By Zach Arnold | March 27, 2014
You're all overreacting. John Cena would come back from an ACL tear in about 8 weeks. Relax… No reason GSP can't do the same.
— Las Vegas Fight Shop (@LVFightShop) March 27, 2014
Everything this week was on GSP’s side in terms of enforcing the right kinds of conditions for a return to the UFC. All the momentum and leverage on his side. Nobody in the company right now can draw 600,000+ PPV buys on their own. Chris Weidman can’t. Johny Hendricks can’t. Ronda Rousey can’t. Jon Jones can’t. As a collective group effort with multiple big fights on one card, perhaps UFC could come close. But right now, no singular fighter other than Brock Lesnar can deliver on PPV for UFC like St. Pierre.
And GSP’s stick-and-carrot approach, as my radio co-host Jeff Thaler discussed with me earlier in the week, was clearly working… on paper. St. Pierre has been publicly talking tough about drug usage in MMA and forced the UFC to play defense big time on the matter. Pushing Lorenzo Fertitta to say publicly that he would support VADA-style drug testing without Dr. Margaret Goodman’s involvement is one of those moments where even UFC’s denial still, in essence, validates the work she has done to push momentum forward in increasing drug testing protocols in combat sports. The carrot, from GSP, was the idea of a superfight with Anderson Silva or perhaps even a rematch against Johny Hendricks.
Then came news that Anderson Silva won’t fight in 2014 and Johny Hendricks had to get biceps surgery. And his fight with Robbie Lawler at UFC 171 reportedly drew 320,000 PPV buys. So he didn’t exactly get the instant rub from the GSP fight. That growth in popularity will have to take significant time to develop. Ask GSP all about that.
After Hendricks impressed last November, a new and exciting Welterweight division appeared in the long-term cards. Injuries have now had a mess of things. Carlos Condit has ACL issues. GSP has ACL issues. And we’re left with Tyron Woodley and Nick Diaz floating around as challengers. Woodley is the real deal. But he’s not a major draw.
Coming out of UFC 171, St. Pierre had to be feeling great about his newly-built leverage. And after the event, some positive news came out in the form of a BBC report on new University of Texas-Arlington research about improving protocols in current drug screenings that could help detect steroid usage in athletes for as long as two years. It is a great step up in being able to utilize current equipment to improve the ability to detect drug usage and such upgrades removes some excuses from various state athletic commissions lollygagging on drug testing fighters.
Of course, more emphasis should be put on pre-fight drug tests in order to prevent fighters who are actually using drugs from competing in the first place since the whole argument is about health & safety. But that would mean athletic commissions would lose out on big money from having more fights canceled, hence the current pre-fight and post-fight drug testing procedures in place.
But now that GSP has blown out another ACL, any leverage he had has vanished and will require significant work to accumulate once again. The UFC may be celebrating this development but that celebration is Pyrrhic in nature because St. Pierre is still the best PPV draw they have access to booking.