Now, after waiting 11 months for St-Pierre to return from a torn ACL and watching him vanquish a game Carlos Condit on Saturday at UFC 154 to finally take the first step toward making that dream fight a reality, I’m suddenly feeling pretty lukewarm about it.
Truthfully, I don’t
Does that marked lack of enthusiasm make me feel like the most jaded MMA fan on the planet? Yes. Yes, it does. Nonetheless, judging from the reactions I’ve gotten from people in ESPN.com live chats, on social media and in person, I’m not alone in feeling like the ship has already sailed on this one.
The reasoning behind supporting a St-Pierre-Silva superfight when we first started discussing it -- what, decades ago now? -- was obvious. The UFC had an opportunity to make a fight between two of the greatest competitors of all time (both of them still very much in the prime of their careers) and that made the inherent risks and necessary sacrifices seem worth it. After all, a chance like this might only come around once in a generation, right?
Wrong. Unfortunately, it turns out St-Pierre-Silva isn’t actually the greatest fight of a generation; it’s merely the second-best option.
And when it comes to superfights, second best might not be good enough.
The emergence of Jon Jones as perhaps the actual best fighter in the world regardless of weight, bolstered by Silva’s latest successful foray to 205 pounds at UFC 153, has unquestionably established Jones-Silva as the UFC’s most potentially super superfight. It makes St-Pierre-Silva seem like Plan B, and that’s definitely not what you want when your organization’s two longest-standing champions put their legacies and double-digit win streaks on the line for the sake of history.
Well, history and an immense pile of cash.
If UFC matchmakers are going to start making guarantees about superfights, if they are going to commit the resources and rent out a mega-stadium and trundle through the difficult process of convincing a reluctant superstar to take a fight outside his weight class that he’s obviously not overly excited about, they should do it in pursuit of Silva-Jones. Sure, Silva-St-Pierre will do a staggering live gate and a huge pay-per-view number and we’ll all watch it and we’ll all like it (or else!), but when it’s over, the loser will leave looking like a less miraculous talent and the winner will leave with fans still grumbling about how it should have been Jones in there.
Not to mention that it suddenly feels like there is unfinished business for both GSP and Silva in their natural weight classes. After watching Johny Hendricks starch Martin Kampmann in 46 seconds on Saturday to solidify his own impressive five-fight win streak, I’m honestly more interested in seeing St-Pierre defend the 170-pound title against Hendricks than having him chuck it all for a catchweight superfight with Silva. In addition, so long as the UFC’s longstanding middleweight champion opts to spend his time accepting one-off spectacle fights he’s reasonably sure he can win, it’s going to feel as though deserving contenders like Chris Weidman and Michael Bisping are getting the short end of the stick.
So when it comes to a superfight that isn’t really the one we all want to see, is it worth it to risk the legacies, or even the drawing power of your two most storied stars? Is it worth putting the two divisions on lockdown while we sort it all out? Is it worth overlooking other athletes who have worked just as hard and fought just as well, all in pursuit of their own chance to test their skills against the best in the world?
For Silva-Jones, the answer to all of the above would be yes. For anything less, I’m not so sure.