To be the best, you have got to beat the best. Athletes spend their entire lives training and perfecting their craft to reign supreme in their chosen sport. Once they reach the top, the challenge does not end; it only becomes more difficult as the quest to remain there is often times more daunting than getting there.

Amidst injury, rivalry, and an ever-changing main event, Carlos Condit became the UFC interim welterweight champion with a controversial decision victory over Nick Diaz earlier this year.

Following Condit’s victory, the MMA community was abuzz over the decision. Many felt that Diaz won the fight, and demanded a rematch. Mere days after Condit agreed to a rematch, news of Diaz’s failed drug test surfaced. With Diaz facing suspension, and champion Georges St-Pierre sidelined until late 2012 with a knee injury, speculation was rampant over who Condit would face next in defense of his interim title.

With Josh Koscheck, Martin Kampmann, and Jake Ellenberger all near the top of the ladder, the speculation came to an abrupt end when Condit announced that he would not be defending his title, instead, he will wait for St-Pierre to return.

Condit brings a fresh face in a division that has been dominated by St-Pierre for years. Defending his interim belt would be a great chance for Condit to not only build his brand, but to become the new face of the welterweight class. Instead, Condit will fade from the spotlight while Koscheck, Kampmann, and Ellenberger all continue to battle for the next shot at welterweight glory.

Koscheck may have made the most sense as an opponent for Condit since the two were slated to face off as the co-main event at UFC 143 in February. When St-Pierre was forced to withdraw from his title bout with Diaz due to a torn ACL, Condit was promoted to the main event. Koscheck then earned a decision victory over Mike Pierce. In his last six fights, Koscheck is 5-1, with his only loss coming in a championship bout against St-Pierre. As long as St-Pierre is champion, Koscheck will have an uphill battle to earn another title shot. A fight against Condit, someone he’s never faced, certainly would’ve been the quickest route back to a title fight. Instead, Koscheck will face another rising contender in Johny Hendricks at UFC on Fox 3 in early May.

Coming off a submission of the night victory over Thiago Alves, Kampmann will next face Jake Ellenberger at The Ultimate Fighter Finale on June 1. The Dane is riding a two-fight win streak, which could easily be a six-fight winning streak minus two controversial decision losses. Kampmann is the only man to defeat Condit in the Octagon.

With the only loss in his last 11 fights coming at the hands of Condit, Ellenberger has been a rock star of late. His last two fights have garnered knockout of the night, and fight of the night honors, respectively. A win over Kampmann should cement his place as the No. 1 contender in the division. However, should he come out victorious on June 1, he’s going to have a long wait for the winner of Condit and St-Pierre, and may choose to fight again.

Presuming that Condit and St-Pierre unify the belts at UFC 154 in Montreal in November, the earliest the belt will be defended would be February of next year. That means Condit will only have fought once over the course of a year, something most fighters try to avoid at all costs, barring injury.

Thus, a logjam has been created in the welterweight division.  Like the Kampmann-Ellenberger victor, should Koscheck come out victorious in May, he will have no choice but to fight again in order to avoid a long layoff.

The likely scenario will have the winner of Koscheck and Hendricks face off against the winner of Kampmann and Ellenberger for the No. 1 contender spot. This adds an additional step in the ladder to the top; a step that could have been eliminated if Condit were to defend his belt.

Choosing not to defend the interim championship means nothing more than you’re the best of the rest, while guaranteeing you a shot at the undisputed champion. While Condit can take comfort in knowing he is next in line for St-Pierre, true champions make it a habit of doing what the rest finds uncomfortable.

Photo: Carlos Condit (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.

  • Joe

    Condit being allowed to wait for GSP makes the interim belt pointless.