Condit takes opponent switch in stride

It’s not the situation Carlos Condit expected to find himself in next month at UFC 158, but he isn’t complaining. Rather, he’s embracing it.

Condit was slated to fight Rory MacDonald in the March 16 co-main event. But MacDonald, who called out Condit on several occasions in hopes of landing a rematch, suffered an injury which forced him to withdraw. UFC officials quickly scrambled to find a replacement for MacDonald. They didn’t have to look far -- consensus top-welterweight contender Johny Hendricks was penciled in to face Jake Ellenberger on the March 16 card in Montreal.

Out goes MacDonald, in comes Hendricks and Condit goes from a good situation to a better one. What a godsend for the former UFC interim 170-pound champion.

“Fighting Johny Hendricks is the perfect opportunity for Carlos to earn another shot at the UFC welterweight title,” Condit’s manager, Malki Kawa, said Monday in a statement. “Hendricks is the perfect replacement for Rory, keeping a No. 1-contender bout intact.

“It’s going to be an exciting fight.”

In his first fight since coming out on the short end of a unanimous decision to lineal welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre during a title unification showdown at UFC 154 on Nov. 17, 2012, Condit is in position to land a title shot sooner than even he could have imagined.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. In a way, it’s poetic justice: Condit gave St-Pierre a scare, giving him all he could handle. A head kick in the third round had St-Pierre on unsteady legs.

Both fighters had been out of the cage for an extended period, but who knows how that fight would have played out under normal circumstances? It was a very competitive fight, arguably the toughest of St-Pierre’s career.

At the completion of five rounds, however, there was no suspense -- St-Pierre was awarded the decision, and rightfully so. But Condit was able to hold his head high; he’d proven that he belonged in the same cage with one of the best mixed martial artists in history.

Condit spoke to ESPN.com a few weeks after that loss and expressed optimism about his future. He learned from the experience and realized there were several mistakes made during the bout. But he vows to be a much improved fighter the next time around.

“I almost had the fight in the bag,” Condit told ESPN.com in December. “With some adjustments and a few tweaks in my game, I’m going to be able to capitalize on those moments that I had in the last fight.

“I’m fired up. I’m looking to come back with a vengeance.”

Well, next time has arrived.

When Condit spoke in December of "being fired up," he had MacDonald in mind. Condit was eager to face the fast-rising 23-year-old one more time in hopes of silencing him for good. Condit won their first encounter back in June 2010 at UFC 115 by third-round TKO.

But MacDonald has been calling for a rematch since, claiming he was too green the first time around. He raised his campaign rhetoric during the build-up to UFC 154 in Montreal. MacDonald currently resides in Montreal, where he trains with St-Pierre.

Following Condit’s loss to St-Pierre and MacDonald’s dominating win Dec. 8 over BJ Penn, UFC decision-makers quickly worked on putting the rematch together. It came as no surprise that both fighters accepted the UFC’s bout offer.

Condit never turns down a fight, and now that take-on-anyone-anywhere attitude has paid off immensely. As a result of MacDonald’s strenuous training habits, he injured himself in camp.

MacDonald now has to wait a little longer for his coveted rematch, while Condit will compete in a fight that (by all accounts) is a title eliminator.

Condit is a very happy man today. But Condit’s increased enthusiasm is spurred solely by his participating in a possible eliminator; he gets to take on another fighter with a penchant for calling him out.

Condit might have to make a few strategic adjustments for Hendricks, but his motivation needle is jumping all over the place right now. The former interim champion has his swagger back.

“I have been training for Rory MacDonald, but there is plenty of time left to switch my focus to Hendricks,” Condit said Monday. “He’s called me out in the past, and now is his chance to try to back that talk up.

“I’ll be ready for him.”