Big news is emerging from the UFC as former dominant welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre is reportedly close to announcing a return to the promotion.
“GSP” has reportedly agreed to terms on a “multi-fight contract with the promotion” in news reported by MMA Fighting on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s news will finally put an end to speculation and protracted negotiations which suggested that a return would not be possible. Both GSP and the UFC have allegedly both settled on terms which could see the Canadian make a return to the octagon in “the third quarter of 2017” per MMA Fighting sources via Ariel Helwani.
No official statement has been released by either party regarding the new deal. Speculation has been rife in recent times, however; St-Pierre, Dana White and Michael Bisping have all alluded to a potential return to the octagon for the UFC legend.
White confirmed to TSN last week that the promotion had “been talking to GSP” and that “me and GSP got everything straight between us.” Michael Bisping also stated on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour that St-Pierre’s trainer had confirmed that “the [UFC] deal is almost done and he wants to fight me.”
Georges St-Pierre had reportedly been open to the prospect of fighting middleweight champion Bisping for his title, which prompts questions regarding the division which he will compete in on his return. “GSP” is routinely referred to as the greatest welterweight champion of all time, but the appeal of capturing a title in another division is a trend which has been accentuated further since Conor McGregor’s victory over Eddie Alvarez to capture his second belt at UFC 205.
The return of the popular ex-champion will come at a time where the UFC needs big names for 2017. While 2016 was a huge success, fighters such as Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey and Brock Lesnar may possibly not feature at all. Lesnar recently notified the UFC of his retirement, and Ronda Rousey appears close to doing the same. Jon Jones is currently suspended until July 6th this year, while Conor McGregor’s break from fighting, coupled with a desire to take on boxer Floyd Mayweather, could see him miss the entirety of 2017. “Georges St-Pierre will not fight again,” White told The Fight Network prior to UFC 200. “I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again. Georges St-Pierre is done. He is retired. He will not fight again.”
If reports are to be believed, then Dana White will have flip-flopped on previous assertions that “GSP” would never return to the UFC. White unequivocally stated that the Canadian had retired, in an interview with The Fight Network prior to UFC 200:
“Georges St-Pierre will not fight again,” White told The Fight Network prior to UFC 200. “I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again. Georges St-Pierre is done. He is retired. He will not fight again.”
The prospect of seeing a true legend of the sport re-enter the octagon will invariably come with a touch of ambivalence. As someone who has not competed professionally since his victory over Johny Hendricks in Nov. 2013, many will question if the 35-year-old still “has it”.