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Although familiar opponents ahead, Georges St. Pierre happy in welterweight division

St. Pierre welcomes rematches, shows no interest in moving to 185 pounds

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Gregory Payan / AP

UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, right, attempts an armbar against Dan Hardy during their fight at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Saturday, March 27, 2010. St. Pierre methodically defeated Hardy by a unanimous, five-round decision in the main event of UFC 111 and retained his welterweight belt.

UFC 111: GSP, Carwin Victorious

Shane Carwin nabs the interim heavyweight belt after his KO of Frank Mir in the first round, while Georges St. Pierre maintains his welterweight title.

St. Pierre v. Hardy

UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, top, in action against Dan Hardy during their match at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Saturday, March 27, 2010.  St. Pierre methodically defeated Hardy by a unanimous, five-round decision in the main event of UFC 111 and retained his welterweight belt. Launch slideshow »

NEWARK, N.J. — Pending a big change by both Georges St. Pierre and UFC President Dana White, don’t expect to see the welterweight champion take on any other challenges besides defending his belt as many times as possible.

Despite posting another dominant win over a top welterweight contender Saturday, it’s clear that St. Pierre’s heart still lies in the 170-pound division.

“We’ve got to get together with Georges and see what he’s thinking,” White said. “To me, it sounds like Georges is very happy staying at 170 pounds, which makes me happy, too.”

After cruising to a unanimous decision victory over Dan Hardy for his fourth straight title defense at UFC 111, St. Pierre is running out of guys to beat up in the welterweight division.

In addition to Hardy, St. Pierre has made wins over Thiago Alves, Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck seem nearly effortless over the past three years. Ironically, it’s those same three fighters who seem at the front of the line to get the next shot against him.

But at a time when perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world seems to have checked off every top contender on the list, St. Pierre seems content to go back to the to and start making his way through the list all over again.

“It’s never the same competitor. It’s never the same guy,” St. Pierre said when asked how he would view facing the same opponents a second time. “The second time, (an opponent) is always a better, improved version. It’s going to be a different fight.”

It’s a career strategy that some fans will be unhappy to hear about.

During the pre-fight press conference leading up to UFC 111, St. Pierre was asked several times during a fan question-and-answer session whether he had any interest in moving up to the middleweight division for a super-fight with current champion Anderson Silva.

White has said he’s been reluctant to make that fight and would rather see Silva move up in weight and compete as a light heavyweight.

One conceivable challenge St. Pierre would face in taking on a slew of rematches would be his desire to not only beat every welterweight contender again, but stop them this time.

Every fighter in the mix to get another shot at St. Pierre lasted the entire fight with him. That trend was repeated Saturday, as St. Pierre couldn’t quite finish Hardy off, despite having him in trouble numerous times.

Judging by St. Pierre’s disappointment in his inability to finish Hardy, it’s clear the challenge of beating the top guys decisively a second time around is intriguing enough for him to not consider moving around weight classes.

“I’m not happy about my performance tonight,” St. Pierre said. “I won the fight but — I’ll make a similarity. It’s like a sprinter that wins the 100-meters in 10 seconds. A few months later, you win the race again but you still win in 10 seconds. You’re still a world champion, but you haven’t beat your time. The same thing happened to me tonight.

“I won, but I wanted a clean win. For me, this isn’t a clean win.”

While it appears certain that St. Pierre intends to continue defending his belt and accepting rematches, which fighter gets a second crack at "Rush" first is still up for grabs.

Fitch and Alves were supposed to fight Saturday on the televised portion of the UFC 111 card, but Alves was forced to pull out when the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board found irregularities in the MRI and CAT scans he submitted.

According to White, Alves is scheduled to have a "minor procedure" sometime next week and should be on track for a quick return.

After defeating Ben Saunders by unanimous decision Saturday, Fitch was quick to make his case for a second crack at St. Pierre, reminding everyone that his loss to the champion remains the only blemish on his career with the UFC.

“There’s nothing more important to me than fighting for the title,” Fitch said. “I’m 12-1 in the UFC and that one loss was to GSP. I’ve won my last four fights and I wish they were finishes, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I’m better than I was last time and I want a title shot.”

Whether Fitch gets the nod to take on St. Pierre or not, he may as well be patient as it seems like the champion has made up his mind to stay in the welterweight division for good.

Known for wanting to leave a legacy as the best fighter ever in mixed martial arts, it’s clear that St. Pierre has decided the best way to do that is to defend his belt — and start doing it in decisive fashion.

“This fight is not going to be remembered,” said St. Pierre of his performance Saturday. “I want to win in beautiful fashion. I want a guy who knows nothing about mixed martial arts to turn his TV on, see my fight and tell his friends, ‘Hey, I saw this guy fight. I didn’t understand what he was doing, but it was beautiful.’

“I want to attract more people to MMA. I want people to be interested in the sport.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Also follow him on twitter: LVSunFighting.

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