In life, many believe that our past decisions define us as a person. Should we have taken that new job? Should we have moved to a new town? Or should we have made our move before it was too late? Sometimes, though, we are given a chance to fix those past mistakes. The UFC did just that.
When it was announced that Georges St-Pierre and the UFC had finally come to an agreement for the former welterweight champion’s return, it’s safe to say the reaction was a mixed bag. GSP, unlike many former fighters, walked away from the sport in his prime. He left as the champion, ending on a high note, even if his UFC 167 fight against Johny Hendricks was closer than many expected. He has nothing to prove to anyone, save himself and his desire to compete. For years, the rumors flew in that he would return. Yet, he remained on the sidelines. When the tides finally turned, the list of potential opponents was massive, anything from rematches with Hendricks, Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit, to fighting guys like Robbie Lawler or current welterweight champ Tyron Woodley. The idea of Anderson Silva was thrown around, but it was squashed rather quickly. The name no one expected to see was that of current UFC middleweight champion Michael “The Count” Bisping.
It just doesn’t make sense. Now, it seems the UFC sees it that way as well. After a multitude of pushbacks and negotiations, the ship has sailed on a showdown between Bisping and St-Pierre. Instead, UFC President Dana White confirmed during an interview with MMA Junkie that GSP will fight later this year and he will be taking on none other than the winner of the championship tilt between Woodley and Demian Maia. This fight makes sense for St-Pierre’s return for a few reasons.
First, “Rush” will compete in the proper weight class. The idea of GSP competing at middleweight wasn’t crazy, but it also just wasn’t as plausible. Just like we’ve seen with B.J. Penn fighting welterweights back in his prime versus Penn fighting welterweights now, times have changed. Middleweights are cutting significantly more weight than they used to cut, even just a couple years ago. The fighters have gotten bigger and stronger. With GSP spending so much of his time at 170 pounds, the 185 division seems out of reach. Instead, we’ll get to see if a welterweight GSP still has the edge that made him the most dominant 170-pound champion the UFC has ever seen.
Second, the division needs to know if St-Pierre will still be champion, given the talent-rich division that exists today, had he not walked away from the sport. It’s entirely possible that he would have retained his belt, but the evolution of the weight class has come leaps and bounds since GSP’s departure. From 2008 through 2013, the division only had one titleholder: GSP. Since the Canadian’s departure, the title has been held by three different men, none of whom have defended the belt thus far. If St-Pierre were to collect a win over either Maia or Woodley, then it would show that GSP’s dominance still exists. Meanwhile, a loss would surely not bode well for the former champion.
Third, the conversation can finally be put to rest as to the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the modern era. Many will continue to stand firm with the aforementioned Silva, but the middleweight legend’s fall from grace hasn’t been a pleasant one. Fedor Emelianenko? Too many variations and lack of UFC competition. Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson? He’s currently fighting in a division the UFC might shut down. Conor McGregor? He did win titles in two different weight classes and has competed in three divisions, but he is about to have a boxing match. In any case, where does the line get drawn and what criteria is taken into consideration? GSP remained consistent and even relevant while away from the sport for nearly four years. He could still lay claim to the G.O.A.T. tag.
In any case, the UFC’s decision to scrap the middleweight contest between Bisping and St-Pierre was likely based on many reasons other than the obvious ones, but it was the smartest business decision the company could have made.