As of this writing, it’s been roughly 24 hours since Dana White revealed via social media that UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre will miss most -- perhaps all -- of 2012 with a torn ACL. And, so far, the fallout has ranged from the merely typical to the nearly mandatory.
Keeping with one of its great strengths as a company, the UFC moved swiftly on Wednesday to set Nick Diaz up with an interim title bout against Carlos Condit. Just as quickly, Diaz’s camp went on record as angry and aggrieved, which is pretty much Diaz’s default setting.
Steady-eddy Condit was far more understated, even though he’s the guy who could probably best justify it if he was near the end of his rope after having his opponent switched a handful of times during the last few months. Josh Koscheck swore up a blue streak. Frank Shamrock said some stuff that pertained mostly to Frank Shamrock.
Oh yeah, and a bunch of people wondered aloud if we’d seen the last of GSP as a dominant force in the 170-pound division. Nobody has quite said the R-word yet, but that’s the way we’re trending.
In other words, there have been few (if any) surprises. Everybody seems to be playing their part to a tee.
The champion himself has also been characteristically timely and carefully managed in his response to all this. St. Pierre has always been one of the most on-message figures in MMA and he did not disappoint in his darkest hour.
"Some people will say bad stuff about me, that 'he's finished,' and stuff like that," he said during a conference call yesterday. "What I'm going to tell you is, it's very easy to hit a guy when he's down ... People will laugh because I'm in a downfall, I'm hurt, I'm not a threat to them; but I'll be back on top."
Make no mistake, the ACL tear is historically a devastating injury. It’s one so common that most sports fans have at least some familiarity with the anterior cruciate ligament, even if the sum total of the rest of their anatomical knowledge is of the “knee bone’s connected to the leg bone” variety. It’s an ailment those in the know say can take a year to fully crawl out from under and for a fighter whose approach is based primarily on innate athleticism, speed and mobility, it’s a scary deal.
At this point in sports medicine, it’s also far from insurmountable.
So while it seems just as typical as Diaz’s anger or Condit rolling with the punches that we must now speculate wildly about GSP’s future in the sport, I wonder if we shouldn’t just hold off a minute. Or a few months.
St. Pierre hasn’t even had surgery yet, and here we are already guessing at the time he’ll be out, calculating how old he’ll be when he returns, and forecasting what the welterweight landscape might look like when he does. We’re wondering about his recuperative abilities, mental toughness and whether this type of injury hurts his specific skill set most of all.
We do this because it’s our nature as fans and media analysts to ask the unanswerable and pretend to know the unknowable. Because in 2011, the sporting culture on the whole has become weirdly future obsessed, always asking "what’s next, what’s next?" These days, guesswork and hearsay are what we do best.
In light of that, here is some more conjecture, ultimately just as empty but as equally possible as the rest: I think GSP is going to be fine.
To date, during St. Pierre’s near 10-year MMA career, he’s overcome every physical obstacle put in his way. He’s beaten every challenger and avenged every loss. And by every, I mean two. With no amateur wrestling background to speak of, he’s transformed himself into arguably the sport’s best wrestler. He’s been so dominant that the only thing for his critics to do is sweat the details, to harp on him for not being exciting enough and bash him for continually falling back on his grappling which, again, may be the best in the game.
I’d venture a guess that the most likely outcome here is that St. Pierre rehabs his knee injury to the letter of the law, comes back in late 2012 looking like very much the same fighter and continues to dominate the 170-pound division for several years to come.
In response, haters will hate. Others will smile and tweet redemptive thoughts about his miraculous recovery. Maybe those will be the most typical things of all.