Here we go!! @bisping welcomes Georges St-Pierre back to the UFC!!
Event & Date TBA pic.twitter.com/gTPTS4iL1S
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) March 1, 2017
UFC great George St-Pierre (GSP) is coming out of retirement to fight Michael Bisping at UFC 209. St-Pierre has been retired from the UFC since November of 2013 and in his first fight back gets a title shot in the middleweight division. George St-Pierre has fought nearly all of his fights at the welterweight limit of 170 pounds. This will be St-Pierre’s first UFC fight at the middleweight limit of 185 pounds. Michael Bisping is coming off his first successful title defense in the UFC with a unanimous decision win over Dan Henderson at UFC 204. Bisping accepted this fight largely based on the pay that would come with it.
According to Chad Dundas at Bleacher Report:
Well, what he gets in his return to the Octagon after a three-year absence is a potentially winnable championship fight, a nice payday and a chance at the history books.
If St-Pierre is able to return to action at nearly 36 years old and win another UFC title in a weight class above his natural division, there will simply be no argument against anointing him the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
Even though George St-Pierre is from Canada, which has been a growing hotbed of MMA fans, the fight will most likely take place in Las Vegas, Nevada at the T-Mobile Arena during the beginning of July.
The matchup for George St-Pierre’s return has been polarizing. Some argue that the addition of GSP back into the UFC at the middleweight division is happening mostly because of the short-term payoff that will come from it. The middleweight division is currently one of the most exciting in the UFC and it is unusual for a fighter who is coming out of a three year retirement would get an immediate title shot. St-Pierre allegedly requested that he fight Bisping in his first fight back and that may have been one of the tipping points that brought GSP back to the company.
Some writers in the industry have been critical of the matchup:
It's not just that GSP-Bisping doesn't make in-cage sense, it's a total promotional waste of both fighters as marketable resources.
— Patrick Wyman (@Patrick_Wyman) March 1, 2017
My thoughts in a nutshell: GSP vs Bisping is a great fight I'm excited for … that should not be happening right now because of the title.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) March 1, 2017
The PPV programs that have been put on thus far have been underwhelming financially relative to the projections that WME-IMG was expecting. Ronda Rousey is likely to be done with fighting and Conor McGregor seems uninterested in returning to the octagon anytime soon, leaving the UFC without a cash cow athlete who is able to step into the ring and garner at least 1 million PPV buys. George St-Pierre is a name that resonates with the core fans and the casual fans. Core fans have expressed some frustration that they believe this fight is happening for celebrity purposes rather than for putting on the highest-quality fights possible, especially when considering the division.
If George St-Pierre wins the title there will be a whole new set of questions to ask including whether he stays in the division or goes back down to welterweight.