Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre think alike.
When 170-pound champion Matt Serra was scratched from the upcoming UFC 79: "Nemesis" pay-per-view (PPV) card on December 29 because of a herniated disc in his back the "blockbuster" New Year's Eve weekend event was all of a sudden not so "blockbuster."
Just five weeks out it seemed a tall order to find an opponent to face Hughes who was marketable and worthy of the opportunity.
Here's a snip from Yahoo!Sports.com:
St. Pierre and his management team called UFC after getting news of Serra's injury, and asked for the match... with seven months between fights, St. Pierre was getting antsy for competition. He had even talked of competing in amateur wrestling at the Canadian national level. St. Pierre, with no competitive wrestling background, outwrestled Koscheck in his win.... While St. Pierre asked for the fight, even though he'd only have four weeks of intensive training, about half of a normal top-level fighters camp, it was still up to Hughes to agree.
Agree? Hughes apparently got to "pick" his opponent, according to a recent post on his official Web site.
Here's a snip:
"As most of you know, Serra has dropped out of the fight due to a back injury. I found out and was told that I get to basically pick my opponent. The UFC had called some welterweights, some said they wouldn't take the fight; but ultimately I got to choose and I chose Georges St. Pierre. I asked to fight GSP. I think there are a few things that will be in my favor in doing this. I get to fight in Vegas, what I consider my home fighting area, NOT Canada. I don't think it's a big deal to switch an opponent over a month out, it's just not a concern for me. Before I was fighting a guy holding the belt, now I'm fighting a guy that I consider number two in the world. Anyone who thinks this fight will be like the second fight with GSP will be shown wrong on December 29th. THIS IS MY FIGHT!"
Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Thiago Alves were also mentioned as possible replacements; however, all three combined might not have the draw power of St. Pierre. That's not a knock on those fighters but more of a testament to the popularity of the Canadian and the widespread interest in a rubbermatch with Hughes.
It should be a fantastic fight. One that perhaps most fans would have picked, too, if given the list of possibilities.
Sidenote: Sherdog.com has a feature article up right now about fighters who take short notice fights and the end results. It's only a handful of examples, but it is certainly an interesting read.
"Without a proper six- to 10-week training camp, the odds of coming from a generic training session and overcoming an elite athlete aren't exactly encouraging. But there is one unique trend: Of all the bouts thrown together at the last possible minute, the lack of strategizing and possible overtraining usually results in some dynamic action."
Based on this brief analysis it's simple to conclude that history is not on the side of St. Pierre and we should expect an exciting fight.
We'll find out soon enough.