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By: Jason Amadi, MMATorch Columnist
Every once in a while we're reminded of the delicate relationship that exists between fans, fighters, and the UFC. Obviously, the UFC needs fighters to put on a product, and fans to consume that product in order to make money. Equally as obvious is the fact that fighters need a platform to ply their trade in order to support themselves and their families; in MMA, the UFC is the biggest and best platform, so the biggest and best fighters generally end up there. One would imagine that because the UFC needs fans and the best fighters in the world need the UFC, that fans would ultimately decide what fights took place. But again, every once in a while we're reminded that isn't necessary the case.
Three years ago, B.J. Penn fought Georges St-Pierre in one of the biggest fights in UFC history. No one was really clamoring for the fight to happen, one day it just sort of did. It was the first time that two current UFC titleholders squared off in the Octagon, and to say it left fight fans with an almost insatiable taste for "super fights" would be an understatement.
After St-Pierre defeated Penn at UFC 94, the pressure was on GSP to keep the "super fight" ball rolling and challenge UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Fans wanted it, the UFC claims to have wanted it, but three years later the fight simply hasn't materialized.
Over the years, when questioned about his reticence to move up and challenge "The Spider," St-Pierre has come up with a litany of excuses. However, what it usually boils down to is that he simply feels that the reward doesn't justify the risk he'd be taking. To be fair, Silva isn't really too keen on moving up and fighting UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones either. In fact, Jones has recently come under fire for voicing similar concerns as GSP when it comes to a potential champion vs. champion showdown with Silva.
When you look at what became of the guy who popularized the whole "UFC champion vs. UFC champion" idea, you really get a sense of why, to this day, no one else wants to even attempt such a thing.
B.J. Penn shocked the world when he was able to maul Matt Hughes and take his title at UFC 46, but that's really all the success he's had in the UFC's welterweight division. Subsequent runs at 170 pounds have been largely unsuccessful, and honestly, those failures have done irreparable damage to his legacy.
The fact that Penn dared to be great is certainly admirable, but there was a time where people truly believed that "The Prodigy" was unbeatable at 155 and could very well take the title at 170; Penn was definitely at his most marketable before he proved in the Octagon that neither was true.
Despite the will of the fans, we'll probably never see another champion vs. champion super fight in the UFC for exactly that reason; there's just more money in it for champions (and the UFC in the long run) to steer clear of other champions.
Combat sports fans certainly have the opportunity to vote super fights with their dollar, but we're an easily distracted bunch. After last Saturday night, the MMA community felt almost certain that there was nothing left for Anderson Silva but Jon Jones, yet the following Wednesday, fans couldn't get Silva vs. Chris Weidman fast enough.
You can subscribe to the theory that fighters are in the "hero business" all you like, but that doesn't change the fact that fighters are worth considerably less once they prove their limitations for the world to see. Few will admit to it, but if Anderson Silva definitively proved that he wasn't good enough to take the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, his legacy would be considerably worse off than it would should the two never meet.
While it's true that all dominant champions are one bad fight away from losing their appeal and having to kiss top notch sponsorships goodbye, that's simply all the more incentive for them to dominate where they know they can and to steer clear of one another.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @JasonAmadi and direct your "Ask the Torch" questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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