Lefko on UFC 158: Condit a connecting piece

Carlos Condit is a former WEC and interim UFC champion. (CP/Paul Chiasson)

Carlos Condit has proven to be the moving part in the Georges St-Pierre/Nick Diaz saga, so it wouldn’t be surprising if somehow he is called upon to fight the champion, albeit on what would really be short, short notice by mixed martial arts standards.

Because Diaz missed a public workout on Wednesday with the media patiently waiting to pose more questions to the perplexing Californian, UFC 158 has been thrown into a funk. Diaz must show on Thursday for a mandatory media conference or face dire consequences from UFC president Dana White, who has given the fighter numerous warnings. All that may be left now is the equivalent of a red card from the fight and/or a pink slip from the company.

So that is why Condit could find himself smack dab in the middle of this ongoing soap opera between the pristine welterweight champion and his problem opponent. The show will go on Saturday in Montreal and surely St-Pierre will fight someone to retain his belt.

Condit is scheduled to fight Johny Hendricks, whom some people thought should have been selected as the No. 1 contender to fight St-Pierre. But St-Pierre had reserved that spot for Diaz, who dared to punk the injured champion by verbally calling him out.

It happened after Diaz beat B.J. Penn in the main event of UFC 137 in October 2011 and uttered the now famous – or infamous – words, “Where you at, Georges?” He insinuated the champion was faking an injury so he wouldn’t have to face him. Who knew more than 16 months later the question would be, “Where you at, Nick?”

If St-Pierre has been frazzled beyond belief with Diaz, what about Condit, who must feel like he’s part of a bizarre MMA ménage a trois? You might even say he’s become a conduit in all of this.

But the one thing consistent about Condit has been his focus. He has not let distractions deter him from his goal to get a shot at the title, which he did in February 2012 at UFC 143, and claim the win with a unanimous decision over Diaz. It was by no means an exciting fight, more of a display of cerebral science. Condit received a specific game plan going into the fight to avoid getting too close to Diaz and engaging in a brawl in the pocket. He struck from a measured distance and won by frustrating Diaz, who egged on his opponent without success.

Condit received his fair share of criticism for winning without really fighting in the true sense of the word, and then he had to do with a second helping of criticism for waiting what seemed like an eternity to put his interim championship belt on the line. He wanted to savour what he did and give St-Pierre the time to return from major reconstructive knee surgery for a title unification bout. That was the proper and classy thing to do.

He did his best to avoid stirring up the champion, knowing he was already going into a hostile environment that happened to be St-Pierre’s home territory in Montreal in the main event of UFC 154.

St-Pierre has not always garnered the respect of his opponents, either because they don’t want to treat him like a star or have looked for a way to get inside his mind. Matt Serra fired a salvo at St-Pierre prior to their rematch at UFC 83 in April 2008 when he referred to him as a “Frenchy” in a radio interview and telling him to “go drink some red wine and go watch a hockey game.” Serra completely crossed the line, at least by trash-talking standards. When Serra lost, it was like the equivalent of the Montreal Canadiens beating the Big Bad Boston Bruins, at least for the partisan St-Pierre supporters.

By doing what he did, which is to say battling the champion without challenging the way he trains, markets himself or beats his opponents, Condit may have allowed himself a chance at a rematch. That’s what happens when you become a good company man and prove your dependability.

Condit had an epiphany training for the fight against Diaz, realizing he had taken his career for granted and needed an attitude adjustment. Some of that had to do with the birth of his first child and a realization that he needed to think beyond just himself. It is admirable what he’s done with life and career and how he’s managed to adjust to professional situations, which weren’t necessarily fair or within his control.

Condit surely has to rate on the short list of the classiest competitors currently active in the UFC. He is your typical good guy and the last year and a half he’s had to deal with some situations that may have taxed an individual who didn’t have a strong mental outlook. He was once the now guy, with three consecutive memorable fights heading into the bout against Diaz. He claimed Fight of the Night against Rory MacDonald and Knockout of the Night in his next two fights against Dan Hardy and Dong Hyun Kim.

But now it is Hendricks who has become the flashier of the two.

Is Hendricks a guy who is overrated or underrated? It’s a discussion that can be viewed both ways. In his last bout, he easily dismantled Martin Kampmann, pummeling someone who was climbing his way up the division and spilling a ton of blood along the way.

Previous to Kampmann, Hendricks beat Josh Koscheck, who has seen his better days but still draws interest because of his bleached hairdo and running his mouth. Hendricks had to go the full three-round distance against Koscheck and won via split decision. Before Koscheck, Hendricks beat Jon Fitch, recently dismissed by the UFC, in only 12 seconds.

Ultimately it will be up to St-Pierre to decide what he wants to do going forward, even more so if this upcoming card, which has been beset by various missteps by Diaz, comes apart.

Whatever happens, Condit will somehow continue to factor into the UFC welterweight division because he has proven an ability to do what’s been asked of him, even if it hasn’t always been to his liking. The fight game isn’t fair, but it’s a business and Condit has conducted his in a proper way.

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