Superfight Between GSP and Silva Makes Perfect Sense, Especially for Fans
Yesterday, my colleague at USCS, Chris Gutmanis, wrote an editorial on why the match between UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and middleweight champion Anderson Silva should not be made. Below are my counterpoints to that article. See the original here.
Without risk, there is no reward. So for Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, and fight fans across the world, a superfight between the current UFC's longest reigning champions makes perfect sense. Not to schedule the fight simply because it is too risky for either man's legacy is an insult to MMA fans everywhere.
If a "Spider" vs. "Rush" match is not formulated, it would be a travesty. Dream matchups are good for the sport and raise the interest of the common fan. But even with the recent acquisition of Strikeforce, don't count on seeing two beasts in Alistair Overeem and Brock Lesnar, preparing to do battle in the Octagon, at least not yet. UFC top brass, Dana White has said that he has no interest in making Strikeforce vs. UFC superfights, yet another reason why this possible GSP-Silva bout needs to take place soon.
The largest live UFC attendance record ever will be set next month when GSP takes on challenger Jake Shields in Canada. Maybe it is just a huge coincidence but one has to assume that those types of numbers would not be achieved if the main event did not include the only man to beat both B.J. Penn and Matt Hughes twice? St-Pierre is a huge draw for the sport in Canada and the sport in general. Imagine what a GSP vs. Silva fight would draw in pay-per-view buys and live gate sales if the fight were held north of the border.
Questioning the Past
Let's step inside our time machine for a minute and rewind to 2009 when the talk of the town and most dreamt about fight was UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture stepping into the ring at Affliction against the former pound-for-pound greatest heavyweight in the world Fedor Emelianenko.
Fast forward to today, the fight still hasn't happened and if it did, the event would have severely less attention surrounding it. Why you ask? The reason is because Emelianenko is riding a two-fight losing streak and is no longer considered invincible. Couture has gained two more years in age and while he is still a fan-favorite, fans realize he should not be heading back up to heavyweight to fight him. The only logical answer would be for Fedor to move down to light heavyweight where he probably belongs anyway, however, the mystique of the "Last Emporer" has always been that he has been able to rule the heavyweight division while being much smaller than the majority of his opponents.
This is what happens when you let fights slip through the cracks. Their allure fades away.
Business is about Making Money
Not to say Yushin Okami doesn't deserve a title shot, because he does, but as a fan, paying $44.95 to watch GSP vs. Silva rather than Okami vs. Silva makes much more sense. Not only is Okami lesser of a draw here in the U.S. but he is nowhere near as marketable a fighter as GSP. St-Pierre is one of the most recognizable figures in the sport and some are already anointing him a legend and future hall-of-famer. When I think Okami, I think of video games; not the most recognizable name in the mixed martial arts industry.
Say Okami did get a crack at Silva first, and beat him, then what? The luster between a GSP and Silva superfight loses steam and credibility. Sure the two would still be ranked as pound-for-pound best in their respective divisions, but the allure of the fight is much harder to sell.
Similarly, when Fabricio Werdum beat Emelianenko last spring, a lot of people doubted him in his return against Antonio Silva before the fight even started. The same would happen with Silva should Okami beat him.
We saw Chael Sonnen hand Silva a beating for 22 and a half minutes, clearly laying out a blue print on how to escape the Spider's web. If Okami were to beat Silva, it more than likely would be a mirrored duplicate of Sonnen's performance. And with the strong wrestling pedigree that GSP has developed, I would be inclined to predict GSP would be able to pull off the same type of victory.
Dana White is a smart man and even he can see that marketing Okami to an American audience would be extremely difficult, however, Okami could be White's ticket to breaking through and expanding into Asian countries. The UFC hasn't done a show in Japan in a number of years and with the fall of Pride, and the on again off again Dream and Sengoku shows, Okami may be able to make the UFC the premier mainstream brand of MMA in the land of the rising sun.
Superfights are for the Fans
Last year when BJ Penn stepped back up to welterweight to take on GSP in a superfight, did he completely clean out his division before doing so? No, but the fans wanted to see it and the fans should be rewarded for the billions of dollars pumped into the UFC each year. From the amount of money spent on merchandise, ticket sales, and pay-per-view buys fans should be treated to better headlining fights than Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva.
Over the past few years Okami has been plagued by injuries keeping him out of the title picture. The injury and the loss he suffered at the hands of Chael Sonnen have prevented him from otherwise competing for the title against Silva, a man he beat several years ago, albeit from a disqualification.
But just because Okami holds wins over the late Evan Tanner, a sidelined Jason MacDonald and two fighters who are not even in the UFC any longer does not mean he should get a shot any sooner than GSP, at least not in this fan's eyes.
Any fan who says he or she does not want to see GSP vs. Silva is either delusional or has a position in the Okami training camp, because this match has the potential to be the biggest fight in mixed martial arts history.