The comeback. It’s a story fans love to hear. The ascension from the plagues of injury or maybe even retirement. The comeback generally provides a feel-good atmosphere that people tend to get behind and want to watch unfold. In the world of MMA, fighters will come back after telling fans that this will be the last time they are inside the cage or that they have family to take care of. But sometimes the desire to compete again still lingers. It’s a driving force that speaks to that fighter each day, reminding them of their former glory and the adrenaline high that came with being on top of the mountain. The hardest thing for a proper comeback to be successful doesn’t come from the fighter themselves, but from the marketing used to reintroduce them into the fray. Enter Georges St-Pierre.
It has been nearly four years since the great GSP graced us with his presence inside the Octagon. He wasn’t always the most exciting champion, but his dominance was unmatched. He avenged the only two losses he ever suffered, which is a feat not very many can claim. However, GSP’s dominance put the division in a logjam of contenders who just didn’t have what it would take to dethrone the champion. So, when Johny Hendricks nearly bested St-Pierre one fateful night in 2013, it seemed GSP’s aura of invincibility was finally fading. Fans clamored for a rematch that would never happened because GSP walked away from the sport he loved after the bout.
Every few months thereafter, there were rumors of a GSP return. Various media outlets would report how close the UFC and GSP were to signing. Then, nothing. This happened so many times that when GSP was to return, the media buildup was intense. The UFC couldn’t just throw him into the fold at 170 pounds. No. The company had to do something even more insane and illogical. It planned to book him in a middleweight title fight against Michael “The Count” Bisping. The world went insane.
The press conference? Incredible. The banter between the two men? A bit forced, but it still felt quite true to each of their characters. GSP finally getting back inside the cage after all these years turned exciting again. Yet, the backlash was brutal. Fighters like Yoel Romero, who had been promised a title shot, were moved down the line. Anderson Silva went on to demand an interim title fight and threatened retirement if his wish was not granted. The biggest issue? GSP told Bisping he won’t be ready until after October. This is where the whole situation righted itself and the UFC took action.
Bisping has become a true champion. He took a fight on 17 days’ notice and won the middleweight crown. He then defended it against Dan Henderson, the man whose knockout of Bisping has been on the highlight reels for years. When Bisping found out GSP wouldn’t be ready until way later in the year, he asked for the fight the fans and the sport deserve: a title defense against the aforementioned Romero. The UFC listened.
Romero has insane power. He will be the hardest striker Bisping has ever faced, which is saying a lot considering the who’s who of veterans the Brit has fought in his lengthy UFC tenure.
This brings us back to the point. If this was the UFC’s plan all along, it was absolutely genius. The company was able to build up the return of GSP, get fans clamoring about a fight that shouldn’t happen, and showcase a champion who wants fights that make sense as well as money fights. Meanwhile, this all gives way to one more added benefit: GSP is now free later in the year, and Anderson Silva doesn’t have a fight booked.
The plan is simple. Bisping fights Romero in July. Meanwhile, GSP and Silva can clash at the UFC end-of-year show. What better way to cap off 2017 than by having Silva’s presumable retirement fight? GSP was already preparing for a middleweight bout, so his weight and training should already be on point.
If this wasn’t the UFC’s plan, then the stars really did align in a perfectly timed way.
Either way, the fans and the divisions get the best of both worlds. It’s about damn time.