State of the UFC Welterweight Division: What to Make of Condit, GSP, Ellenberger and More
Wednesday threw more gas on the heated fire surrounding welterweights in the Octagon as Jake Ellenberger’s 15-minute unanimous decision victory versus Diego Sanchez headlined the UFC’s inaugural Fuel TV show.
The sixth consecutive win for “Juggernaut” came in his backyard at the Omaha Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Nebr. Ellenberger’s lone UFC loss came in a hotly contested late 2009 split decision to current UFC interim 170-pound titleholder Carlos Condit. With his last two performances yielding Knockout of the Night honors versus former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion in Jake Shields and Fight of the Night status against former lightweight title challenger Sanchez, the former Marine inspired discussion of a Condit-Ellenberger rematch.
Defending the interim title is unnecessary. The piece of gold inserted into fights like Nick Diaz-Condit is a shiny placeholder to generate further excitement between a current No. 1 contender and returning champion.
Pitting Condit versus Ellenberger once more steers the division further away from UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre-related storylines, which were a sizable portion—perhaps too overbearing—during the build up to Diaz-Condit in February. There doesn’t need to be constant reminders about the champion since his record six divisional title defenses (second all-time to middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva) speaks for itself, but the UFC went through those promotional pains to keep the champion’s four-year reign at the forefront of the division for a reason.
St-Pierre’s projected November return places him back in the cage after 18 months, six months after champions are usually are threatened to lose hold of the division. “GSP” is simply decorated instead of having his title stripped. Waiting for the French-Canadian’s return to face Condit, a fighter earning his big money bout versus the champion UFC President Dana White touts as his top draw, is the right course for the momentum of a weight class in organizational chaos.
A Diaz-Condit rematch materializing would have continued in a linear way because it was contained in one storyline. Building Condit-Ellenberger becomes too convoluted.
Looking at the UFC’s history with interim belts, it’s no wonder White suggested post-Fuel Condit wait for “Rush.” St-Pierre battled Matt Hughes for an interim strap in December 2007, fighting for the undisputed belt versus then-champion Matt Serra in April 2008. Frank Mir and Shane Carwin capturing interim gold at heavyweight saw them clash with titleholder Brock Lesnar for the undisputed moniker in their next contest.
In short, who wants to see interim title defenses? The interim belt skips one beat, not two. Who wants to bypass a legitimate pay-per-view for a bout between two guys fighting for a belt never worn by the current champion?
A Condit-Ellenberger rematch is a likely, even compelling point at welterweight, but it isn’t as significant St-Pierre-Condit. The reality is St-Pierre’s reminds us how valuable he was atop the weight class as a dominant figurehead. Opening up the division has been refreshing and will infuse St-Pierre’s next outing with the most pre-fight excitement since his 2009 featuring B.J. Penn and Thiago Alves.
Until St-Pierre can be dethroned, any more championships bouts not involving Firas Zahabi’s prized pupil should not be considered unless he’s guaranteed out of the picture rather than recovering from a serious injury and attempting to fight by year’s end.