When Georges St-Pierre starts rolling, there is no stopping him.
The UFC welterweight champion has been out for 18 months and he insists that Carlos Condit, the man who won the interim belt in his absence, is the division's "real" champion.
"Look at the guy, what he's done," St-Pierre said. "He's been fighting and winning against all the great fighters. That's what the champion does."
Condit, though, who fights St-Pierre in the main event of UFC 154 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, doesn't feel much like a champion. The UFC pitted Condit against Nick Diaz for the interim title at UFC 143 back in February, when it was clear St-Pierre's injured knee wouldn’t be ready. Condit executed a perfect gameplan in the fight, dissecting Diaz for a unanimous decision win to earn the interim belt.
So, in a way, Saturday's bout will be a unification bout, though the interim title will disappear regardless of who wins.
Condit, though, pleads with almost as much urgency as St-Pierre that his opponent is most definitely the champion.
"This is Georges' title," Condit said. "He's the undisputed champion, no doubt about it. Georges has been so dominant for so long. To be the champion, you have to do one thing: You have to beat Georges St-Pierre. I haven't done that yet."
Condit has a brilliant record – he's 28-5 overall and 14-1 in the last 6½ years, with only a highly controversial split-decision loss marring his record in that time – but he ascribes to the theory that to be the man, you must beat the man.
Still, not long after he upset Diaz to win the interim title, other fighters began to call him out. Ever the competitor, Condit was eager to jump into the cage and prove who was boss. It took manager Malki Kawa to talk some sense into him.
"At the level these guys are at, you're not supposed to turn down fights," Kawa said. "But I wouldn't have been doing my job if I just put Carlos in there against someone other than Georges St-Pierre. You fight Georges St-Pierre and you make life-changing money. A guy like Johny Hendricks, and I am not disrespecting him at all, but it's a fight where the money isn't even close to the same.
"Fighters were calling him out and Carlos wanted to do it. I had to tell him, 'Carlos, look, this is a business and the best move business-wise is to wait for GSP to come back.' He finally did, but the guy is such a competitor, and he loves to fight so much, he was willing to risk a GSP fight to take some other one in between."
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St-Pierre is better than a 3-1 favorite to beat Condit, despite the lengthy layoff. All the attention is on St-Pierre's return from a devastating right knee injury.
Condit, as seems often the case, is getting lost in the shuffle. It happened when he fought Dan Hardy in England, at least until he knocked Hardy out. It happened prior to his fight with Dong-Hyun Kim, whom Condit knocked out with a flying knee in the first. And, of course, it happened when he fought Diaz for the interim title and was virtually ignored in the pre-fight buildup.
It's GSP this and GSP that as Fight Night approaches, but even UFC president Dana White acknowledges that's not fair to Condit.
"I really believe a lot of people aren't giving this kid enough credit," White said. "He's tough, man. This kid can fight. He's got great ground skills, he's got knockout power and formally, if you look at the way fights are done in boxing, when a champion of GSP's caliber comes back [from injury], you usually give him an easy fight. This is far from an easy fight for Georges St-Pierre. This is a very tough fight."
Condit, though, isn't concerned with credit or fame or attention. He's a fierce competitor, and thus, just wants to win. But at the end of the day, to Condit, he's just like a guy wearing a suit and tie who goes to an office every day.
This is just his way of making a living and supporting his family. If that means acclaim and hoopla, he's fine with it. But he's more than happy if he doesn't get the credit he deserves.
And, in a way, he embraces the role of underdog.
"Georges is the favorite, as well he should be considering everything he has done in this sport," Condit said. "But I've been through this before. It's not new to me. Just because someone else thinks I'm going to lose, or even if everyone else thinks I'm going to lose, it doesn't matter as long as I don't believe that.
"I believe I'm going to go in there and fight my fight and beat Georges St-Pierre and walk out of there as the UFC welterweight champion of the world. To be honest with you, that's how I feel. And none of the other stuff, the talk and the hype and all of that, none of it really matters once they close the door and we start to fight."
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