Posted by Kendall Shields on January 17th, 2008
by Kendall Shields
Shari Spenser has big plans for Georges St. Pierre. She takes the long view. In an article posted yesterday on Sherdog, Spenser, St. Pierre’s manager, lays it all out for writer Andy Cotterill (and for us). She tells Cotterill not only what St. Pierre is after — not surprisingly, “[h]e wants to leave a legacy” — but how he’s going to get there. Spenser sets out an ambitious program for Georges St. Pierre to prove himself “the most dominant fighter the UFC and MMA has ever seen.” And here it is: “he intends to accomplish that by dominating the 170-pound weight class, moving up to the 185 weight class and then eventually the light heavyweight class.”
On the one hand, for a man who has yet to avenge his loss against Matt Serra to be thinking about taking on Anderson Silva or Quinton Jackson or Chuck Liddell suggests hubris on a Sophoclean scale. But on the other, wow: this could be really, really awesome.
First, to hubris. Perhaps to appease the Fates (never a bad idea), Spenser is quick to note that before any of this happens, “[t]here’s [sic] definitely a few more fights at the 170 level.” As well she should: in addition to the aforementioned Serra — who will no doubt go into April’s rematch and title unification fight a serious underdog, despite what he showed against St. Pierre last time out — there are indeed some intriguing fights left for GSP at welterweight.
The name that probably springs to mind for most fans of the division is Jon Fitch, whose fourteen-fight winning streak obviously demands our attention. There’s good reason to wonder what Jon Fitch would be able to do to St. Pierre that neither Matt Hughes nor Josh Koshcheck were able to, but Fitch is without question one of the hottest fighters competing in the division, and, coming off his win over Diego Sanchez, probably not too far down the line for whoever holds the UFC welterweight title going forward.
Karo Parisyan, a name from St. Pierre’s past, might well reemerge as part of his future, particularly if Parisyan is able to get by Thiago Alves in their rumoured match on the same UFC 84 card in MontrÃ©al that will feature St. Pierre/Serra II. Parisyan, who took St. Pierre the distance in losing a unanimous decision in their first encounter in January 2004, has only lost once in the four years and nine fights since, dropping a close decision to Diego Sanchez — whose recent decision to stay at 170lbs means “The Nightmare” figures somewhere in all of this, though, after his loss to Fitch, it’s hard to say where, exactly. But Parisyan, who has already missed one title shot due to injury — remember Joe Riggs, welterweight championship contender? — might finally get his chance to fight for the belt this year. A St. Pierre/Parisyan match could be a judo fan’s dream, given St. Pierre’s amazing harai goshi or tai otoshi (it depends who you ask; opinion is split — it’s probably best to just yell JUDO THROW when these things happen and leave it at that) and of course Karo’s history of tremendous throws.
Beyond Serra, Fitch, Parisyan, and perhaps Sanchez, we’re left with names like Jake Shields and Shinya Aoki, neither of them Zuffa fighters now, but who knows what the world of MMA will look like in the two years it would probably take for St. Pierre to get past the legitimate welterweight contenders the UFC already has? “They’ve got some contenders that they’ve proposed down the road,” Spenser told Cotterill, but if/when those contenders are exhausted, expect the move. “We don’t have an exact plan as to when that would occur,” Spenser said, and St. Pierre himself hasn’t any clearer idea when that might be. “When it’s going to be time, it’s going to be time” is all St. Pierre would put on the record for Sherdog. “It’s going to depend on the circumstances. It’s going to be for the challenge.”
And what a challenge it would be. Granted, St. Pierre is a tall, broad-shouldered welterweight (this is beginning to read like the man’s Hot Jocks entry), and he’s generally agreed to be a big welterweight, though the amount of weight any given fighter actually cuts seems to vary from report to report. In person, St. Pierre seems (or seemed, at least, a few weeks after the second Hughes fight) physically substantial but not outrageously large for a fighter competing at 170lbs. At 5′10″, he’s two inches shorter than the Rich Franklin and three shorter than the rangy Anderson Silva, two potential big matches at that weight. But while at middleweight he would no longer enjoy the reach advantage he so often does at welterweight, it’s worth noting that St. Pierre utterly had his way with Frank Trigg, who went on to give Kazuo Misaki — a legitimate top-ten middleweight with wins over Dan Henderson, Dennis Kang, and Yoshihiro Akiyama — more than he could handle.
Light heavyweight, naturally, seems the taller order. Could St. Pierre be anything but physically overwhelmed by the power of Quinton Jackson or, say, Tito Ortiz? Or Forrest Griffin, who’s said to get as heavy as 240lbs between fights? Shrugging off the takedown attempts of top 170-pounders like Hughes and Koscheck in the way St. Pierre has is immensely impressive; to move up two weight classes and be able to do anything comparable seems next to impossible. To be successful that far removed from his best weight (operating under the not-too-bold assumption that, for most fighters, their best weight is the lowest they can reasonably make), St. Pierre would no doubt have to rely on other elements of his game; he would probably have to be in possession of a bottom-game on par with the other skills he’s shown with greater frequency. This is not to doubt St. Pierre’s jujitsu skills as they stand, but it seems they would need to be displayed much more prominently were he to start taking fights against physically larger, more powerful opponents. “I’m still learning new techniques … getting better,” St. Pierre told Cotterill. “I’ll get closer and closer, but I’ll never reach perfection because perfection is impossible.”
St. Pierre says this is about the challenge. Spenser says it’s about the legacy. And there’s no reason to doubt either of them. But Dave Meltzer, whose Yahoo! columns are clearly the gold-standard for MMA analysis, would no doubt point out, as he has in his January 11th column, that while the welterweight division has emerged as a legitimate draw, the light heavyweight division has been, since it’s inception, where the real money is. “Right around the time we started working together,” Spenser told Cotterill, “Bjorn Borg was putting his Wimbledon trophies up for sale on eBay. And that’s not where we want to be. We don’t want to see the UFC belts for sale.”