After years of estrangement and many months of rumors and negotiations, this week it was reported that Georges St. Pierre will finally be making his to the UFC and MMA in general this year after over three years away from the sport.
The former long time UFC Welterweight Champion and all-time great has agreed to terms on a new deal. The current plan is for him to compete later on this year, most likely in the fall. This news comes right after Dana White commented in an interview last week with TSN that the UFC had been talking with GSP again. “Me and GSP got everything straight between us,” he said.
GSP last appeared for the UFC in November 2013 in a fight against Johny Hendricks which he won via a controversial split decision, after which he declared that he was contemplating vacating his belt and taking some time off from MMA, both of which happened. Around a month after UFC 167, during a joint conference call, GSP relinquished his UFC Welterweight Title and took his leave from the sport, stopping short of using the word “retirement,” however.
The outcome and aftermath of this fight as well as GSP’s comments frustrated Dana White and created tension between the two sides, something which ended up dragging out to a three-plus year hiatus.
During his time away, GSP widened the gap between the two parties by continuing to comment on drug testing (pre-USADA) and the UFC’s efforts to help control the problem as well as his issues with the Reebok deal. It seemed like GSP fighting in the UFC was something that was never going to happen again. GSP, however, announced that he was ready to return. Then last, year right before the UFC sale to WME-IMG, apparently a deal was on the table, but it was pulled after the sale went through leading to another impasse between the two sides.
Dana White then made comments publicly afterwards that GSP would not fight again and that he was retired.
The saga continued when GSP then declared himself a free agent soon after, stating that his lawyer had terminated his UFC contract due to a deadline to offer him a fight passing. This led to another messy situation in the press, something which many thought had the potential to end up in court as the UFC shot down GSP’s statement and claimed he was still under contract. However, some claimed that this move was just a power play from GSP’s camp to get a better deal.
Shortly after this happened, GSP ended up meeting with White in Las Vegas and reportedly buried the hatchet with him. Later that week he met with WME-IMG co-owner Ari Emanuel to discuss a new deal and a fight at UFC 206 in Toronto. This seemed like the closest we had come to a GSP return. Yet, once again, a deal could not be worked out
Now months later, it seems that they have finally worked things out and now the UFC can start building towards his huge return, something which is needed at the moment, with Conor McGregor’s focus on a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr and his family at the moment, Ronda Rousey’s fall from grace, and the lack of bankable star power in general, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the new UFC owners, WME-IMG.
Around the time of UFC 206, rumored fights for a GSP return included Nate Diaz, Robbie Lawler, and Michael Bisping, who’s name is now at the top of the list for GSP, according to reports.
On Monday’s The MMA Hour, Bisping claimed that one of GSP’s trainers had recently told him “the deal is almost done and he wants to fight me.”
This seems like a great fight for GSP. Bisping has been on a great run and is a bigger star now than ever. He beat Anderson Silva (not without controversy), won the UFC Middleweight Title from Luke Rockhold (who said he didn’t take the fight seriously as he should have), and avenged a loss to Dan Henderson with a decision victory in Hendo’s last fight (who was well past his prime, yet still put up a fight). So this “hot” run for Bisping has had a good bit of luck involved and GSP is more than capable of getting a win against Bisping. It’s also an easy way to get back into a title picture right away and make some new personal history by possibly winning a title in a second weight class.
Bisping, by his own admission, is waiting for the big money fights and, at the moment, GSP’s return is the biggest and best option for him, no matter the outcome. However, he is supposed to be facing a deserving Yoel Romero next. It remains to be seen if he will get the nod to face GSP.
Another possible fight that has been mentioned would be a legends type fight and long time MMA dream match between GSP and Anderson Silva, which would be a big deal even at this point of both men’s careers because of the legendary status of both involved. They could always make this fight happen after a Bisping fight, which would make more sense as having a belt on the line between GSP and Silva would add even more to the stakes of the fight.
If GSP decides to stick at his usual Welterweight, though, then he could either meet the winner of Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson II or Demian Maia with the winner of that getting a Welterweight Title shot.
However, none of these fights at Welterweight is as big of a draw as GSP vs. Bisping or GSP vs. Silva would be. Also, GSP has already achieved more than enough as a Welterweight, it is the perfect time for a change upon his return with a move up to Middleweight.
Whatever happens, the UFC now has a reliable draw back. That, paired with the return of Jon Jones later on this year, should help the company have a strong second half to 2017.