UFC 217 wasn’t just a high point for the UFC’s history of PPV events, the en-mass changing of the guard meant that several fighters claimed UFC gold from their rivals, carving out their own spaces in MMA history in the process. And while T.J. Dillashaw’s win had the extra layer of revenge to it, and Rose Namajunas got to put on the belt for the first time, it’s arguable that no one had a bigger night than Georges St-Pierre.
‘Rush’ returned from a nearly 4-year hiatus, away of mixed martial arts competition, on November 4th in Madison Square Garden. The former UFC welterweight champion had walked away from his title reign, still in his early 30s, already feeling the toll of more than a decade of high level combat sports competition. And he wasn’t just coming back from that layoff to take another fight, to see if he could still get the gloves on, but to take a title fight. A title fight in a division he’d never even competed in.
When Michael Bisping went to sleep, the result of a GSP-applied rear naked choke in the 3rd round, the building erupted. Fans widely greeted UFC 217 as one of the best events they’d ever seen, and Georges was at the center of that success. So, what else is there left to do?
“I think for Georges, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is his last fight. Does it get any better than this? What is he going to accomplish here that’s going to elevate his status that much more? Does he need to defeat the 205-pound champion, maybe fight Stipe Miocic? Those aren’t realistic things. Even going up to 186, everybody doubted him. ‘This is going to be too much. Michael Bisping has been more active, he’s a bigger guy.’ I don’t know if it gets better than this.
“I think there was something that Georges wanted to prove to himself. I really don’t think, as much as Georges wanted to get what he felt he deserved, but I don’t think it was necessarily about the money. This wasn’t a Georges St-Pierre saying ‘Man, my bank account is low. I really need to get some funds here.’ It wasn’t about that. Georges is fine on money. I think more than anything else, he had something he needed to prove to himself. Being away for four years, I felt like he finished his career on top and wanted to come back and show everybody that in these days where USADA is kind of overlooking the sport, I want to come back and show what I can really do. At 170 pounds, he has already done it all. He wanted to do something different at 185 pounds and challenge himself. He did that against a phenomenal champion in Michael Bisping and I think that this is probably his last fight.”
That’s certainly not Dana White’s plan, however. The UFC president recently went on the record to tell fans that GSP would be returning to fight interim middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, sometime in the near future. And he’s got some leverage to hold the newly-crowned title holder’s hands over the fire, as St-Pierre revealed back in August that he was contractually obligated to defend the belt.
But, GSP sounded a little less than bullish on the idea of staying at middleweight in his post-fight victory speech, reiterating that it’s “not really my real weight.” His boxing coach, Freddie Roach, has since stated that he’d prefer to see GSP back down at welterweight. Things could get awfully messy if Georges decides to just hang them up again, instead.