“We missed him,” said Dana White, the words spoken with a hint of longing. “It’s good to have him back.”
The UFC president was speaking of his company’s most lucrative pay-per-view draw, welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who is indeed back after 20 months away from the octagon because of knee surgery and the rehab that followed. White was so thrilled that GSP is ready to fight again, in fact, that he assembled MMA reporters on Wednesday afternoon to hype the superfight between St-Pierre and middleweight champ Anderson Silva.
No, wait, the media conference call was actually about Georges’ bout against interim champion Carlos Condit a week from Saturday in the main event of UFC 154 in Montreal. At least that’s what the press release said the call was going to be about.
As things turned out, though, the session came as close to being an announcement of GSP vs. Silva as the fight promotion could muster without issuing an official poster.
White got the ball rolling by confirming for one of the first questioners that Silva will be at cageside in at the Bell Centre. “There’s no doubt Anderson Silva’s showing up to cheer Georges St-Pierre on,” said Dana. “He wants him to win this fight, and he wants to fight him after.”
So if GSP does win, are we going to see one of those awkward, staged faceoffs in which a fighter walks into the octagon post-fight to issue a challenge? “I would say yes,” said White.
And that’s not all Dana would say on the matter. Even after acknowledging that “it’s fun to talk about this superfight, but I’m sure it’s pissing Carlos off,” the UFC poobah went on to talk venues for this castle-in-the-sky matchup between two of the three top names in most MMA pound-for-pound rankings. “We could do Toronto, Cowboys Stadium or a soccer stadium in Brazil,” said White. “Those are our three options.”
The 100,000-seat football stadium outside Dallas is likely the promotion’s first choice, as the UFC already has had discussions with Cowboys officials. “They’re pumped and ready whenever we can bring an event there,” said White. “They’re ready for it.”
If Toronto were to get the superfight, that would mean the Rogers Centre, where the UFC set an attendance record of 55,724 for UFC 129 back in April 2011 -- GSP’s last fight (a unanimous decision win over Jake Shields) before the knee injury.
As for Brazil, the UFC targeted stadiums in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro for last summer's rematch between Silva and Chael Sonnen, but scheduling snafus ultimately moved the bout to Las Vegas.
Superfight has been the buzzword of late in UFC discussions. More than a year ago, there was talk of Silva vs. GSP, but simultaneous to that proposal getting little traction, Jon Jones was emerging as the sport’s next superstar. So the conversation turned to Jones vs. Silva. Then those fighters buddied up to say the bout wasn’t going to happen. Then both men opened the door a crack. Now Silva vs. GSP is again up for discussion, no matter what Condit thinks of that.
Carlos, for his part, was right there on Wednesday’s conference call, so eventually someone got around to asking him if all the superfight talk was indeed pissing him off. He didn’t sound at all angry when he said, “I like playing the role of the spoiler. There are a lot of people in the sport and in the media that I think are overlooking me as an opponent for Georges and looking towards a superfight with Anderson maybe. I don't feel like Georges is overlooking me, but I’m excited to get in there, do my thing and, you know, hopefully change a lot of plans.”
But then even he couldn’t resist talking about the appeal of the superfight. “They’re two of greatest fighters ever to step in the octagon,” said Condit. “And there’s always that interest in seeing who really is the best. But first things first. Georges and I have to do our thing.”
And that is the only fight St-Pierre was willing to talk about. “I don’t care about Anderson Silva,” he insisted. “He can do whatever he wants. He can go to Florida or stay in Brazil if he wants. I’m focusing on Carlos Condit. That’s all that matters to me.”
Really, Georges? It’s hard to believe that a champion such as St-Pierre would have no interest in such a historic -- and profitable -- event. Come Nov. 17, Anderson Silva will be there at cageside to appeal to GSP’s sense of adventure and momentousness.