Though neither would likely admit it, there is a good chance that both Johny Hendricks and Martin Kampmann will secretly be rooting for Carlos Condit to emerge victorious Saturday night at UFC 154.
Before Condit and Georges St-Pierre step into the Octagon to determine who shall reign as the undisputed champion of the welterweight division, Hendricks and Kampmann will meet in a bout that should determine who will be the first to face the eventual undisputed champion. The key word in there, however, is should.
While “Bigg Rigg” and “The Hitman” should be duking it out to determine who is next in line to challenge for the welterweight title, I have a feeling they’ll instead be fighting to determine which one of them has to make the gut-wrenching decision about whether to risk their place in the pecking order or go an extended period without a fight.
I refer to this as “The Anthony Pettis Paradox.”
If St-Pierre sends the crowd at the Bell Centre into a frenzy with a triumphant return to the cage on Saturday night, the UFC will put the full-court press on the French-Canadian superstar to fight Anderson Silva.
While I believe the middleweight champion when he says he won’t enter the cage to throw down the gauntlet at St-Pierre’s feet, I don’t believe him for a second when he says he’s going to take the bulk of 2013 off. Silva will be 38 in April, and there is no chance he wastes almost an entire year on the sidelines when his career is already drawing to a close.
This is a negotiation tactic by “The Spider,” and one that will, eventually, have a direct impact on the welterweight division.
A super-fight between St-Pierre and Silva would leave the Hendricks-Kampmann winner in limbo, forced to wait to see what happens with GSP before they’re able to start thinking about the next step in their respective careers.
Should St-Pierre accept Silva’s challenge, the welterweight title will be on hold for six months, if not longer. Whoever comes away from the co-main event victorious will have to weigh the pros and cons of fighting again while St-Pierre tangles with Silva or taking another extended vacation from competing. Remember, Hendricks last fought in May, and Kampmann punched his ticket to Montreal with a win over Jake Ellenberger on June 1, so there is a real possibility that opting to wait would mean their fight at UFC 154 will produce the only paycheque they collect over a 12-month stretch.
As unappealing as that scenario sounds, rolling the dice and taking another fight in the interim isn’t exactly rainbows and unicorns either.
When you’re already the No. 1 contender, a win doesn’t exactly bolster your place in the rankings. While it could increase your profile and will certainly put some folding money in your pocket, the risk greatly outweighs the rewards, as Pettis found out a couple years back.
After entering the UFC as the final WEC lightweight champion, Pettis was initially promised a bout with the winner of the UFC 125 lightweight title main event battle between champion Frankie Edgar and challenger Gray Maynard. Unfortunately for Pettis, the bout ended in a draw, and after initially suggesting Pettis would get the next shot at the title, Dana White booked Edgar-Maynard III, and “Showtime” was put to a decision.
He opted to take on Clay Guida, lost a decision, and has spent the last year and change trying to work his way back into a title shot. Despite consecutive victories, he’s still not there yet, as a bout with Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone now stands in his way.
That’s why I think these two welterweights will secretly be hoping for Condit to pull the upset and send the fans in Montreal home disappointed. When asked last week if a win for Condit would result in “The Natural Born Killer” replacing St-Pierre in a super-fight with Silva, White quickly shot down the idea, saying that Condit would defend the belt against whomever is next in line if he wins.
This is why I’ve never been crazy about super-fights.
As much as the fan in me likes the idea of seeing two of the greatest champions in UFC history share the cage, I don’t see the value in shutting down the championship chase in two divisions and putting fighters like Hendricks or Kampmann in a position where they have to pick the best of two bad options.
There are already a handful of potential challengers jockeying for position in the welterweight division, Nick Diaz re-enters the conversation as soon as he comes back, and Nate Marquardt could become a factor if/when the current Strikeforce champion moves back to the UFC in 2013 as well.
The winner of this weekend’s co-main event will stand at the head of that list, and they shouldn’t have to consider risking the opportunity they’ve competed their entire careers to earn.
They will, but they shouldn’t have to.
E. Spencer Kyte is a regular contributor to ufc.com, UFC Magazine, and Fight Magazine, and writes the MMA blog Keyboard Kimura. Follow him on Twitter @spencerkyte.