MMA’S HOTTEST FREE AGENT – GSP
When WME-IMG took over operations of the UFC this year, it was expected that there would be some personnel changes, as there are with any corporate takeover, but few would have expected the new management to see the ouster of one of the sport’s biggest stars.
In an appearance on “The MMA Hour” with Ariel Helwani Monday afternoon, Georges St-Pierre announced that he will not be fighting at UFC 206 and that he is now a free agent.
The former UFC Welterweight Champion terminated his contract through his lawyer after months of negotiation that had all signs pointing towards a return at UFC 206 in Toronto. Dana White, though, had taken a consistent firm stance all along that GSP didn’t want to fight.
A deadline had been set by GSP’s team to offer him a fight. When that wasn’t met by the UFC, GSP terminated the contract.
St-Pierre took a leave of absence from the sport after a 2013 win over Johny Hendricks. When he was ready to return, St-Pierre and UFC, still under Zuffa management at the time, began working on a deal. In the time since GSP’s last fight, the Reebok deal was put into place that created a conflict for GSP and his deal with Under Armour. St-Pierre said that he was close to making a deal with former Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, but that deal was taken off the table when WME-IMG took over and things seemed to fall apart from there.
“We were almost there,” St-Pierre told Helwani. “When they told us that, I got angry.”
St-Pierre said the UFC offered him a fight with Robbie Lawler, but that Lawler then decided to take some time off, pushing the potential fight to a later date.
Another obstacle was UFC apparently telling GSP that they would have to take a huge financial risk in reintroducing him to the UFC audience, an assertion that was hard for GSP to take seriously, particularly when he would have been fighting in his strongest market, Canada, a market that has grown and shrunk in step with St-Pierre’s career.
St-Pierre did not give any indication as to where he will fight next, but he is now perhaps the biggest free agent property in the history of MMA.
Hiscoe’s Analysis: This is very big news and a turn of events I didn’t anticipate. At worst, I figured they wouldn’t work out a deal in time for UFC 206 but that GSP would fight at a later date, or perhaps just stay retired. The fact that GSP chose to go to the media and declare himself a free agent indicates that he is interested in fighting outside of the UFC.
We don’t know what, exactly, GSP was asking for, but rumors had been in the $10 million range for the fight inclusive of any bonuses. Between the live gate in Toronto and what a GSP return fight would do on pay-per-view, $10 million, while a huge paycheck by UFC standards, would likely still allow for UFC to turn a profit on the show.
The question remains, is there anyone out there with deep enough pockets to afford GSP’s asking price? Bellator, being under the Viacom umbrella, has the best shot at affording him, but it’s more difficult to make money by airing a GSP fight on Spike TV. Perhaps Bellator and Viacom will see value in the long term boost in name recognition he would bring to the promotion, not to mention the doors he can open up for the company in Canada.
This looks like it will turn out to be the first major blunder of the WME-IMG era, and may not be the last.
MONDAY NOTEBOOK ITEMS…
-Dana White told Fox Sports that Nick Diaz is ready to make a return.
-Luke Rockhold told Submission Radio that he was offered a fight with Yoel Romero at UFC 205 but turned it down because he only wants five round fights.
-The Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission has approved the use of instant replay so that referees can confirm whether or not a foul had occurred in the end of a bout. A fight could not then be restarted, but could be declared a no-contest, or a disqualification or technical decision could be called.
-Gegard Mousasi told “The MMA Hour” that he received threats from Conor McGregor via Twitter direct message after Mousasi ranted at the UFC 204 post-fight press conference that he should start throwing water bottles to get more attention. Mousasi said McGregor wrote: “A knife is lighter than a pound, it can cut from ear-to-ear.”
-FloCombat has obtained some footage of former WWE wrestler Ryback (Ryan Reeves) training for MMA. The short clip shows Reeves doing some light pad-work.
-Tatsuya Kawajiji is asking for his release from UFC. He did not indicate whether he has future plans for fighting but that he would announce his intentions separately.
-The Nov. 12 and Dec. 3 WSOF cards have been cancelled and will be merged into a show on Dec. 31 in New York City headlined by Jon Fitch vs. Jake Shields for the promotion’s welterweight championship.
FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENT ROUNDUP
-Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Ali Bagautinov at UFC Fight Night: Belfast on Nov. 19.
-Mike Perry vs. Alan Jouban and Colby Covington vs. Bryan Barberena for UFC on Fox, Dec. 17 from Sacramento.
-James Moontsari vs. Alex Morono has been rescheduled from the cancelled Oct. 15 show to the Dec. 17 show.
NOW CATCH UP ON YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: SUNDAY NEWS DIGEST 10/16: McGregor’s fine actually half of what reported, Vitor not retired quite yet (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)
(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)