Both fighters had run roughshod over their respective divisions and it seemed like the kind of epic matchup that would only happen once in a lifetime. While that fight never came together, the champ vs. champ fight has taken on new life in recent years, especially after Conor McGregor moved up to lightweight — without a single title defense at featherweight — and crowned himself “champ-champ” after demolishing Eddie Alvarez inside two rounds.
Prior to McGregor’s accomplishment, only one champion in UFC history had gone up in weight in an attempt to claim a second title — B.J. Penn as lightweight champion came up short trying to beat St-Pierre at welterweight. Since that time, there have been six fights pitting champion versus champion in the UFC.
Lately it seems like everybody on the roster is calling for “champ-champ” status but UFC analyst and retired fighter Alan Jouban argues that those matchups are no longer being earned and it needs to stop.
“All these guys now that want to go double champ,” Jouban said during the year-end episode of The Fighter vs. The Writer. “They want to fight up. They want to fight in a new division too soon. You haven’t cleaned out the top five much less the entire division. I think you know where I’m hinting. Everyone keep saying that so soon.
“They win one fight and they want to go up or down and fight. I think you need to clean out the division not only to earn it. The right to do it is one thing, the right to earn to do it, you need to earn it in terms of you’re good enough to go up against a bigger guy and be able to compete and make it worth our while.”
Prior to his recent win over Colby Covington at UFC 296, Edwards was already talking about moving up to 185 pounds with designs on possibly challenging the winner of the upcoming middleweight title fight between Sean Strickland and Dricus du Plessis.
Meanwhile, UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev called for the chance to move up to welterweight to take the belt away from Edwards after only two title defenses of his own with both wins coming over UFC featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski.
“Islam has not cleaned out his division nor has Leon Edwards cleaned out his division,” Jouban said. “Even that conversation being thrown around to me is ludicrous.
“Because neither guy has done what they need to do yet to earn that matchup. I wish that talk would go away.”
Jouban says that’s the biggest difference between all these champions calling for the chance to win a second title versus the attention that was paid to the proposed Silva vs. GSP fight for all those years.
Because Silva and St-Pierre were so utterly dominant while rattling off a record breaking number of title defenses in their own divisions, the chance to see them do battle felt special and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
That’s just no longer the case if every champion in the UFC tries to jump around to a different weight class with only one or two title defenses under their belt.
“You know why Anderson Silva versus GSP sounded so enticing? It was two champions that had cleaned out both divisions,” Jouban said. “That’s what makes it a super fight. It doesn’t make it a super fight if neither guy has cleaned out the division or if one guy has cleaned out the division and the other guy just became the champion. It’s not as enticing.
“Yes, we got a good fight out of Islam and Volkanovski but it needs to be both guys. Both guys need to have three or four title defenses in the division against top guys and then the super fight starts to organically make itself. But you can’t start calling guys out after one win.”
Jouban believes the calls for champ vs. champ fights in the UFC have almost become a novelty and it’s no longer about pitting two of the best fighters in the world against each other.
Fundamentally, Jouban has no problem with a champion earning the right to claim a second world title but jumping up a division just because you can doesn’t mean it should actually happen.
“You know what makes it feel special? It’s water cooler talk,” Jouban said. “What would happen if Georges St-Pierre put on a little weight, put on some muscle and he went up and took on Anderson Silva! What? I mean Anderson’s so good, he’s so tall but GSP put on 10 pounds of muscle! Now he’s able to shoot the takedowns, what would happen? Could Anderson stop the takedowns? Would he be able to pop the triangle like he did on Chael Sonnen? GSP’s much too savvy for that! It creates that conversation and that’s what’s fun.
“But you can’t create that conversation off one title defense. It’s not there yet. It hasn’t been earned. At this point, it’s becoming the fighter looking for the big payday. The fighter looking for something to add to the resume. The fighter looking for a feather in their cap. Rather than the ‘what if’ conversation that we all want. That what if conversation comes from two dominant guys over a long period of time.”