GSP: The Return
The greatest Welterweight to ever grace the wire-fences and rubber mats of the world-famous octagon is set to make his return to Mixed Martial Arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The date, time, and venue are yet to be determined but George St. Pierre is set to make his Middleweight debut in a Title-fight against Michael Bisping.
St. Pierre left the UFC on less than ideal terms. A razor thin, and controversial, split decision win over Johny Hendricks capped off his run as Welterweight Champion as “Rush” vacated his belt not long after. His retirement was never declared explicitly as such rather he stressed the need to take some time off. Since his hiatus began in 2013 various sources as well as St. Pierre himself have periodically emerged to tease his return. But as far as anyone could tell there were big, perhaps insurmountable, roadblocks in the way of GSP’s homecoming.
When rumors of his return began to surface most questioned, and still do question, his ability to compete with the current roster. An ACL tear in 2014 combined with his vocal concerns about losing time, a common symptom of brain trauma, were/are serious impediments to a successful return to elite level MMA. Ultimately though, GSP has been able to continue training and even completing a few “mock” training camps. As a result both he and his team are extremely confident in his ability to compete with the best in the world.
Behind the physical impediments to his return, the Quebec Native faced a grueling process of negotiating with the UFC and its new owners. The issue of sponsorship was undoubtedly the most polarizing factor in these negotiations. GSP’s long-standing deal with Under Armour was in direct conflict with the UFC’s deal with Reebok. But with so much capital on the line it appears as though WME-IMG has made the smart move and bridged the divide – likely offering GSP a substantial contract to compensate his lost earnings from UA.
With the deal signed only one detail was left to iron out: his opponent. GSP’s famous three consonants have been on the lips of three current UFC Champions as of late: Conor McGregor (155 lbs), Tyron Woodley (170 lbs), and Michael Bisping (185 lbs). The timelines of the two former fighters largely disqualified them from playing host to a GSP title-fight and for that reason, and numerous others that can only be speculated upon, the Middleweight Champion was gifted a pair of satin red panties with the fleur-de-lis embroidered on the back.
By all accounts Bisping vs. St. Pierre will take place late summer early fall (most likely in Vegas but far from improbably in Canada). However, we do not need the official date and venue to draw some preliminary conclusions regarding this intriguing matchup.
The big story going into this fight will be GSP’s lay off. A little over 3 years and a major knee injury are more than enough to chip away at a fighter’s athletic ability and confidence. But under the tutelage of Firas Zahabi and Freddie Roach and with world-class training partners at Tristar Gym, all signs point to a successful return for the 35 year old.
That being said, Michael Bisping is no tune-up fight – though one could argue he is, relative to his peers at 185 lbs. Besides being far more active and sporting a sizable weight advantage, Bisping will enter this bout with a ton of well-deserved momentum. “The Count” has been improving his striking steadily under Jason Parillo and has beaten some of Middleweight’s top talent.
As of late though, Bisping has shown a increased sensitivity to punishment though perhaps surviving two “H-Bombs” from Dan Henderson and a flying knee from Anderson Silva point to the opposite. Regardless, the battle worn Brit will most likely be the more battered fighter though simultaneously the more resilient.
Besides the ring rust, the weight gap, the styles matchup, the coaches, and the camps Bisping vs. GSP, like all other fights, will come down to the absurdity of combat. An errant move or minor slip and a heavy favorite can lie unconscious, forever changed because of it.
As much as we would like to romanticize GSP, and to a lesser extent Bisping, they are just men and like all men they are fallible.
On a date TBD at a venue TBD the greatest Welterweight to ever live will attempt to suspend our disbelief and return to the god-like status he enjoyed for so many years.