OK, I know I’m a little late to this dance, but I just can’t help it.
Fight fans, the wait is over. Former UFC welterweight champion Georges “Rush” St-Pierre is returning to the octagon.
St-Pierre will face Michael Bisping for the UFC middleweight championship in the UFC 217 main event in Madison Square Garden, which has been holy ground for numerous combat sports athletes.
There are numerous factors that make St-Pierre vs. Bisping special. You have St-Pierre, who hasn’t fought in almost four years, returning to hopefully reclaim his spot as one of the best MMA fighters on the planet, as well as begin a new chapter to his legacy. Capturing the middleweight title would make St-Pierre the fourth fighter in UFC history to hold championships in two different weight classes – Randy Couture, B.J. Penn and Conor McGregor are the first three athletes to accomplish that feat.
You have Bisping, who has been a stalwart in the UFC for the last 11 years and is looking to spoil St-Pierre’s comeback. “The Count,” has had a rollercoaster of a UFC run, but he finally realized his dream of being a champion after he knocked out Luke Rockhold last year, then followed it up by avenging his loss to Dan Henderson.
There are a few reasons why this fight makes sense from a promotional standpoint. Nostalgia is big a factor in athletics, especially combat sports and St-Pierre represents a time when the UFC was white-hot. Before McGregor and Ronda Rousey became household names, St-Pierre was one of the kingpins of MMA alongside Jon Jones and Anderson Silva.
Silva would eventually lose his middleweight title and find himself on a bit of a losing streak while Jones has had a rollercoaster of a run – I know, second time using that phrase – that included wins against rivals and defeat at his own hands. St-Pierre hasn’t really been seen since he took a hiatus in 2013.
St-Pierre’s last bout was a split-decision win against Johny Hendricks in a fight where many experts and fans thought Riggs won the welterweight title. Fans demanded a rematch and insulted both the judges and St-Pierre.
When St-Pierre announced he was stepping away from the fight game, some fans called him a coward because he didn’t want to face Hendricks in a rematch. Other critics have called St-Pierre a boring fighter because he always took the same route to win a fight – which makes sense because your objective should be to win a match.
On the other hand, I know people who love St-Pierre. The first two who come to mind are my friends Roxy and Adam. I also remember watching UFC 129 at Hero’s and Legends in Spokane and one of the bartenders kept calling St-Pierre “her husband.”
Even after St-Pierre announced his hiatus there was always the hope he would return to competition. Once he recovered from an ACL injury, he started training for his return and would eventually enter contract negotiations with the UFC.
In February, St-Pierre signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC and the announcement was made that he would face Bisping for the 185-pound crown. After some postponing in the spring, the fight was made for November.
Personally, I’m glad to see St-Pierre return to MMA. He may not be the most exciting athlete because he doesn’t normally finish his opponents – his last stoppage was a fourth-round TKO against Penn in 2008. But if you’re someone who loves watching a fighter put together a technical display of striking, takedowns and ground game, he’s someone you should watch.
I’m glad St-Pierre is choosing to return to the octagon and hopefully, this is the beginning of a new chapter in his career.