Anderson Silva begins to celebrate after earning a technical knockout… (Julie Jacobson / Associated…)
Reporting from Las Vegas — There's one nagging obstacle remaining, but it wasn't large enough to stop Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White from confirming that he is ready to make the dream fight of mixed martial arts: middleweight champion Anderson Silva versus welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre this year at a stadium in North America.
St-Pierre (21-2) still has an April 30 title defense against Jake Shields (26-4-1), but Silva's schedule has been cleared by his amazing first-round kick and knockout of challenger Vitor Belfort on Saturday night in UFC 126 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
"I've only seen that on a video game," White said of the kick that gave Silva his 13th UFC victory in 13 fights, including his eighth title defense. "He's cleaned out his division now and he's made it clear he's not going up to [light-heavyweight]. The … guy has never lost in the UFC. He's the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, and I don't know how anyone can debate that."
Nor can anyone debate who is No. 2.
St-Pierre has won eight consecutive fights since a 2007 title-defense loss to underdog Matt Serra.
He has cleared out his division too and did not need to defeat Dan Hardy or Josh Koscheck (in a rematch of a St-Pierre victory) last year to prove it.
White said he does not regret letting this one marinate a bit, as they say in boxing.
Should Shields stun St-Pierre and tarnish MMA's Super Bowl, White and UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta would have no one to blame but themselves for mocking the money-grubbing tactics of boxing promoters and billing fight fans for the excess St-Pierre and Silva fights.
White maintained he did not want to push it last year because "I think guys need to clear out their divisions before they move on to a super-fight like this. I'm a purist."
And a businessman.
Sparing Shields the indignity of being considered a formality before MMA's ultimate showdown, White declined to get into finer details of a Silva-St-Pierre match, such as site or date. He said it would be "later this year" and could be staged either in Toronto — where the St-Pierre-Shields fight is expected to draw 40,000-plus — or at the site of the Super Bowl, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
White visited the stadium last year to watch Manny Pacquiao box and was floored by the venue.
"The most difficult part of this fight will be deciding where to hold it," White said.
St-Pierre has signed off on the bout, to be fought at Silva's weight, 185 pounds, White said. Silva raised his eyebrows and smiled when asked about it Saturday night.
"It's going to be a fun fight," Silva said. "I'll fly over here and there and so will he. Punches and kicks will be thrown all over."
White got caught up in analysis, too. "GSP is a great wrestler. … He destroys wrestlers and he can probably do that to Anderson Silva. He can take anyone down.
"These are the best guys in the world — a legacy fight — two guys both in a place in their career where they're ready to test themselves."
As soon as the UFC cashes in on another St-Pierre fight, the long wait for that test will finally be over.