On Sat., Feb. 4, 2012, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit will face off in the cage at UFC 143 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The winner will receive the interim title and a chance to fight Georges St. Pierre, once he returns from his injury rehabilitation.
It's not the belt either of them were looking for, but they didn't have a choice in the matter. Both were scheduled to fight "Rush" at some point last year, but neither fight came to fruition for different reasons.
As St. Pierre waits in the wings, getting his wounded knee back in working order, he has no option other than to watch and see what happens.
Regardless of the turnout, he believes (with good reason) that his belt is still the "real belt:"
"The way I see it, I am not the champion anymore on Saturday night. I have not fought since April, against my will, but I understand the champion must fight. You have to put the belt on the line in order to call yourself champion, the best in the world. Right now, I am not the best in the world. I am injured. The winner of this fight on Saturday will be more than just the new number one contender, but he won't be the new champion either. The winner of this fight will have to beat me to become the true world champion, and I will have to beat the winner of this fight in order to call myself the best in the world again."
At this point, it really just comes down to who will emerge victorious on Saturday night. We know that "GSP" will be cheering for Nick Diaz, in the hopes that he will finally be able to silence the slugger from Stockton. He doesn't just want to beat him, he wants to destroy him.
But he's not crying about the way the UFC decided to handle things. St. Pierre knows that a champion must defend his belt and stay active. He believes this was the best way to keep the peace:
"I like the format where the winner of this fight will have to fight me and I have to fight the winner to truly become the UFC champion. That is what the UFC is about,that is competition. This is fair to all of us, we have to beat each other to be the undisputed champion."
Interim belt winners have not fared so well in recent past. Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans are sure to recall Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira winning the interim heavyweight belt at UFC 81 on Feb. 2, 2008 over Tim Sylvia. "Big Nog" went on to immediately lose his next bout to Frank Mir at UFC 92 on Dec. 27 of that very same year.
Mir, then, lost his next fight to eventual champion Brock Lesnar by way of a vicious TKO at UFC 100 on July 11, 2009.
The very next year, when Lesnar suffered his initial bout with diverticulitis, Mir fought for the interim belt once again, this time with Shane Carwin as his opponent at UFC 111 on March 27, 2010.
Carwin went on to win that fight, but lost in his very next contest when Brock Lesnar choked him out in the second round of their match up at UFC 116 on July 3, 2010.
St. Pierre actually has a bit of personal experience with interim titles, having defeated Matt Hughes for the interim welterweight belt at UFC 79 on Dec. 29, 2007.
Unlike some of the aforementioned unlucky souls, St. Pierre didn't lose his next fight. In fact, almost five years later, he hasn't lost since.
Sadly, it doesn't make a big difference who wins the make-believe belt on Saturday night. Everyone knows who holds the real belt -- and he'll be waiting for them.
What do you think Maniacs? Are you buying the legitimacy of an interim champion? Do either of these guys have what it takes to eventually dethrone St. Pierre, either way?