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11/23/12 7:49 PM
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 by UnderGround Columnist Ralph Welch
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Welch talks UFC Superfights, Rich Clementi’s retirement, the return of Todd Duffee and Joe Rogan’s war on obese officiating.

St-Pierre in no Rush to decide next move

As Georges St-Pierre sat at the UFC 154 press conference with an ice pack soothing a head covered in bruising and lacerations, it was tempting to wonder whether the 19 months of reconstruction and rehabilitation had been worth it.

Not that the undisputed welterweight king had much time for such circumspection, for the post-fight press conference was dominated by talk of the much-heralded potential superfight with Anderson Silva.

The Brazilian was in attendance cageside, as we were so frequently reminded by the cameras monitoring his every move, and there is no doubt that both he and Dana White are keen to pen the deal at the earliest opportunity. St-Pierre, understandably, is somewhat more hesitant.

Betting lines emerged this week that made “The Spider” an obvious favourite and the genetic disadvantages of facing a significantly taller, stronger man are obviously weighing heavily on St-Pierre’s mind.

Dana White, buoyed by his own supremely optimistic conviction that the superfight would sell out the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, has vowed to find the zeroes on the paycheck that will strengthen the Canadian’s resolve. However, for once the UFC President may find that money on the table doesn’t solve this particular problem.

St-Pierre’s management team have worked hard to ensure that “Rush” is every bit as profitable in the cage as he is outside of it. His list of endorsements is truly impressive: from mainstream giants such as Coca-Cola, Google and Bacardi to MMA major players Under Armour and Hayabusa.

With those sorts of brand names behind you, you can afford to be particular about your career path.

The fight makes sense for the UFC brand: champion versus champion will be an undoubted pay-per-view bonanza that will bring the casual consumers on board in big numbers. Yet a noisy contingent of hardcore fans have voiced concerns over the competitive nature of a fight between two vastly different physical specimens.

Their hesitance is understandable. It would be a great occasion, no doubt. Whether it would be a great fight is still open to debate.

Just ask Georges.

Clementi bows out

After 68 fights and plenty of air miles, Rich “No Love” Clementi has decided to retire from mixed martial arts.

The veteran (45-22-1) has campaigned at welterweight and lightweight for organisations across the globe and accumulated a respectable 5-5 record in the UFC, including wins over Anthony Johnson and Melvin Guillard. However, after suffering a double dose of knee injuries the 35 year-old Louisiana based fighter has brought his proud career to an end.

Clementi was a throwback to a bygone era when the mainstream exposure that MMA currently enjoys was nothing but a pipedream. A have-gloves-will-travel kinda guy, Clementi can rightly look back on his tenure with a great sense of satisfaction.

He now aims to help the next generation of fighters. They couldn’t ask for a better teacher.

Back in 53 seconds: Duffee makes surprise return

The last time UFC fans saw Todd Duffee he was looking up at the ceiling of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center having been spectacularly robbed of his senses by Mike Russow at UFC 114.

Back in 2010 Duffee was making a reputation for himself as a potential force in the heavyweight division; a reputation that he humbly believed was over-hyped following a seven-second highlight reel knockout of Tim Hague on his Octagon debut.

As it transpired, he was right.

Following the devastating loss to the unfancied Russow, Duffee was handed his pink slip and left with a stinging rebuke from Dana White. Unimpressed by what he perceived as a poor attitude, the UFC President opined that Duffee “doesn’t want to be in the UFC, he doesn’t like being in the UFC”. His recommended Duffee return to the regional fight scene and earn his return the hard way.

Sadly, injury and misfortune have plagued Duffee since. He’s managed the grand total of 53 seconds of fight time, going 1-1 in two hard years which saw him iced by the heavy hands of Alistair Overeem before notching up a TKO win over Neil Grove.

So it was an astonishing turn of events which saw him named this week as the new opponent for Phil De Fries at UFC 155 on December 29th. De Fries’ original foe, Matt Mitrione, has been bumped up to replace the injured Shane Carwin against TUF coach Roy Nelson, and it has given Duffee an unexpected shot back at the big time.

All of Duffee’s nine professional contests have finished early. This fight could either be a flying visit to the UFC, or a fast track to something more meaningful.

And finally…Rogan’s weighty issue

Speaking of the sport’s big men, there was a particularly remarkable physique on view last week in the Bell Centre, Montreal. Unfortunately it didn’t belong to any of the combatants.

Despite the impressive, chiselled conditioning of Tom Lawlor and Francis Carmont, it was referee Philippe Chartier who attracted gasps from those in attendance as his portly frame meandered around the Octagon.

It led UFC commentator Joe Rogan to ask an on-air question that generated much conjecture on social media, “how fat can you be and still be a referee?”

Joking aside, Rogan makes a serious point.

These athletes are at the very height of their profession with their livelihoods on the line each time they step into the caged battlefield. When their opponent is weakened, the killer instinct – that pre-requisite for anyone pursuing a career in prizefighting – will kick in and the aggressor will invariably unleash a flurry of blows until victory is theirs. There is no time for hesitation.

In the pressure cooker situation of a big fight, referees need speed of mind and foot to ensure that fighter safety is maintained.  Four ounce gloves can be notoriously unforgiving. Unnecessary absorption of blows could end a fight, a career and potentially have dire consequences for a fighter’s long-term health.

Rogan is entirely justified in suggesting that having an official in that kind of physical condition cannot possibly help them do a better job.

It may not have been the most eloquent of questions, but it was definitely one worth asking.



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