Georges St-Pierre: UFC welterweight champ by winter?

Things are starting to both look up and open up for Georges St-Pierre in the year he promised he’d return to the UFC’s Octagon.

No longer in the firing line of Michael Bisping’s acid tongue, on account of that fight falling through, and no longer beefing up to middleweight for an opportunistic crack at Bisping’s crown, St-Pierre, it would appear, is back to focusing on his natural weight class and a fight that makes far more sense in the context of his story arc.

Confusion, of which there has been plenty, started to clear this week when it was announced Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia would meet for the UFC welterweight title on July 29 at UFC 214 and that Georges St-Pierre, the French-Canadian many still consider the greatest 170-pound fighter to ever do it, would meet the winner later this year, possibly at Madison Square Garden, New York.

“Georges and I talked a couple days ago when he was in Vegas,” said UFC President Dana White. “Georges is saying he wants to fight; we’ll get this thing figured out. We’re talking about Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia. These two are going to fight soon. That will free up the 170-pound champion for Georges St-Pierre to return and try to regain his belt.”

Georges has said he wants to fight has proven to be one of the recurring tag-lines of 2017. It has been said near enough every week since the turn of the year and yet still we wait for any actual evidence to back up the claim. There have been fight announcements – well, a press conference with Bisping – and there have been shots of him training, bulking up, seemingly intent on seamlessly transitioning to the middleweight division. But that’s about it so far. The Bisping plan, as we know, fell by the wayside and since then it has been radio silence from the land of ‘Rush’.

Patience, though, could end up being a virtue – both for the former welterweight champion and for us, those who wait for his return. Because, let’s face it, the Bisping fight at middleweight never really sat right. It didn’t feel right; it didn’t look right. It was a match-up between a welterweight and a middleweight who once campaigned at light-heavyweight. Worse than that, it carried an ickiness due to the fact St-Pierre not only jumped a weight-class to secure the fight but also leaped over a number of viable 185-pound contenders in the process. Fans didn’t like that. Middleweights definitely didn’t like that.

This plan, if it comes to fruition, is different, however. This one would see St-Pierre, now 36, back in his natural habitat – welterweight – and effectively picking up where he left off in 2013, when he exited the sport following a five-round struggle with Johny Hendricks. That’s more like it.

Best of all, GSP fighting for his old belt, in his old weight division, would give us the chance to compare and contrast GSP circa 2013 with GSP circa 2017 and that, ultimately, is what this whole experiment is surely all about. Is he the same? Has the division moved on? Has the game moved on? These are just three of the questions hanging over Georges St-Pierre in 2017, and the answers to such questions can only be revealed should he continue doing what he was doing in 2013 and act like nothing ever happened.

 

*** For more on Georges St-Pierre and his MMA relevance in 2017, check out Elliot Worsell’s feature from Fighters Only magazine’s June 2017 issue ***