Notes From the Combat Underground: Does Anybody Remember Georges St-Pierre?

In a post-Conor McGregor world, there has been much talk of the “money shot”… I mean the “money fight,” an event designed to maximize revenue for both combatants while satisfying fan curiosity and similar to the climax of most porn sequences, is ultimately meaningless. When the dude in a porn scene finishes, he wipes off and is on his way. After the so-called “money fight,” the fighters collect their checks and peace out, nothing is settled, there is no belt that changes hands and it’s all pretty pointless. The pair of fights between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz is a shining example of this. The fights took place at two different weight classes and at the time, no championship belt was on the line, yet both fights set records for attendance and revenue.

In the wake of McGregor’s fight with Floyd Mayweather and the “Money Team,” it’s debatable whether or not he should even return to MMA; in boxing, he can make a nice career out of fighting retired champs past their prime instead of risking his fragile ego in the MMA octagon where he has to defend his belt. Jon Jones, the next biggest name in the UFC just tested positive for PED use, so his future is also in question. It seems that the UFC is in need of stars to make these big name Money Fights.

Back in 2002, a young Canadian kid named George St-Pierre broke onto the scene and quickly established himself as an elite martial artist, defeating Matt Hughes at UFC 65 in 2006, claiming the welterweight championship. He only made it to one title defense before dropping it to Matt Serra a year later. St-Pierre rebounded at UFC 79 and held on the title until his retirement in 2013; his final title defense was a controversial win over Johny Hendricks, a fight that many thought he lost.

Times change and people have short memories. The question is, “Does anyone remember who George St-Pierre is?” MMA, and the UFC in particular, has grown dramatically during the years since his retirement. The UFC was sold to WME-IMG for a reported $4 billion, former fellow superstar Ronda Rousey rose and fell and Conor McGregor burst onto the scene capturing the imaginations of new fans while alienating many of the O.G. fans with his bravado and penchant for avoiding the more challenging competition. It’s likely that many of the new fans have never seen the old school guys like St-Pierre, Chuck Lidell or Randy Couture even fight, instead sort of delegating them to folk hero status of the dim past.

For the last four years, there have been rumors that St-Pierre would return to the octagon, but they all appeared to be fake news until it was announced that he would face Middleweight Champ Michael Bisping at UFC 217 on November 4 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. It will be the UFC’s second visit to the Big Apple. The kicker is that St-Pierre is fighting as a MIDDLEWEIGHT, a weight class that he has never competed in.

There is a lot that doesn’t add up about this fight. Some would think that it’s more sensible for St-Pierre to fight Tyron Woodley, the champ at welterweight; it’s a belt that he never officially lost, though I’m sure Johny Hendricks would disagree. Woodley was promised that he would get a crack at St-Pierre if he defeated Brazilian grappling master Demian Maia in his last title defense, but UFC bossman Dana White gave the fight to Michael Bisping because he didn’t approve of Woodley’s tactical and un-fan-friendly, defensive fighting style. Woodley has come under fire for fighting in a boring style for all of his title defenses.

Logic has not been the UFC’s strong suit of late when it comes to match making. But still, is Georges St-Pierre that much of a draw? He hasn’t fought in four years. We’ve seen what happens to a fighter who’s been out of the game; BJ Penn tried to come back after only being out of the game for a year and was crushed by Yair Rodriguez. Does anyone want to see that happen to George St-Pierre? Four years is a long time to be out of such a quickly-evolving sport; couple that with the change in weight class and it could be a recipe for disaster.

Similar to Woodley, St-Pierre was accused of fighting “safe fights,” securing decision wins over knockouts or submissions in the last few years before his retirement. He was never one to engage in the trash talking that is all the rage with the UFC’s new look. So don’t expect much fireworks in the build-up to his fight with Michael Bisping, who is no stranger to verbal histrionics. There’s no doubt in my mind that Bisping will do his part in selling the fight when it comes to trash talk, but it will most likely be a one-sided sort of thing.

Looking at the UFC’s fall schedule shows that this may be the big marquis fight for the season. It’s a lot of pressure to deliver but it’s unclear that the fight will even be compelling. Sure, Bisping has always brought the fight, but he is also in the twilight of his career and most likely will try to squeeze out this one last payday before riding off into the sunset.


An interesting aside is that Johny Hendricks, St-Pierre’s last victory before retirement, is also on the card. Hendricks has been hit hard times of late, being forced to jump up to the middleweight division after issues with weight cutting; he’s 1 and 4 in his last fight and is in somewhat of a do-or-die situation.

The ace-in-the-hole for UFC 217 is the co-main event of Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw, two former teammates with bad blood and an axe to grind.