The entire MMA community exploded with excitement after yesterday’s announcement that Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre had returned to the UFC.
Following the news, the obvious questions are who and when he will fight next. Albeit these are vital questions, it is equally important to remember the man we last saw fight over three years ago.
Entering the final fight before his extended hiatus, GSP had been on an 11-fight win streak, ten of which were title defenses in a highly competitive division. The challenger, Johnny Hendricks, was a fighter with immense strength, an aggressive style, and momentum working in his favor. The two clashed at UFC 167, an event packed with danger and drama.
The fight was five rounds of fury, and it looked as if Hendricks had the edge going to the judges’ scorecards. The back and forth battle saw both fighters have their moments, specifically the second and fourth rounds for Hendricks, and the third and fifth rounds for the champion. The first round was met with ambiguity as the judges disagreed on who won the first five minutes. Although GSP landed a takedown and employed effective striking and grappling, Hendricks seemed to be more effective in all areas. When the dust settled and the verdict was announced, GSP remained the champion. After the fight, St-Pierre announced he would be stepping out of the spotlight to take a break from MMA. The highly contested fight and its outcome created controversy to such a degree, even UFC President Dana White expressed his aversion with the decision.
However, this fight is not the only thing fans should be weary of. The last time a St-Pierre fight did not end in decision was in 2009, when he defeated BJ Penn by TKO. The MMA landscape has drastically transformed in his absence. Evaluating the results of UFC fighters who have ‘returned’ in recent memory does not leave you with much optimism. Though fighters like Chan Sung Jung and Michelle Waterson have had success, others including Ronda Rousey, BJ Penn, Tim Kennedy, and Jordan Mein, did not fare as well. GSP’s absence will certainly be a factor but, is GSP like the others?
At 35 years old, St-Pierre is certainly still ready to compete and has been training throughout his hiatus. Also, he is arguably one of the greatest of all time, with only two losses in his iconic career. Even with high-caliber competition and young-blooded predators awaiting him, GSP certainly has a good chance to find success in the octagon again.
The sport has changed in its level of competition but also, in its battle against banned substance use. Prior to leaving the UFC, GSP stated he saw problems in the drug testing process. In this time, the process has become much more stringent, and flagged top stars like Brock Lesnar.
All of this considered, it is still important to remember he left as a champion. He relinquished his title, which is a true exhibition of superiority (albeit the win was controversial). Although the date and opponent for his next fight are still unannounced, some likely opponents include current middleweight champion, Michael Bisping, Anderson Silva, and of course, Conor McGregor.