For fighters, it is so hard to find consistent success in a sport that demands such a diverse skill set from its athletes and those fighters that are able to hold on to success are lauded upon. Chuck Liddell's title reign is remembered as one of the longest and most memorable in the Light Heavyweight division, but looking back it lasted only a shade over two years and included only four defenses of the title.
So rare is it to see title reigns like that of Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre that see the rise and fall of whole generations of fighters. Both Silva and St. Pierre won UFC championships in 2006, and coming up they faced an elder generation of fighters who were some of the first true mixed martial arts fighter.
In St. Pierre's case, he defeated Frank Trigg, and the first UFC Welterweight super star Matt Hughes. Despite losing his first title defense to Matt Serra, St. Pierre started to face the best of his own generation. In his return to the title in 2008 and resulting run of title defenses St. Pierre would defeat B.J. Penn, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves.
Now with this fight at UFC 154 against Carlos Condit, St. Pierre faces one of the toughest tests for a champion in any sport, a rising star from the next generation. Six years ago when St. Pierre was getting the UFC belt put around his weight his waist for the first time, Condit was a 22-year-old up-and-comer fighting in Japan, yet to fight in the WEC, much less in the UFC.
Condit has proven himself as the best of this new wave of Welterweights, as he has bested Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald, and Dong Hyun Kim, all of them considered to be either current or future contenders. The only thing that has taken a little of Condit's momentum away during his 10-1 Zuffa career thus far is the controversial nature of his win over Nick Diaz.
St. Pierre on the other hand is a much different situation. He is coming in after over a year of inactivity and with the weight of expectations and sponsorships. The UFC does a wonderful job of using their marketing power to build up champions as the best, but this can became a burden for long reigning champions. They become viewed as unbeatable, so when a worthy contender legitimately challenges them in the cage it is view as a sign of weakness in the champion rather than strength of competition.
And it will certainly not be easy for St. Pierre as Condit is extremely hard to put away and is a threat to finish the fight anywhere it goes. St. Pierre has fought more accomplished fighters, and fighters with greater degrees of skill in certain areas, but it could be argued that Condit is the most threatening fighter St. Pierre has faced in sometime.
St. Pierre thrives on surprising opponents by not always attacking their weakness but also challenging their strength. He has out wrestled NCAA champions and knocked down feared strikers, and St. Pierre's training in Muay Thai suggests that he plans on challenging Condit in the kickboxing department.
A Condit victory would not be crushing as St. Pierre has already accomplished a great deal in his career and has already crossed the threshold into MMA greatness. But it would be seen as a signal of the passing of St. Pierre's time. He may have future successes after that but the Canadian's peak as a fighter will certainly be behind him.
If St. Pierre wins, it would be the 7th consecutive defense of his title, second only behind Anderson Silva. With this win St. Pierre would become a model of longevity. In his career he would exceeded high expectations put on himself early in his career, over came adversity in losing his title, then after reclaiming his belt St. Pierre showed he understood how to handle success, staying focused and constantly bettering himself as a fighter. Now he is coming off a major injury and facing the standard bearer of a new generation of fighter, if St. Pierre wins in dominant fashion he is knocking on the door of true sports immortality as an all-time great athlete.