by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
One pay-per-view star fell on Saturday night, and UFC president Dana White made it so.
Chuck Liddell was, and is, money in the bank as the economy teeters and ticket prices are stagnant or moving downward.
But White insists it’s not about the money, regardless of what he could get from his friend. We’ve yet to hear from Liddell, but he’ll likely avoid an ocean of legal paperwork and take a non-fight job with the promotion.
That leaves a select few to pick up the slack as the guard continues to change in the promotion’s talent roster.
Anderson Silva was never considered a strong pay-per-view draw, and may never be one after his performances against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites.
Canadians, as well as others, put up $4.9 million for UFC 97, making it one of the top four gates in the promotion’s history. UFC 83, which featured GSP’s rematch with Matt Serra, grossed $5.1 million, number two to UFC 66: Liddell vs. Ortiz 2 at $5.3 million.
It’s a little bit of flattery, but with those numbers, White calling Canada the “Mecca of MMA” isn’t that far off.
Put Silva against Georges St. Pierre in Canada – particularly Toronto, where White’s been assured that 60,000 seats is not crazy – that’s a gatebuster.
By their reactions Saturday night, it’s clear who will be the hero and who will be the heel.
“Maybe we could do that,” White pondered last Thursday. “I’d like to do it. We’ll see what happens.”
Silva’s schedule is now free. St. Pierre, however, has a roadblock in his way, and White says it’s a big one.
“Let’s see what happens with Thiago Alves,” he told reporters post-UFC 97. “I’m telling you guys, I think this is a huge, huge fight for Georges St. Pierre’s career. If he gets by Thiago Alves, I don’t know who at 170 beats him. Then you start looking for other ways for him to challenge himself.
“Is it taking on Anderson at 185 pounds? This kid gets by Thiago Alves the way he’s been getting through other people, I’ll throw him in there in the mix for the pound-for-pound. Right now, I got him at number two.”
St. Pierre entertained the idea of a coach spot against Silva at a Q & A session for UFC Fight Club members last Friday. He was cautiously optimistic.
“I would have to sit down and see what the opportunity is,” he said. “How long I have for the fight. Because if I fight at 185, if I do it, I want to do it well. I want to put some extra muscle on me, some extra weight. I would have to go on a I would have to go on a diet for a couple extra weeks, and it would take me some extra time, but I’m always excited for a new challenge.”
In an interview with MMAWeekly.com last October, St. Pierre was a little bolder.
“I’m not afraid of challenging nobody at 185, I’m very confident in myself,” he said of the superfight. “I think I can do pretty well. I think I’m a different fighter than all the guys who have fought him in the past. There’s only one way to find out.”
Like St. Pierre said then, the stars have to be in alignment for his second superfight in less than a year. He can be sure where Silva stands.
“That problem I’m sure is going to get dealt with a little bit later,” Silva said Thursday.
But it’s just the kind of match-up that will solidify new stars – and rescue old ones.