LAS VEGAS – Carlos Condit may have finally outgrown the World Extreme Cagefighting's welterweight division on Sunday.
Oh, he can make the division's 170-pound limit just fine, but after Condit stopped Hiromitsu Miura in a fight of the year-type brawl at The Joint at the Hard Rock, the list of legitimate challengers has dwindled to, well, none.
Everybody who is anybody in the WEC's welterweight division has gotten a piece of Condit and come up short. Brock Larson, who needed 37 seconds to dispose of Carlo Prater in a bout on Sunday's undercard, made an impassioned plea for a rematch with Condit.
But Condit submitted him in just 2:21 at WEC 29 last year and made it look simple in the process.
Condit had also beaten Prater in a title fight and submitted John Alessio.
He wasn't particularly eager to diss the WEC and say he wanted to fight another fighter from another organization, but it is becoming painfully obvious that there are few in the class other than perhaps Miura who can press Condit.
"If I fight those guys, it will be as the WEC champion," Condit said, clearly uncomfortable with the line of question, not wanting to embarrass any of his competitors or the WEC officials who were listening to him speak.
The bout with Miura was a rousing back-and-forth battle that had the crowd in the tiny concert hall screaming with glee.
Each man seemed on the verge of victory several times. Early in the fourth, Miura, a 6-to-1 underdog, dumped Condit with a hard right and went for the finish. Condit didn't appear to have the energy to fend off Miura and it appeared, if ever so slightly, that a title change was in the offing.
"I was tired, man, and I didn't have a lot left," Condit said. "It was all heart. All heart." A judo expert, Miura had several good throws that landed Condit on his back, though Condit clearly was prepared for that tactic.
But Miura was very heavy handed and rocked the champion several times with hard blows. That was a bit of a surprise, though his submission defense was not. Condit, one of the best submission experts in the game, had several opportunities to finish the fight and, in most cases, he would have.
But Miura was wily enough to find a way to escape.
"I wasn't surprised because I'd seen him fight before," Condit said. "I'd seen him fight Jason Miller, who is very good at jiu-jitsu and he was able to stay out of a lot of his submissions. I knew he would be tough and resilient and I knew it was going to be a war."
It was a war of attrition more than anything and it was Condit who finally won out. Condit kept coming and kept looking for an opportunity to end it. He was clearly ahead on the cards and most fighters would have been content to ride out the clock and earn the decision victory.
Condit, though, is no ordinary welterweight. He is one of the handful of the best 170-pounders in the world, and he was determined to end the fight. Eventually, Miura was simply overwhelmed and a perfectly placed knee in the clinch all but knocked Miura out. Condit, who seconds earlier was in full mount but didn't seem to have the energy to throw more than a half-hearted elbow, didn't waste the chance.
He rained blows upon Miura, forcing referee Josh Rosenthal to stop it.
That was the easy part for Condit, who is a natural in the cage. The hard part was fending off questions about fights against welterweights outside of the WEC.
He conceded he'd like a rematch with Elite XC champion Jake Shields, who defeated him in 2006. He also said he'd like to avenge his losses to Pat Healy and Satoru Kitaoka.
No matter how hard he was pushed, though, he managed to avoid saying he wanted a chance to fight men such as UFC champion Georges St. Pierre and top-ranked Jon Fitch, who will meet on Saturday at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., at UFC 87.
"There are a lot of tough guys, good fighters out there," Condit said.
And Condit is clearly among the toughest of them.
The WEC is teeming with talent, particularly at its lighter weights. Men like bantamweight champion Miguel Torres and featherweight champion Urijah Faber are already among the world's elite fighters and it may not be long before featherweight Josh Grispi is added to that list.
Condit is every bit their equal. But while they have potential opponents that could help them put on mind-blowing fights, the welterweight division in the WEC is all but barren. It's Condit, Larson and not a heck of a lot else.
At least there isn't much else for a guy with as good an all-around game as there is this side of B.J. Penn.
"There are a lot of tough guys – a lot of them, believe me – but you just have to fight whoever they tell you to fight," Condit said. "I'm proud to be the WEC champion and whoever I fight, whenever I fight, wherever I fight, I'll do it as the WEC champion."