St-Pierre, who is set to fight the current 185-pound champion at UFC 217 on Nov. 4 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, told The MMA Hour on Monday that he will be contractually obliged to stay at middleweight and defend the title if he comes out on top later this year.
“I have to defend my title,” St-Pierre told Ariel Helwani (transcription via MMAFighting.com). “It’s written in my contract. I have to defend my title if I win.”
Being forced to stay at middleweight should he become champ wasn’t what the Canadian superstar wanted, but he knows why the UFC wanted that condition in his contract and ultimately agreed.
“That wasn’t my initial plan, but I understand the UFC’s point of view,” he 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.”
UFC officials did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday afternoon.
Robert Whittaker, the interim middleweight champion, will be next in line for the winner of Bisping vs. St-Pierre. After beating Yoel Romero at UFC 213 in July for the interim belt, “The Reaper” was expected to be Bisping’s next opponent, but he suffered a knee injury against Romero and isn’t expected to fight until 2018.
According to St-Pierre, the organization has already said his first title defense would be against the New Zealander.
“You never know in advance,” St-Pierre said. “But if we follow the logic, that’s what the UFC told me. That’s what they signed me for.”
A fight between Bisping and St-Pierre was initially announced in March, but after St-Pierre revealed he was dealing with an eye injury and would be unable to fight until late 2017, the UFC scrapped the matchup. Bisping had an injury of his own, so the UFC booked Whittaker vs. Romero to determine the interim champ and Bisping’s next challenger.
But because Whittaker is hurt and welterweight champ Tyron Woodley, who was expected to fight St-Pierre if he defeated Demain Maia at UFC 214 (which he did), did not put on an exciting performance against the jiu-jitsu ace, the Bisping vs. St-Pierre ship has sailed back.
St-Pierre, one of the greatest fighters of all time, walked away from the sport in late 2013 after a controversial victory over Johny Hendricks. The former welterweight champ has hinted at a return many times over the past four years, but nothing came to fruition until earlier this year.