I have been an outspoken proponent of the fact that a fighter’s job is to fight. Picking when, where and who they fight is not a part of the job description. For the most part I have agreed with UFC management’s stance on the subject. Until now! Last week George St. Pierre was awarded a fight against antagonist Nick Diaz. This decision was confusing, because there is at least one other man that could have made a stronger claim to the number one contenders spot. Johnny Hendricks had just strung together 5 wins against some of the divisions best fighters, including a devastating one punch knockout of Martin Kampman at UFC 154.
It isn’t so much the decision to pair GSP and Nick Diaz, as it was the justification behind the decision. The reason Dana White gave was:
“Georges St-Pierre has been a phenomenal champion, just a great guy to deal with for us”,
“He doesn’t ask for things. So if he wants to fight Nick Diaz, and Nick Diaz wants to fight him, then that’s probably the fight we’ll make.”
This for all intensive purposes basically says – “you have scratched my back so we will scratch yours.” In a sport where the matchups are arbitrarily decided by the UFC’s upper management does this not set a bad precedent? By allowing GSP to dictate his next fight they open the door for all kinds of match up requests that may or may not make sense. More pointedly, if a guy with significant clout with the UFC chose easier fights for himself in order to maintain his status. Jon Jones refused a fight with Chael Sonnen sighting the potential to lose was too high. UFC Champions have their financial futures on the line as they step into the ring. A loss can be devastating to them both financially and personally. There is a lot at stake. I am not saying that GSP is ducking Johnny Hendricks. What I am saying is, as the UFC relinquishes control over its bouts, champions fighting the bouts they want and champions fighting next toughest guy may be two different fights. This explanation is the narrow end of the wedge.
The part that bothers me even more than this is the UFC’s unmitigated willingness to offer this fight to St. Pierre and defend it with “it was what he wanted”. I would have accepted an explanation of that sighted money, or history but not fighter desire. If Dana White had stood in the camera and said “These two guys F$^!ing hate each other and we are going to make a truckload of money letting them fight” I would have accepted that. But allowing a fighter to dictate who he does and doesn’t fight is ridiculous. St. Pierre vs. Diaz is a great fight. But it should have been made for the right reasons: ie This is the fight fans were looking forward to and we are gonna do it.