What was expected to be UFC's biggest pay-per-view fight in more than a year has been postponed a second time.
Wednesday, UFC president Dana White sent out a message on Twitter stating that welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre (22-2) had suffered a torn ACL and needs surgery that will keep him out of action for 10 months.
White announced that Nick Diaz (26-7) will now face Carlos Condit (27-5) in the UFC 143 main event on Feb. 4 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The fight will be five rounds for the interim welterweight championship.
St. Pierre suffered a completely torn right ACL as well as a partial tear of his internal meniscus in the right leg, according to Dr. Sebastian Mimerc, one of several doctors who has examined the knee in the past few days. When St. Pierre pulled out of the Condit bout in October, his injuries were a sprained MCL in the left knee and a few days later, a pulled right hamstring. It was the latter injury that caused him to pull out of the Condit fight.
"The treatment plan, considering the pain, surgery is mandatory," said Mimerc. "There is no way he can compete with such a problem in his right knee. We're looking at ACL reconstruction and meniscus repair. Regarding the expectations, I'm expecting a full recovery in 6-to-9 months. The success rate for this surgery is above 95 percent. I've been treating Georges and I've done surgery twice on him for his elbow. His recovery rate is off the charts. He's got amazing genetics, amazing physical capabilities. I know Georges will be back to the same level of competition that he was before the injury."
St. Pierre believes he actually suffered the ACL tear a few weeks ago, but because he didn't have a lot of swelling, he was continuing to train on it, figuring it was the type of minor injury that comes with a hard camp. He noted in a camp like this, he gets a minor injury about once every other week.
"When I hurt myself, I hyperextended my leg, but I got up like nothing happened," he recalled. "I went to have dinner with a friend. I had some discomfort. I had some instability of my knee but I went back to training the next day. But after a few weeks, when things should have been fine, it was getting worse. I was in Las Vegas last week and I was training with Vitor Belfort. My knee felt unstable. Some positions I couldn't do, but I was still training. I called Sebastian and said, 'I have some instability' He said, 'Let's take a picture, let's not take a chance.' We were all surprised at the results. The symptoms of an ACL tear weren't there at all."
St. Pierre believes he made mistakes in training, ignoring minor injuries that led to the bigger injury happening, noting that by training with one leg not completely healed, he was overcompensating with the other.
"I believe there is only one person to blame for what happened, and it's myself," he said. "I'm the kind of guy who can endure pain and go through it. I learned a big lesson in my life. It's just going to make me stronger, smarter and more clever. It's nobody's fault. Nobody else."
"Right now a lot of people are saying bad things about me because it's easy to hit a guy when he's down," St. Pierre continued. "Life goes up and down. Now it's down. A few months ago I was at the top of the world, world champion. Now everybody says bad things and will say bad things. Mark my words, right now I'm in a downfall in my life. I'll be back stronger than ever. I will be champion again, I promise that."
St. Pierre had been scheduled to defend against Diaz on Oct. 29, but first Diaz was pulled from the fight by White after no-showing two press conferences.
Condit, who was originally scheduled to fight B.J. Penn on the same card, was then elevated to face St. Pierre, but St. Pierre suffered both a knee and a hamstring injury and pulled out less than two weeks before fight time.
Condit was promised the next title shot. But then Diaz beat Penn on Oct. 29 and claimed that St. Pierre wasn't really injured and was ducking him, which led to interest heightening for St. Pierre vs. Diaz, a fight St Pierre asked for and received.
Condit had been scheduled to face Josh Koscheck on Feb. 4. No new match has been announced for Koscheck.
White had few words about the UFC 143 change at a Wednesday press conference in Chicago where he was promoting a Jan. 28 event on Fox. White's tweet came out shortly before the change.
"I want to talk about this fight [the Jan. 28 show]," White said when the subject was brought up. "GSP is out. That sucks."
Although Diaz, 28, has only fought once in UFC since a run as a mid-level fighter from 2003-06, in the past five years, he's gone 15-1 with one no contest. Whatever criticism there was about his competition level during that period was largely quieted when he took apart Penn, a former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion, in winning a three-round decision.
Many consider Diaz to have the best boxing currently in MMA, and nobody can match his combination of hand speed, conditioning and reach. His lone loss during that period was a blood stoppage against K.J. Noons, which he avenged in winning a rematch.
Condit was welterweight champion in the WEC before that organization's division moved to UFC. He's won 12 of his last 13 fights over the same five-and-a-half year period, with his only loss coming in a close decision to Martin Kampmann. He's won his last two fights over Dan Hardy and Dong Hyun Kim via fist-round knockouts, winning knockout of the night bonuses in both instances.
White is rolling the dice big for the company’s second Fox Network special on Jan. 28 from the United Center in Chicago, which will be a two-hour special with three fights, all of which will have championship match ramifications.
In the five-round main event, former University of Michigan wrestler Rashad Evans (21-1-1) faces former Penn State wrestler and 2008 NCAA champion Phil Davis (9-0) with the winner becoming the top contender for the light heavyweight championship. The winner will face the winner of Saturday’s Jon Jones (14-1) vs. Lyoto Machida (17-2) title match that takes place at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
The other two bouts will be middleweight tussles. Chael Sonnen (26-11) faces a former rival from his college wrestling days, former NCAA champion Mark Munoz (12-2), with the winner scheduled to face Anderson Silva in a title match over the summer, which could take place at a soccer stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. And in a fight made official early Wednesday, Michael Bisping (23-3), coming off his win over Jason "Mayhem" Miller this past Saturday night in Las Vegas, will face four-time world submission champion Demian Maia (15-3).
White said the winner of Bisping vs. Maia will face the winner of the summer middleweight title match.
What is notable is from a business standpoint, the company looked to be entering the new year with three or four fights ready that were almost guaranteed to do major pay-per-view business. Jones vs. Evans matched a pair of former teammates and training partners at Greg Jackson’s camp, who have become enemies. Silva vs. Sonnen may have been the biggest of the three, in a rematch of their 2010 bout where Sonnen won the first four rounds handily before being submitted in the fifth. That was scheduled to happen until Silva stated injuries would keep him out until the summer. A third, St. Pierre vs. Diaz, fell apart on Wednesday. A fourth would be if the company’s biggest drawing card, Brock Lesnar, beats Alistair Overeem on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas, and challenge Junior Dos Santos for the heavyweight title.
Three of those potential matches are still on the table, but with the Fox show, they were all put at risk. If Davis, Munoz or Maia win their bouts, their business potential as title challengers is not in the same ballpark as their respective Jan. 28 foes.
If White pulls the trifecta with wins by Evans, Sonnen and Bisping before a large television audience, his three big money matches become much bigger with challengers exposed to the widest audience possible on network prime-time television. If all three go the other way, the difference in UFC lost revenue could easily be $20-25 million.
But White bristled at the talk about risking three big money fights.
"Nah, that’s boxing talk, when you talk about gambling," he said. "The way it works in this sport, you’re always going to have the best fighting the best. All of these divisions are stacked with incredible talent and things happen. GSP is out for ten months and now Condit and Diaz are going to fight for the [interim] title. You always have to be prepared to fight the best on short notice."
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