Hughes v. St. Pierre Added to UFC 79

November 25, 2007

The UFC officially announced Georges St. Pierre as Matt Serra’s replacement verses Matt Hughes on 12/29. The bout will be five rounds for the interim UFC Welterweight Title. The company didn’t even consider St. Pierre a possibility as a replacement, but he asked for the spot himself.

All things considered, this is the best possible scenario for the UFC as it was in the company’s best interest to reload the 12/29 card and keep the Welterweight division rolling. Hughes-St. Pierre for the Interim Welterweight Title is the perfect solution, perhaps it was the only solution, since it made no sense to risk either against anybody other than each other while waiting on Serra.

The only negative is that the company will be playing catch up in promoting the fight with the ads already out and runs the risk of burning what was guaranteed to be a hot match to debut in Montreal. The move could be viewed as an attempt to hot shot near term business, especially in light of indications that business has slowed down or at least leveled off from last year, and even from earlier this year. In the past the company has shown a willingness to wait to make big fights, but perhaps this was more of a result of that policy (i.e. already having waited on Serra-Hughes all this year they were forced to move on) rather than a change.

However, the incentive to do a big show on 12/29 should not be underestimated. The company has lost a lot of momentum the last few months, while boxing and even professional wrestling have gained ground. The perception of explosive growth has been instrumental in the company’s ascent and while the mainstream media still perceives MMA as hot, that could change quickly if the company stagnates.

At first glance, it’s hard to understand why St. Pierre would ask for the fight from a strictly business point of view. He was guaranteed a shot at the title next year, but instead asked for a fight on short notice against an opponent who will have the benefit on a full training camp. However, the moves makes a lot more sense when you consider that St. Pierre last fought in August and wouldn’t be risked again until his title shot. Therefore, best case scenario, even before the Serra injury, he was looking at a six month layoff. With Serra out indefinitely he was looking at the possibility of an even more significant layoff.

Putting aside the ring rust issue, St. Pierre doesn’t get paid unless he fights which is a strong incentive to get in the octagon sooner rather than later. St. Pierre also has every reason to be confident based on his dismantling of Hughes in their last fight.

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