Let's be real here and look at the facts.
Old School Fans
Our entire LOVE for the sport came from Pride, we got tapes and watched them with our friends. Sure we saw the UFC 1 tapes when we were super young, and heard of guys like Gracie and Shamrock, but Pride is where our LOVE for the sport came from, where we followed numbered events, and got into the whole world of MMA.
Here is about as real as it gets.
Pride was an extension of wrestling. The fight promo was wrestling, the fighters shoot interviews were wrestling heck, Pride was LEGEBDARY for the mismatches they put together. For every Randleman versus Fedor, there were 5 Cro Cop versus Dos Caras' type fights (had to throw in the additional wrestling reference). We need to remember the past without the rose coloured glasses. Back in the day we had a lot of 'gong show' fights. Way more so than now. Yes there were legit contenders, but the 'belt' was put up a number of times in situations/fights that had no rhyme or reason for happening other than 60 thousand people would show up for it, and pay good money to see it.
People who want MMA to be a 'legit sport'
MMA is a legit sport. As much so or more than boxing is now. Matchmaking is important, but people have this fairy tale ranking system based on a couple of websites, or what a few journalists say.
Which ranking system is official in MMA? Which governing body controls who contenders are?
Exactly, they don't have one.
Look, MMA is still in its infancy as a sport, as things pan out, and the sport becomes mainstream (it still isn't) anyone who 'works up the ranks' will be a marketable household name, thus no issues. Because the sport isn't like that now, you will see fights like James Toney vs Randy.
For now, fights are for making money and spreading the word. Casual people don't have a clue as to who Hendricks is, or what he can do. Everyone that says Hendrick's "deserves a shot" follow it up with he doesn't really have much except a punchers chance against GSP for now.
As much as I respect Hendricks (honestly, I respect the hell out of anyone that takes this up as a career, and don't get it twisted I think if he continues to work on a few things, he like so many others has a solid chance) as a person who understands its as much as for money as it is for sport, I don't see the worth of him fighting GSP now.
Does he DESERVE to fight GSP? I don't contest that at all. Much like I think Fitch did 5 fights into his win streak. Will it hurt Hendricks to fight someone like a Condit, Macdonald or Mardquart (who will probably be back in the UFC soon)? Probably not. If he wins that and does something to really bring a buzz for him where he can be viewed as a legit challenger, great.
I'm not saying Diaz has any more of a chance. What I am saying is that Diaz vs GSP will bring even a casual fan to watch the fight, because both guys are marketable. Building on that can help further build the sport as well.
There is no dispute to that. It's just fact.