I would have called shenanigans if I hadn’t seen it for myself. Well, I saw it with my own two eyes, and Georges St. Pierre won a controversial split decision over Johny Hendricks that most people felt he lost. Questionable decisions are happening more and more in the UFC. The end result will generate more money because rematches are bound to happen but will it keep fans in the long run? All parties involved have to not only deal with the judges’ decision on Saturday but make a decision of their own.
When the fight ended, I turned to my friend and said, “Hendricks won, but they are going to give it to St. Pierre.” I scored the bout 48-47 giving rounds 1,4 and 5 to Hendricks. The first round is the difference-maker because many people felt that was GSP’s round, and I almost gave it to him. Besides myself, the vast majority scored the fifth round for St. Pierre. Dana White said at the post-fight press conference he only scored the third round for Georges. It’s easy to see how someone scored it the other way, but GSP didn’t look like a winner, and his facial reaction when Bruce Buffer said, “AND STILL, UFC WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION” told you how lucky he was to have that belt back around his waist.
The UFC brass has their own decision to make in the wake of St. Pierre stating he is “hanging up the gloves” for an undetermined amount of time. While Dana White is confident, he will get the champion to come back for an immediate rematch with Hendricks, what if he can’t?
Do you create an interim title to let St. Pierre take a year off, so the division is not on ice? Or, should they strip him of the title, determine a new champion, and grant St. Pierre “champion emeritus” status, a common rankings practice in boxing, which makes him the mandatory challenger if and when he returns?
Johny Hendricks will have to decide on what he is going to do next. Should he sit out and wait for St. Pierre to return or stay active? In his situation, anyone would want to sit out and wait for a title shot, but extended time away from the cage can be detrimental to a fighter’s career.
If I was UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, I would take the gamble of having Hendricks keep busy and fight an opponent on the rise. Beating a top contender like Robbie Lawler eliminates a potential title bout, but beating someone who is not well-known would be a showcase event for Hendricks. If Hendricks were to lose, then you have created a new star because he just beat the guy that everyone believes is the real world champion.
In 2003, Lenox Lewis defeated Vitali Klitschko when the ringside doctor stopped the fight between the sixth and seventh-round due to a cut on Klitschko’s eye. Klitschko was ahead on the judges’ scorecards, and no one watching that evening felt Lewis won in any fashion.
Klitschko gained instant popularity as a result, and Lewis retired before a rematch could be made. You are always remembered for how you leave, and Lewis left on a very bad note. There is a lot of chatter about how Georges St. Pierre owes it to the fans and the UFC to give Hendricks an immediate rematch.
St. Pierre owes nothing to nobody. The decision he needs to make is what is best for Georges. If he retires, his legacy will be tarnished, like that of Lenox Lewis. However, if legacy truly doesn’t matter to him, take all the time you need and/or enjoy retirement and never look back.
At the end of the day, controversy creates cash, and the rematch, if St. Pierre delays his announced hiatus, will do big business at the box office. Fans will pay another $54.95 on pay-per-view to either see Hendricks claim what is rightfully his or look on as St. Pierre cements his legacy as the welterweight king. However, if this pattern continues, fans will have a decision to make and determine how many more times they will pay double to see the same fight?