UFC President Dana White today said once-beaten Johny Hendricks (14-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) would likely earn a shot at the title should he look impressive at the event against Jake Ellenbeger (28-6 MMMA, 7-2 UFC).
"I'd have to say if Johny Hendricks looks good and wins his fight, it will probably be Hendricks (next)," White said.
UFC 158 takes place March 16 at Montreal's Bell Centre. St-Pierre vs. Diaz headlines with Hendricks and Ellenberger also meeting on the pay-per-view main card. Today's comments were made at a pre-event press conference promoting the event.
There are some who believe Hendricks should have been the one fighting St-Pierre at UFC 158. After all, the 29-year-old currently boasts a five-fight win streak that includes knockout victories of perennial contenders Martin Kampmann and Jon Fitch. Meanwhile, Diaz was defeated by Carlos Condit in February 2012 and has since been sidelined while serving an NSAC-ordered suspension after failing a post-fight drug screen.
St-Pierre, who openly lobbied for the fight with Diaz, is not among those people.
"I think for me Nick Diaz is the No. 1 contender," St-Pierre said. "He's proven himself many times before. There's a story between us. It's a big fight everyone wants to see.
"Nick wanted that fight for a long time, and I wanted to have that fight for a long time. Now it's time to do it."
St-Pierre and Diaz, of course, were supposed to fight in late 2011 before the challenger no-showed a pair of promotional events and was pulled from the card. That didn't keep him from trashtalking the champion in later interviews, which is a primary reason St-Pierre is so insistent on the matchup.
However, St-Pierre also points to Hendricks' razor-thin split-decision win over Josh Koscheck as a reason he does not deserve top-contender status.
"Johny Hendricks, when I watched the fight with Josh Koscheck, according to me, Josh Koscheck should have won that fight, so I didn't want to fight a guy that lost to a guy I already beat," St-Pierre said.
But all of that doubt could be erased should Hendricks down Ellenberger in UFC 158's co-main event.
Of course, in the ever-changing world of the UFC where timing often dictates opportunities as much as anything else, White said that scenario is simply the most likely and not a guarantee.
"Who knows?" White asked. "We'll see what happens."