After 31 months away from a sport he once dominated, former welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre has finally announced his intention to return to the UFC, and although the specifics of the Canadian’s comeback are not yet known, there’s a very intriguing list of potential opponents.
During a phone interview with Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, St. Pierre was surprisingly certain that the time had finally come for him to re-enter the Octagon.
”I’m ready,” responded St. Pierre when asked if he was prepared to return to the UFC.
”My agents, even before I came on the show today, they briefed me. They said, ‘Don’t say this, don’t say that.’ They briefed me, they said, ‘We’re in negotiations, remember, blah, blah, blah.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, don’t worry, I’m not a kid.”’
With the when and where still unknown, it’s hard to say who will personally welcome St. Pierre back to his former kingdom. But aside from the rumors regarding a possible, and somewhat unlikely matchup with newly-crowned UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping, St. Pierre could find several big-name opponents in his own back yard.
In March, St. Pierre further fueled reports of a fight against UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor by attending the Irishman’s main event matchup with Nate Diaz at UFC 196. And while it’s no secret that he dreads the weight-cut necessary to fight at 145 pounds, now that McGregor is preparing for his second consecutive appearance at 170-pounds, a meeting with GSP seems much more likely.
While appearing on Chael Sonnen’s podcast You’re Welcome, shortly after shocking the world with a submission-win over McGregor, Diaz claimed that he essentially ruined the UFC’s plans of a St. Pierre-McGregor showdown by defeating the Irishman.
”Oh yeah, I [expletive] that show up. I put a big [expletive] halt on that [expletive],” Diaz told Sonnen.
”When I left the next day, I knew what was going on. They had GSP there [at UFC 196], and want to have this big GSP-McGregor show, [expletive]. I don’t want to even hear about that,” added an animated Diaz.
But if it’s not McGregor, a fight against part-time welterweight Donald Cerrone would also make sense for St. Pierre following ”The Cowboy’s” knockout-victory over veteran Patrick Cote at last weekend’s UFC Fight Night Ottawa.
Always ready to rumble on next to no notice and known for pushing the pace, Cerrone has been one of the promotion’s most successful fighters during the past few years despite the fact that he’s never won a UFC title, winning ten of his last 11 bouts overall.
At the UFC Fight Night 89 post-fight press conference, Cerrone made it clear that he’s looking to land a big-money fight at either 155 or 170 pounds.
”I like 155. I like 170. Either way. Whatever the fastest trip to the next fight is, so if it’s 155 or 170, that’s the route I’m going,” said Cerrone.
”According to my pay, I don’t mean [expletive] to the UFC,” said Cerone when asked about free agency. ”We’ll see. I’m going to talk to Dana [White] after this and figure that out.”
Awarding Cerrone’s endless effort with a spot in a St. Pierre super-fight would ensure that ”The Cowboy” stays put. Granted, Cerrone isn’t likely to leave the UFC under any circumstances, but he definitely deserves the opportunity to earn the type of money associated with a St. Pierre fight.
Obviously, a meeting between St. Pierre and top welterweight contender Stephen Thompson would also sell a ton of tickets, and with current 170-pound king Robbie Lawler scheduled to face Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 on July 20, GSP’s welterweight options will soon be wide open.
Unfortunately, St. Pierre wasn’t exactly the sport’s most entertaining figure during his last few years on top. Not only had he become far less aggressive than the version of GSP that first won the welterweight belt, he’d also become an expert at neutralizing his opponent’s aggression with a defensive-minded jab that slowed the pace and prevented anyone from coming too close.
But ultimately, St. Pierre walked away from the sport as the UFC’s undisputed welterweight champion after defeating Johnny Hendricks in November of 2013, and even if he initially chooses to compete as a middleweight in order to face Bisping, you can bet that this crop of welterweight contenders will eventually draw him back to his old stomping grounds.
[Photo By-Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images]