After contract negotiations in 2016 fell flat, is 2017 the year former champ Georges St. Pierre returns the UFC’s Octagon?
After a five-round war with Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, Georges St. Pierre, the greatest welterweight of all time, retired. Many fans were disgruntled by the ungraceful exit, as the decision was controversial and warranted a rematch.
Hendricks eventually got his second shot at the UFC belt and title he deserved, but GSP is still out of commission. Upon retirement, the champion cited mainly personal issues, saying he no longer enjoyed the sport and wanted to take time off for his mind more than anything. But now it seems as if those are resolved, and he wants to get back in the cage. So what’s keeping him out?
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Plans were in the works for him to face middleweight champion Michael Bisping at UFC 206 in Toronto. But the fight fell through, allegedly due to the conflict between the UFC’s Reebok contract and Georges St. Pierre’s Under Armour contract: After GSP left, the UFC signed an exclusive sponsorship and apparel deal with Reebok. However, Georges St. Pierre has long been signed with Reebok’s competitor Under Armour, receiving allegedly monthly compensation. The sponsor conflict is a huge issue that will need to be sorted out if he returns.
But GSP said that there is more to the holdup than the sponsors. He recently joined the MMA Athlete’s Association and has commented often on the need to increase fighter pay. However, a few active UFC fighters are part of the organization, including TJ Dillashaw and Donald Cerrone, so that can’t be keeping him out. Georges St. Pierre has alluded to several other issues which are not fully clarified.
What we do know is that the former champion is still in the prime of his ability, and he has been at the Renzo Gracie Academy and Tristar Gym in Montreal training hard. It appears as if he’s in the camp groove. On top of that, the UFC is starving for stars.
If they want it to happen, GSP wants it to happen, and the fans want it to happen (we do), it’s hard to see how any obstacles could stay in place for long. We should anticipate seeing “Rush” back in the Octagon by the end of the year. The bigger question is will he still be able to compete at the highest level?
He has the absolute best coaches behind him in Firas Zahabi and John Danaher, but the fight game has an uncanny ability to evolve past retired greats. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be glued to the PPV to find out.