The saga between GSP and the UFC has been going on for years, from his call for more drug testing to clashes over the Reebok deal, but this past Monday things really started to go south between the two parties in an issue which could take some time to resolve.
Georges St-Pierre declared on MMA Hour on Monday night that he is now a free agent and no longer under contract to UFC. He claimed that he had terminated his UFC contract via his lawyer after months of negotiation for a return fight at UFC 206 in his home country of Canada.
It seemed like a deal was going to be worked out for such a return. However, after a deadline set by GSP’s team for the UFC to offer him a fight had passed, GSP had asked his team terminate the contract afterwards, This all came after Dana White ruled GSP out of UFC 206 in Toronto, Canada last week, an event which most people saw as the perfect and most logical place for a massive GSP return to take place.
However, White was dismissive and reenforced his position during the interview on “Jay and Dan on Fox Sports Live” last week that he believes GSP won’t fight again and that GSP has lost his fire and passion for the sport, undermining the former long time UFC Welterweight Champion in a big way.
This is something that White has been saying for a while now and it just seems like another one of White’s diversion tactics in the media just in case the UFC can’t work out a deal with GSP, running him down while he is away from the brand to devalue his worth without them.
Behind the scenes, apparently a big sticking point with the negotiation was the amount of money that GSP was looking for to make his return, a figure which the UFC didn’t feel like they wanted to take the risk on, according to reports, because GSP has been gone for a while leading them to question what his drawing power would be like upon his reintroduction into the company.
This is something, of course, which GSP found hard to believe understandably, especially with the event being held in Canada, where he is a major draw.
For example, UFC 129 in Toronto headlined by GSP vs. Jake Shields set the company’s live gate record – which still stands – and the company attendance record – which was only broken last year in Australia at UFC 193.
The UFC has struggled to reach the height and success that they once had in Canada when GSP was fighting, so it seems far-fetched that they labelled one of their biggest draws in recent history – especially in the market that UFC 206 is emanating from – as a risk and an unproven draw?
It’s clear that a lot of games are going on here between both parties. GSP knows what he is worth to the company upon his return and isn’t willing to budge on his demands. The UFC, on the other hand, don’t want to give in to GSP’s demands and are shooting themselves and the UFC 206 event in the foot because of it.
Business-wise, the UFC are in a way right not to bend to all of the demands of GSP as it would create dissension in the ranks, plus it could lead to other big stars like Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and more to demand more from the UFC also. That would continue on down the line, which would create big problems for the company, more money going out, top draws being on the shelf due to drawn out negotiations, etc.
However, at a time when the UFC is struggling for top draws, a proven star like GSP, who still might have a few big fights left in the tank, would really help boost the brand, especially in Canada, so a few exceptions and concessions could be made in order to keep GSP happy, surely?
The new ownership of WME-IMG comes into play with this deal. However, GSP had personal relationships with previous owners Zuffa. Also, Lorenzo Fertitta understood the fight game and what GSP meant to the sport and the history of the UFC. Apparently a deal with both parties was looking more likely before the sale.
Now it appears the new owners are all about the bottom line, evidenced by their ongoing layoffs which will amount to just under 15 percent of the companies employees.
They have already let go high-ranking executives and regional heads who have been important to the growth of the entire brand globally all over the world, so these are owners who won’t be held over a barrel by a fighter, no matter how big of a star he has been for the company in the past.
The announcement made about the termination by GSP, of course, was a big bombshell in the MMA world and raised a lot of big questions right away. What’s next for GSP? Will he perhaps be the next big star name to head to Bellator?
However, these questions were quickly put on the back burner as the UFC then released a rebuttal statement which refuted the claims made by GSP, revealing that they don’t consider GSP to be a free agent and that he is still under contract with Zuffa, LLC. The statement read that the UFC intends to honor the existing agreement that they have with GSP and that they expect GSP to do the same.
“Georges St. Pierre remains under an existing agreement with Zuffa, LLC as his MMA promoter. Zuffa intends to honor its agreement with St. Pierre and reserves its rights under the law to have St. Pierre do the same.”
If GSP doesn’t fall in line, then he will most likely have a hard fight on his hands to get out of this deal which could put a stop to his comeback for the foreseeable future. It happened to Randy Couture and put a stop to his career for good. The same could happen to GSP if this goes to court.
The UFC won’t let GSP just walk away while still under contract. He is not a free agent legally and will have to fight to gets what he wants in a deal or give in to the UFC in order to fight again.
It does seem like all of this is just a high-profile negotiation tactic, a lot of posturing going on with both parties, with GSP trying to rock the boat to get what he wants to come back to the UFC and the UFC pushing back that they won’t be forced into his demands.
GSP’s legal team is still sticking to the claim that his contract with UFC is now terminated and that main reason for the termination is the fact that the UFC didn’t offer GSP fight within the agreed period and also condemned the one-sided nature of the existing contact that GSP had with the company.
If GSP does somehow manage to legally get out of his UFC contract and actually become a free agent, it again raises the question of what’s next for GSP? His most-likely destination would be Bellator, of course, following in the footsteps of his Tristar teammate, Rory MacDonald.
Viacom own Bellator, so they would likely have the money to persuade GSP to sign, much like they have done with Chael Sonnen and Tito Ortiz.
Another big plus for GSP if he were to join Bellator would be the elimination of the UFC/Reebok deal, which would allow GSP to do what he wanted in that regard, including continuing to work with Under Armour.
However, there are a lack of big opponents in Bellator for GSP. The money may be there, but the competition and having the opportunity to prove that he is still the best isn’t there in Bellator at the moment. If he is seeking respect and top level fights once again to test himself, then he must work out a deal with the UFC to fulfill this need.
I think that eventually GSP and the UFC will come to some agreement and he will comeback next year. However, if neither side is willing to budge, we will have a long drawn out legal battle here and quite possibly the permanent end to GSP’s career, which no one wants to see. I hope both parties can find some resolution soon before the situation gets worse.
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