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UFC star Georges St-Pierre returns to ring against Carlos Condit

After a 19-month layoff for knee surgery, the popular St-Pierre is a heavy favorite in Saturday night's welterweight bout in Montreal. But Condit, who's also had some time off, believes the pressure is on his opponent.

November 16, 2012|By Lance Pugmire
  • Georges St Pierre delilvers a blow against Josh Koscheck during a title defense in 2010.
Georges St Pierre delilvers a blow against Josh Koscheck during a title… (Marc Lecureuil / Getty Images )

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has its most popular fighter back, and his return can set up an even more lucrative event.

Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre (22-2) returns Saturday night from a 19-month layoff prompted by a knee injury and surgery, taking on Carlos Condit (28-5) in a pay-per-view card in Montreal.

Condit claimed the UFC's "interim" belt in St-Pierre's absence with a unanimous decision over Nick Diaz in February.

Although Condit is a dangerous kicker and aggressor who could pose problems for St-Pierre, who has lost just once since 2006, mixed martial arts fans anticipate a victory by the Canadian whose return home has generated more than $3 million in ticket sales.

A St-Pierre victory could set up a possible super-fight between him and Anderson Silva, the UFC's middleweight champion since 2006 who is expected to watch St-Pierre fight Condit from outside the octagon.

Reports surfaced this week that Silva intends to take a break from fighting and won't return until late 2013, but UFC President Dana White said, "He hasn't told us that."

"He's not the type who's going to run into the ring and challenge Georges, but he's made it very clear to us that he wants to fight St-Pierre," UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta added.

White has spoken of placing a St-Pierre-Silva bout at a big stadium like Cowboys Stadium, a soccer stadium in Brazil, or one in Canada.

Should Silva take a break, the winner of Saturday's undercard bout between Martin Kampmann and Johny Hendricks could be the top welterweight title challenger.

St-Pierre, 31, won't dare to look ahead, saying on a recent conference call, "I don't care about Anderson Silva."

It's notable that St-Pierre hasn't finished anyone since scoring a January 2009 triumph over the lighter B.J. Penn. In four fights since, he won decisions, usually by getting his foe's back to the canvas and either pounding or holding him there.

"I want to be more opportunistic," and, "finish," St-Pierre said. "That's what I've been working on."

The versatile St-Pierre is a 3-to-1 favorite at sports books.

Condit, 28, has been off for a while, too, rejecting a UFC offer for a bout between February and now, something White says was a mistake.

Condit says he believes he's more well-rounded that St-Pierre's recent opponents. Plus, Condit believes St-Pierre will feel the pressure of fighting at home, with the stakes of a possible Silva fight and the unknown durability of his knee could bother the champion.

"This is kind of a must-win fight for him," Condit said. "He's the man. He's got the status. I really have nothing to lose."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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