The on-again, off-again and often speculated but never confirmed return has finally, mercifully, been announced by the glorious Bald One himself this afternoon on ESPN’s SportsCenter (not to be confused with our Canadian equivalent, SportsCentre who also dropped some big news today). Georges “Rush” St-Pierre, Canadian hero, arguable GOAT and one of our personal favourites is officially returning to the Octagon.
His opponent, as the title may have given away, is none other than the UFC’s current middleweight champion, Michael “The Count” Bisping. And just in case you thought it couldn’t get any more crazy: St-Pierre will be looking to dethrone the Englishman, and become just the fourth man in UFC history to capture titles in two weight classes.
First and foremost, it can’t be stressed enough how exciting this news is. Regardless of your opinions of Rush, whether you were one of the people captivated by his thorough dominance or infuriated by his smothering top game, this news should absolutely intrigue you. If you’re going to pretend you’re some sort of MMA hipster, who thinks he’s too cool to enjoy the return of a legend of this magnitude, well you’re either just a liar or a hater. And if you’re a hater? You should be looking forward to the potential outcome that may await a ring-rusted St-Pierre. We’ve seen what happens to legendary fighters making returns. It usually…doesn’t go so well.
Now that we’ve got the good feelings out of the way about St-Pierre’s return, let’s talk about the glaring issues here:
- GSP hasn’t fought since 2013. A lot has happened since then, to say the least
- GSP has never fought in the middleweight division
- Yoel Romero is screwed damn-near Bret Hart style from his UFC title shot
- Jacare Souza is pushed even further back, even though all he does is destroy
- Luke Rockhold has been a ghost since Bisping cleaned his clock, but is still a very serious threat to recapture the title
- Chris Weidman has a fight coming up and is only a win or two away from a title shot
- Gegard Mousasi happens to be fighting the guy mentioned above, and also only seems to be one win away from a title shot
- Michael Bisping already defended his title in a “story-driven” title fight against Dan Henderson (the #13 ranked middleweight at the time)
- GSP always balked at the idea of adding additional weight to move up to middleweight, claiming he’d need a lot of time (which he has had, but…)
- GSP claimed he could have come back to fight in the lightweight division, if that’s where things went negotiation wise, which kind of contradicts the above
- The UFC continues to spit on their own rankings in order to facilitate mega PPV main events
I’m sure you can think of some more issues to add to the above list, but you get the idea. There is no shortage of outrage to be had here. In fact, as much as I’ve been a fan of St-Pierre’s since his epic clash with Baby Jay Penn back at UFC 58: USA vs. Canada I can honestly say that this matchup equally excites and disappoints me. It’s great to see St-Pierre return, it’s a mystery as to what he’ll look like, it’s intriguing to see him finally move to middleweight. Michael Bisping will serve as an excellent foil opposite St-Pierre, as few know how to play the role of MMA heel like The Count.
With all of the good said, let’s look at the disappointing side. For one, it’s disappointing to again see the UFC go with a dollars-before-divisions mindset, as they’ve really created a mess for themselves in two divisions now (not to mention the flyweight and light heavyweight divisions being a barren wasteland). It’s also a huge, massive slap in the face to every one of the top contenders at 185-lbs. especially for Romero and Souza, who are both seemingly somewhat near the end of their MMA careers.
It’s also another title shot being granted to a fighter who has zero relevant wins within the division. Had St-Pierre chosen to return to the welterweight division, it absolutely would be fair and understandable for him to skip ahead of Demian Maia (who himself has been waiting forever for a 170-lbs. title shot), given that he had never actually lost his title, despite what some may suggest after the Johny Hendricks fight. The legend returning to claim what he never lost is a great story, and it would be fascinating to see if Rush could still hang with the best-of-the-best in the welterweight shark tank. My opinion? I think he could. Returning to win his title back against either Stephen Thompson or Tyron Woodley would be an incredible accomplishment, further cementing his status as the greatest welterweight of all time.
Instead, we get this foray into the middleweight division, against another long-time UFC veteran. The two most winning fighters (weird to say that about Bisping, isn’t it?) in UFC history will square off against each other, for what will unfortunately equate to the paper-mache middleweight title at some point in 2017.
And you know what? As much as I dislike the idea, I’m still excited.