Back in November (2012), Georges St. Pierre sent the mixed martial arts community into an uproar when he chose to face Nick Diaz instead of Johny Hendricks. Dana White flaunted the fact that GSP "hated" Nick and wanted to beat him up really bad.
It didn't matter than Nick had just lost a title eliminator against Carlos Condit, and subsequently failed his post fight test for Marijuana metabolites (which is a stupid rule anyway as he has the legal right to smoke it, but that's a discussion for another day). Johny's impressive win streak over top of the heap contenders was overlooked. The "grudge match" between Diaz and GSP was on, and the online community was pissed.
What was everyone boiling about? It was multiple things; Georgie boy had just mopped the floor with the guy who beat Diaz the last time he was in the cage, Hendricks had blasted Jon Fitch and Martin Kampman into the twilight zone in two out of his last three fights, Nick had been sitting on the sidelines for a year, etc. The "sport" of MMA was being put on the back burner for the show.
The idea of earning your way to a title was blatantly dismissed, and the men who are in charge of making the matches washed their hands of any responsibility. "GSP never asks for fights, so we felt compelled to give it to him" and "Georges never got over Diaz's smack talk when the fight was set to happen last time" were quotes among the selling points given by White.
He knew that he had to deflect any responsibility in making the match because it goes directly against one of the main selling points for the UFC throughout its history: "The best fight the best". This isn't the first time something like this has happened, and with the numbers GSP-Diaz did Saturday night it will continue its rise to normalcy.
Bad Blood Sells
Dave Meltzer, the de facto brain of PPV numbers as far as mma is concerned (Zuffa doesn't release actual numbers), is reporting the best number in years for Georgie boy. Condit helped bring in about 700k viewers against Georges 5 months ago, and the projections for UFC 158 are over 100k more than that. This fun bit of information means a couple things.
First off, the public bought in to Diaz being a legitimate threat against St. Pierre. A fighter that has historically struggled with wrestlers, hasn't gone against a top of the line grappler in years, was being given a legitimate chance at an upset. Second, casual fans obviously thought the trash talk between the two combatants was entertaining. Third, and this point my be the most telling, the passing over of the rightful number one contender (Hendricks) was given little or no thought by the fan base.
Hendricks being passed over was a huge deal in our little world when it happened. A guy who just took out three top 5 fighters in a row, while putting half of them away in emphatic fashion got the Fitch treatment for a guy whose thought pattern resembles a lie-detector test with Lance Armstrong attached. A lot of our very own readers couldn't believe it, and spoke of how they wouldn't tune in because regress in sporting direction.
The problem is, we all still bought it. We grouped ourselves in with the fans referred to sometimes as "casual", and gladly plopped down our 50+ dollars only to watch what most of us saw as a foregone conclusion. Things like this happen routinely, and we get on our soap box and complain. Then a few months down the line we somehow pass off Vitor Belfort as a legitimate fight for Jon Jones. It's a policy that has somehow grabbed momentum, and with the great numbers from this last weekend; it'll only get worse.
MMA as a sport gets compared to other team sports a lot in conversations. While it's never really been an accurate relation, its becoming even less of a comparable because of the blatant disregard for accomplishment when its put up against drawing power.
Apparently woof tickets (or wolf), really do sell well. Bring on Jones vs. Sonnen.