Georges St-Pierre says he’s starting to feel like coming back. Whether you believe he’ll actually return or not, who would you be most interested in seeing him fight, and why? Also, who do you think is the most realistic option for the UFC to put against him?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
If Georges St-Pierre isn’t really serious about making a comeback, he must really just miss people paying attention to him. He keeps periodically talking about returning, missing competition, and starting to get the desire to fight again. The whole will he/won’t he thing has long since gotten old, but because he went out on top, it’s quite believable he could return and compete with the best. He’s still young enough too (only a year older than the current welterweight champ) that he could defend the title for a year or two, were he to win it again.
The fight I’m most interested in seeing at the moment is the only that would make sense for the UFC to make if GSP were to step into the Octagon right now: Robbie Lawler. While part of that is because Lawler is champion, most of it is because it’s got the best chance of pushing GSP to an exciting fight. Who else really is there? Rory MacDonald? Barring MacDonald going all T.J. Dillashaw on Tristar, that’s not going to happen. Carlos Condit? Been there, done that. Tyron Woodley? Yeah, wake me up when that one’s over.
Lawler’s wrestling defense is about as good as it gets for a striker. While Johny Hendricks was able to take him down in his fights, it wasn’t easy, and he wasn’t always successful. He’s likely able to do the same with GSP for large portions of the fight, forcing a stand up battle that would be fascinating to watch. Will GSP pick him apart with his jab? Will Lawler’s constant, forward pressure knock the former champ out of his comfort zone? I’d pay to find out.
Speaking of Hendricks, assuming he’s managed to cut enough deer meat out of his diet to stay at 170 lbs, I avoid making this fight like the plague. Hendricks could very well beat GSP. It’s not only the best reason to avoid matching up St-Pierre against Hendricks, it’s the best reason to avoid matching him up against anybody else other than the champ. Far and away, the most profitable, biggest fight the UFC could make for St-Pierre is a return match for the welterweight title. It’s easy to justify. St-Pierre never lost his title, he left on top, and he’s one of the greatest of all time who’s still pretty close to his athletic prime. He’s also among the most popular mixed martial artists to ever put on the gloves.
Whether or not he can still win the belt is irrelevant to making this match. Much better for the UFC to find out in an actual championship match than in one that doesn’t mean so much. A GSP return fight for the belt would draw huge numbers, make huge money, and could easily headline one if the biggest cards of the year. That would all be blown in an instant were St-Pierre to lose to someone. Even giving him some un-ranked schlub as a tune-up fight has its risks. He could win, yet still be exposed as having significantly declined or get hurt. In a total disaster, he could lose altogether. If he fights for the title and were to fall to whomever the champ is at the time (hopefully Lawler), the UFC could at least bank all that money, and give the Welterweight Champ a positive push by virtue of him taking out one of the greatest ever. GSP would then be free to choose working his way back up, taking some fan-friendly, money fights (Anderson Silva, anyone?), or just retiring altogether in the event he takes a MacDonald-style beatdown from Lawler. This is one of those cases where the obvious call is the right call, and if Woodley or Hendricks gets bumped in the process, they’re probably the only two who are going to care about that.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I think that the UFC would put him against someone tough because of the many comments he has made since taking this sabbatical. I think they would be petty and secretly want GSP to lose. That said, GSP himself might want to fight the toughest guy available, who knows? I think they match him against the guy who’s ranked highest that isn’t getting the next title shot. Whether that be Johny Hendricks, Tyron Woodley, Robbie Lawler/Carlos Condit, or anyone who has sprung up the rankings, I think the UFC puts him against the toughest guy they can get.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
My first fight for GSP is Hendricks. That was as controversial as it gets and I had it scored for Johnny. GSP is as elite as elite can be in the sport, but he’s been away for far too long to walk in and claim the crown. Lawler would also be a good fight, but there’s an unsettled grudge already for GSP to acknowledge, and that’s where he should start should he return.
ERIC HOBAUGH, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I do not care who GSP fights as long as he returns. He is still a top fighter at 170 lbs, but how many fighters will sign up to fight the guy? Seriously, the only thing that fighting GSP gets a fighter is losing ranking points. He will still beat seven out of 10 of the top ten and then after this one fight more than likely retire again. He is wealthy and does not have to fight again. The question is not who should GSP fight if he comes back. The question is who will fight him if he does?
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR