Well fight fans, a HUGE announcement has been made earlier today: former UFC Welterweight Champion George St-Pierre is coming back to the octagon! And ICYMI, the UFC has set up an equally big fight for such a big return. In his first fight back, GSP will be facing Michael "The Count" Bisping for his Middleweight title. Yes, you have read that correctly gentle reader. But don't just take my word for it (or the rest of the internet), hear it from Dana White himself.
There is no doubt that this event will be one of the best of 2017 from a money stand point. The return of a legend taking on a veteran champion will make any UFC fan excited. But it really speaks volumes of the "New UFC" and their stance on who should fight for the championship next: name recognition is more important than wins.
Don't get me wrong, this is not the case with EVERY title match and this is very much an opinion statement. But just look at this list of some recent title fights:
- UFC 204 (Oct. 8, 2016) - Dan Henderson faced Michael Bisping for the Middleweight title although he was ranked 13th in the division.
- UFC 205 (Nov. 12, 2016) - Conor McGregor faught Eddie Alverez for the Lightweight title despite never fighting in the division within the UFC.
- UFC 207 (Dec. 30, 2016) - Ronda Rousey returned for an automatic title match against Amanda Nunes after a one year hiatus AND her last fight being her loss to Holly Holm.
- UFC 208 (Feb. 11, 2017) - Holly Holm competed for the first ever Women's Featherweight title although she was on a two fight losing streak.
I am not calling into question the ability of these fighters. All of the fighters I mentioned above are incredibly talented and are/were champions at some point or another. But it boggles my mind that there have been so many cases of a bigger named fighter cutting the line in front of others in the division who fought hard to EARN a title shot.
There is an argument that GSP deserves a chance to regain a UFC title. Before his departure in 2013, he was on a 12 fight win streak with wins over Johny Hendricks, Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, B.J. Penn and many others. His only two loses to Matt Hughes and Matt Serra were redeemed in dominating fashion. There is no denying that he is a very dangerous fighter and what he has done for the sport will undoubtedly land him in the UFC Hall of Fame in the (hopefully) distant future.
However, I hardly think this grants him a title match, especially in a different division. As impressive as his fight record is, his last fight was four years ago. Of course he has been training in his time off and maybe he has bulked up enough to be too big for the Welterweight division. This doesn't take away from the fact that GSP has never fought as a middleweight. Also, to jump straight to the top of a heavily stacked division for a title match just seems absurd. Within the Middleweight division, two men in particular are still waiting for their shot at the belt: Yoel Romero and Ronaldo Souza. Both of Romero and Souza are coming off of devastating wins over Chris Weidman (KO) and Tim Boesch (submission), respectively. It really doesn't make sense that they both have to wait even longer to get their chance just because a more recognizable fighter wants his as well.
Having two big names grace the top of a fight is a very tried and true method to sell tickets and pay-per-views but that should not be the only driving force. Not only that but it undermines all the accomplishments of the other fighters within the division. I think at the very least, if the UFC is so adamant about having GSP fight for the title, have him go up against Romero or Souza and earn his way into the division as a title contender.
Am I thrilled to see GSP make his return to the UFC? Yes! Will I be watching this fight despite my opinion? Probably. Do I think the UFC should reevaluate their methods of choosing a divisions number one contender? Absolutely!
The big super fight between Michael Bisping and George St-Pierre has yet to have a confirmed date but is slated to happen in the back half of the year. Maybe in that time we can get a better understanding as to how the UFC makes these decisions.