One of the greatest fighters of all time is set to make his return to the sport that he long dominated upon entering the UFC from 2004 to 2013. Two-time Welterweight title holder and nine-time defending champion, Georges "Rush" St-Pierre will headline UFC 217 in New York City as he challenges for current UFC Middleweight champion, Michael "The Count" Bisping's belt. Whether or not GSP with a win would stay in the 185 lb weight class he'll be jumping up to has been debated since he and Bisping were very first rumored to fight. But now it appears that he will have no other option.
In a recent appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, St-Pierre stated that if he defeats Bisping and becomes the new Middleweight champion that he contractually has to defend his belt against the current Interim champion, Robert Whittaker.
“That wasn’t my initial plan, but I understand the UFC’s point of view,” St-Pierre said. “They want to protect their titles. They don’t want to delay the defense of their titles because they don’t want to make people wait.”
Obviously, defending is the most logical next thing to do when one becomes champion. But St. Pierre has been vocal about possibly going back down to his original home of the Welterweight 170 lb weight class or even attempting to go as far as 155 lbs at Lightweight after his Middleweight title pursuit. Which isn't something that should be hard for us to imagine St-Pierre wanting to do. The man is a multiple time champion and has a terrific career spanning almost a decade. He wants to make history in other ways now. But he may have yet to realize that he will still be making quite a good bit of history with a potential win over Bisping and defense against Whittaker.
All of course not to overlook current champion, Bisping because he absolutely should not be overlooked. This fight should be one of if not St-Pierre's toughest to date with all factors considered. St-Pierre hasn't fought in four years and has had knee surgery to repair a torn ACL during this time. This will be his very first fight at Middleweight and he will very surely be out sized by the bigger Bisping who is a former Light Heavyweight. Already possessing great takedown defense, the size on Bisping's side will make it that much harder for GSP to get him down where he may want him. Not that he can't do it of course...this is Georges St-Pierre we're talking about. Lastly, Bisping is a volume striker and one of the best. Someone who is always active on the feet and never fades when it comes to cardio. St Pierre has never fought someone like this before so seeing how he handles it will be very interesting. St Pierre has overcome ring rust in the past like after his fight with Jake Shields where he needed surgery to repair a torn ACL only to dominate the then Interim Welterweight title holder, Carlos Condit. But that wasn't as long a period of time as it has been currently and had much less intriguing factors...GSP really can't be looking past Britain's finest in Bisping.
If Georges can return to the form we've been accustomed to seeing over the years when he competed, it wouldn't be far-fetched to imagine him pulling off this incredible feat. There just aren't many out there like GSP. Very few have dominated world class competition as often as he did. Beating Bisping would further cement him as of the greatest fighters of all time if not the greatest as he would become only the fourth UFC fighter to hold world titles in two different divisions joining Randy Couture, BJ Penn and Conor McGregor and it would also make St Pierre the first to do it with four plus title defenses already on his resume. Potentially defeating Whittaker would thus add another defense, making him the first to defend each of the two division titles he'd have held in the UFC.
Neither possibilities are any easy task, but we've seen crazy things happen many times in this sport so one never truly know. Even if GSP can pull off the win over Bisping, despite being contractually obligated to defend his new Middleweight crown, could he still just vacate the belt if he decided? Perhaps making it a similar situation to that of former UFC Featherweight champion, Germaine De Randamie's. That would then turn Whittaker into the new undisputed Middleweight champion despite never actually fighting to become it... If GSP did even just attempt to defend, the rest of the division's contenders will be even further held up. No matter how things shake out, we've seen somewhat of a circus in the UFC's 185 lb weight class this past year and it will be interesting to see how much longer it may go on for.
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