter, which is possible given the severity of his injury.
Right now, the most convincing case for an immediate title shot is Johny Hendricks, whose most high profile wins are a KO against Jon Fitch
(a man whose style of fighting was just begging
to eventually get caught) and a split decision against a fading Josh Koscheck
. Not to take anything away from Hendricks; he's inarguably a top five fighter and his stock is rising. But the assertion that his record demands an immediate opportunity is specious. Really, the only bout that you could make that case for in terms of his record and how the previous fight went down is a rematch between Condit and Nick Diaz. But that's not going to happen given that Diaz is serving a one year suspension and nobody seems to be sure if he even wants to fight again.
Which leads us to our next question: why bother with an interim title in the first place?
We have to remember that the decision to make the winner of Diaz vs. Condit the interim champion was made back in January, when the earliest projected return for Georges St-Pierre was (and still is) sometime in the Fall. With his last title defense occurring in April of last year (against Jake Shields), that would put the division at a minimum of eighteen months without a champion. The UFC doesn't have a hard and fast rule for Interim titles, which for the best since there are so many potential variables and scenarios to consider that to make one would create more problems than it would solve. But if you know for a fact that you're going to go well over a year without a title defense, it only makes sense to have an interim title.
By the way, this is all still working on the assumption that St-Pierre will actually return in the Fall. ACL injuries are no joke. It must be taken into consideration, too, that St-Pierre's style relies heavily on grappling. He's also 31 years old; not ancient by any means, but ten years of fighting compounded by his notoriously strenuous year-round training regimen is a recipe for disaster coming off an ACL injury.
The bottom line is that without a pressing challenge, it's not worth it for Condit to accept a fight before St-Pierre's scheduled return. Those that say he's passing up a payday aren't taking into account the risk Condit runs of losing a fight against a guy like Hendricks. Headlining against one of the biggest stars in UFC is a much more lucrative prospect than a fight against any other two opponents combined. It only makes sense financially and in terms of his reputation for Condit to wait another few months to have the chance to prove that he can hang with the best.Image: Josh Hedges/ Zuffa LLC/ Getty Images