After negotiations were at a standstill just a few months ago, it appears that the former UFC Welterweight Champion, Georges St-Pierre, is ready to step back inside the octagon for the first time since he defended his title against Johny Hendricks back in November, 2013.
The news that GSP and the Ultimate Fighting Championship were close to an agreement, with third quarter return being targeted, was first reported by MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani.
Perhaps Hewlani put it best when he said:
St-Pierre’s return will provide a much-needed shot in the arm for new UFC owners, WME|IMG. With Conor McGregor currently pursuing a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr., Ronda Rousey’s uncertain future, Brock Lesnar’s retirement and Jon Jones‘ suspension, the organization needs a star like St-Pierre now more than ever.
Just who will Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre (MMA record 25-2) face upon his return to the octagon? Let’s take a look at the likely candidates:
Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping — The Middleweight Champ
Since Michael Bisping shocked the world and won the UFC Middleweight Championship against Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 last June, he’s only fought one time, and many think ‘The Count’ should have lost his title to Dan Henderson at UFC 204.
Currently, the Middleweight Champion is doing everything in his power to get away from ‘The Soldier of God’ Yoel Romero, and a fight with GSP may be just what the doctor ordered.
Georges St-Pierre in his prime was long rumored to jump up and challenge 185-pound champ Anderson Silva, so challenging the current UFC Middleweight champion in a big money fight would make a lot of sense right now.
Bisping even hinted the potential matchup with GSP instead of Romero on the most recent episode of The MMA Hour (~18:30 minute mark):
“GSP by far would be the biggest fight of them all,” said Bisping, who’s next fight is not set in stone — as he hasn’t signed a bout agreement yet. “I’m going to fight the best guys in the world.”
“Call me stupid, but I want that F****** Carrot — I want that several million dollars in my bank account.”
‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor — The Lightweight Champ
After Floyd Mayweather nixed the rumors that any negotiations took place for a boxing/MMA super fight earlier this week, it appears UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor will find himself back inside the octagon.
— Floyd Mayweather (@FloydMayweather) February 14, 2017
After competing at 170-pounds twice, it doesn’t seem too crazy to speculate a big money fight between McGregor and GSP is in the works. After all, Conor McGregor is only looking opponents that will draw big numbers, and St-Pierre coming off of a 3-year layoff may be an easier task than facing off against current UFC Welterweight Champ Tyron Woodley.
McGregor actually announced he was flying to Las Vegas to take care of business — first with the Nevada State Athletic Commission over the ‘bottle throwing incident’ and second, he was going to meet with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
McGregor's plan has been: meet with NAC to clear issue, then TMT, then UFC. That's what's going on now. Early stages of that plan.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) February 14, 2017
Long before McGregor made himself famous by defeating the likes of Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo, Nate Diaz, and Eddie Alvarez — Dana White had previously called Georges St-Pierre the ‘King of Pay-Per-View.’
With McGregor out until May as he awaits the birth of his first son, and a GSP slated for the third quarter of 2017 — the stars may just align to make this dream fight a reality — a dream fight that has the potential to draw the biggest UFC pay-per-view buy rate of all time.
Tyron ‘The Chosen One’ Woodley — The Welterweight Champ
Should Tyron Woodley get past Stephen Wonderboy Thompson at UFC 209 on March 4, then ‘The Chosen One’ may find himself across the octagon from the greatest welterweight of all time by the end of the year.
Woodley currently holds the belt Georges never lost, as St-Pierre rattled 12 straight victories before he decided to delay his mixed martial arts career.
After Tyron Woodley won the UFC Championship against Robbie Lawler last July, he called for a fight with GSP, and even posted some personal exchanges with the former welterweight champ on social media:
So it can forever be broken! pic.twitter.com/J6cZM1LbJJ
— Tyron T-Wood Woodley (@TWooodley) August 12, 2016
Woodley was one of the three men St-Pierre mentioned by name last year on UFC Tonight that he may be interested in facing upon his return to the octagon.
Nick Diaz never held a championship inside the UFC, has lost to St-Pierre while the Canadian Superstar was deathly ill with the flu, and hasn’t won a fight since he defeated B.J. Penn nearly six years ago, and just recently came off of an 18-month suspension (originally 5 years, but that was later reduced by the NAC), but none of that seems to matter.
The UFC has offered Diaz fights since his suspension ended in August, but none of them seemed to interest the former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion.
Since Nick’s absence, his younger brother Nate has gone on to headline one of the biggest selling pay-per-views in history against Conor McGregor, and kept Nick’s name in the headlines as a result. In fact, Nick was responsible for the whole bottle throwing incident that set the MMA world on fire before UFC 202, which played a huge part in that events drawing power.
Diaz recently turned down fights with Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler, but he would perhaps be interested in a big money fight with GSP. The demand for a Nick Diaz fight is arguably higher than it’s ever been.
St-Pierre also mentioned Nick Diaz by name in during his UFC Tonight Interview with Daniel Cormier and Kenny Florian last year, so GSP vs. Diaz II may soon become a reality — even if it’s not Georges’ return fight.
‘The Natural Born Killer’ Carlos Condit
Carlos Condit was in possession of the Interim UFC Welterweight Championship when squared off with Georges St-Pierre to unify the belts at UFC 154, and for a short while it looked like ‘The Natural Born Killer’ was going to be the man to end GSP’s legacy as the G.O.A.T.:
It wasn’t to be though, and St-Pierre didn’t let Condit land anything other than the brief flurry that was shown above. GSP won a unanimous decision, as the judges scored the fight (49–46, 50–45, 50–45).
Condit though didn’t quit after the loss, and even though he suffered a setback when he severely injured his knee against Tyron Woodley in 2014, Carlos worked his way back to a welterweight title fight. This time, it would come against ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler at UFC 195.
That 5-round war was nearly too close to call:
After Robbie Lawler was announced the winner via Split Decision, Condit contemplated hanging up his gloves for good at the post-fight press conference — and hasn’t stepped foot in the octagon since.
Perhaps a multi-million dollar payday against the former Welterweight King would be enough to get ‘The Natural Born Killer’ out of retirement?
(Editor’s Note: Demian Maia would have been included on this list, had he not made it clear on Twitter that he only had interest in a title fight.)
Who would you like to see Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre face when he return to the octagon later this year? Do you think a fighter on our list will make the cut?
Let us know what you think on Twitter @MMA_Newsline!