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Leslie Smith talks GSP vs. De La Hoya & Ali Act, says St-Pierre ‘should have stuck with union organizing effort’

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Georges St-Pierre may be battling the UFC over contract issues, but there was a time when he had a chance to make a bigger statement.

Georges St-Pierre warms up in the Octagon ahead of UFC 217.
Georges St-Pierre warms up in the Octagon ahead of UFC 217.
Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Back in 2016 several high profile UFC fighters made a move that looked like it could really shake up the future of the UFC. Spearheaded by none other than legendary welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, the MMA Athletes Association claimed support from the likes of Cain Velasquez, Donald Cerrone, TJ Dillashaw, and Tim Kennedy.

“Every time we fight, we’re afraid,” GSP explained during a conference call announcing the MMAAA’s formation to the media. “This is a different fight. I know a lot of us are afraid. It’s time to step up, do the right thing.”

“I know a lot of fighters want to remain anonymous. I’m telling you guys, Come see us. It’s time to stand together.”

By the end of the year, however, social media accounts connected to the association were largely inactive. And on March 1st, 2017 St-Pierre announced that he would be making his return to the Octagon, for a middleweight title shot against Michael Bisping. At the time, GSP claimed that his return to competition did not mean he was abandoning organizing efforts. But, if he’s made a priority out of the MMAAA (or similar efforts) in the years since, it hasn’t been in public.

Instead, St-Pierre has most recently found himself in a more personal battle over his UFC contract—following an attempt to set up an exhibition boxing bout against multiple-time world champion Oscar De La Hoya. De La Hoya had hoped to set up a match with GSP under the Triller Fight Club banner this summer. But, with ‘Rush’ still technically a UFC fighter, White & Co. put a stop to the Candian’s boxing aspirations.

The ability to extend a contract out perpetually is one of the many things that legislation like the Ali Act works to prevent in boxing. And, as former UFC talent and Bellator title contender Leslie Smith noted in a recent interview ahead of her rematch with Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino, it’s exactly the kind of situation GSP could have worked to avoid if he’d stuck with his organizing efforts years ago.

“One of the things about the Ali Act is that it prevents these long-term contracts, and that is exactly what Dana White is using in order to prevent GSP from having this fight,” Smith told MMA Fighting. “But you know what would have made an even bigger difference in all that is if GSP had stuck with his union organizing effort that he started in 2017. I believe that they had the very best setup of leaders that everyone would have followed, and that if they had had conviction and stuck with it that something would have happened.

“As we know, they abandoned that effort, and GSP got a contract to fight in the UFC for a title after several years off, immediately after making that [union] effort. That would have made the biggest difference if they hadn’t done that.”

St-Pierre hasn’t competed in mixed martial arts since defeating Bisping at UFC 217, shortly after which he announced his retirement. St-Pierre reportedly signed a new contract with the promotion ahead of that bout. Terms, including number of fights, purses, or other potential binding agreements were not made public.

Smith takes on Cyborg this Friday, May 21st, in the main event of Bellator 259 at the Mohegan Sun arena. In the co-main, former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell takes on Leandro Higo. Stay tuned for more news, notes, and updates as fight night approaches.