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Opening Round: Taking an Interim Fight

Regardless of who walks away as the interim welterweight champion this weekend when Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz duke it out in the main event at UFC 143, the UFC will still be confronted with the very real issue of what to do with the winner in the 8-9 months remaining before linear title-holder Georges St. Pierre is healed up from his torn ACL. Some would argue it’s a lose-lose situation because the organization has to either put a dynamic competitor (and belt) on the shelf for the bulk of the year or risk losing a marketable match-up with St. Pierre. However, scratching beneath the surface reveals that things aren’t quite as troublesome as they may appear.

If Condit emerges with the gold on Saturday night there’s no reason he shouldn’t be asked to defend his strap a single time while waiting for GSP. Their fight, while certainly appealing, isn’t anywhere the moneymaker a St. Pierre-Diaz bout would be and doesn’t need to be handled with the same white, linen gloves as a result. Pitting Condit against Jake Ellenberger, assuming he takes care of business against Diego Sanchez in February of course, makes complete sense and would evolve either into a more-sellable adversary for St. Pierre with the additional victory in 2012. Even Johny Hendricks, who may not necessarily be as deserving as Ellenberger, would be worth considering from the standpoint of simply beefing up either contender’s reputation among mainstream fans.

On the flipside of the coin, Diaz’s trainer/manager Cesar Gracie has come out to say he’ll advise the sovereign son of Stockton to sit on the sidelines and wait for St. Pierre. Fortunately, he also mentioned the possibility of Diaz fighting in a different division (almost certainly middleweight) as long as it wouldn’t potentially cost him the title shot. With Jason Miller on the UFC roster and also in a bit of career limbo after a lopsided loss to Michael Bisping, the gap could provide a perfect opportunity to finally put him and Diaz in the cage together after Strikeforce failed to do so. It’s a winnable fight for Diaz, gives Miller a relevant bout to participate in, and has a built-in storyline given their heated history.

As you can see the UFC actually has some nice paths to take no matter what happens this weekend. Condit and Diaz are solid building blocks to work with for any match-up, both being reliable as could be asked for when it comes to turning in an entertaining performance. As such, regardless of winner, fans can sit back and enjoy without fear of thinking it will be the last time either will take to the Octagon before the end of summer.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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