The recent run of big stars getting hurt has me wondering: are there any fighters coming off of injury that you think might have a rough go of things? It strikes me that so many fighters getting hurt are either UFC champs or high-ranked contenders. That means, when they come back, they will be facing Top 10 opponents. Is there a fighter in the group of recent injuries that you think could really struggle to come back? Georges St. Pierre and Dominick Cruz are both athletic wrestlers who had knee injuries. Jose Aldo gets hurt a lot. Daniel Cormier keeps breaking his hands, and he has not even gotten to the UFC yet. Who do you think might be the biggest victim of this injury bug? -- Daniel from San Francisco
Brian Knapp, features editor: Of all the high-profile fighters who have been bitten by the injury bug, I am most concerned about St. Pierre. Because of the advances in modern medicine, people are too quick to write off such injuries as routine occurrences. For common folk like you and me, perhaps they are at times. For a professional athlete whose fate hinges on the ability of his body to function at almost superhuman levels, the consequences of a torn anterior-cruciate knee ligament remain quite serious.
If St. Pierre meets Carlos Condit in a planned unification bout in November, 19 months will have passed since he last set foot inside the Octagon. That is a long time. More importantly, he turned 31 in May. By most standards, St. Pierre now finds himself nearing the backside of his competitive prime, meaning physical skills like speed, flexibility and reaction time have probably already begun to erode. As a martial artist who leans so heavily on his wrestling, St. Pierre invariably relies on his lower body. If that knee does not return to full strength, or least something comparable to it, he will be a different fighter.
Another hurdle confronting St. Pierre is the division over which he reigns. Young welterweights like Erick Silva, Rory MacDonald and Johny Hendricks are rising rapidly, mixing in with proven veterans like Condit, Jon Fitch, Jake Ellenberger, Martin Kampmann and others. He is walking into a hornet’s nest, and you can be certain they will show him no mercy, bum knee be damned.
Could St. Pierre maintain his level of excellence? Certainly; driven men tend not to go away quietly. However, injuries like the one he sustained force us to consider the possibility that he may have seen his better days. The days of defending his title against the Dan Hardys of the world are probably over.
Through wildlife programs on Animal Planet and National Geographic, the public has come to understand the fate that awaits the old lions of the world. Inevitably, younger ones rise up to take their place, and an injury oftentimes accelerates the process.
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