mma / Columns

GSP Vacates: When It’s Okay to Rush

December 12, 2017 | Posted by Evan Zivin
Georges St-Pierre GSP

I’ve got a few points to make with this column, so I’m getting right into it.

First off, I find it a bit mind boggling that anyone thought Georges St-Pierre, the man most people consider to be the greatest fighter of all time (or at least the greatest to never dabble in Thai sex drugs), adding to that argument by choking out Michael Bisping at UFC 217 to become a two division UFC Champion, would actually defend his newly won UFC Middleweight Championship.

I know that Georges said in the lead up to the Bisping fight that there was a stipulation in his contract that said if he won the title he would have to defend against the Interim Champion, Robert “Bobby Knuckles” Whittaker, but we all know UFC contracts don’t mean squat. Or at least they don’t when it concerns top draws and/or other loyal names who hold a lot of respect (i.e. name value) with the UFC and MMA community at large.

Speaking of which, good luck in your upcoming contract negotiations, Cub Swanson! I look forward to seeing how you fare against Pat Curran at Bellator 200.

Just because GSP’s contract said he had to fight Whittaker, that never meant he was ever going to. He doesn’t have to fight anyone. I mean, he’s Georges St-Pierre, the longest reigning UFC Welterweight Champion. What was UFC going to do if he refused, throw him in a cage and lock the door until they’re satisfied with how thoroughly he humped Bobby’s leg? I think there might be a lot of people who’d have a problem with that.

Of course, if it was written in his contract, that means that, if Georges fails to uphold that part of it, UFC could sue him for breach, but that’s generally not their style. Plus, I’m sure Georges would not be bothered if pending litigation came calling and he never fought again because of it.

We should just be glad he came back to fight at all, right? And it’s not like we should have expected him to want to come back and be a defending champion again, since it was the grind of being champion before that burned him out and saw him vanish from the Octagon for four years.

I feel like a broken record since I’ve harped on this enough times but Georges has no interest in being champion. He’s just looking for interesting fights that present a challenge while also presenting the potential to make a lot of money.

Actually, I would think the money factor is a bigger driving force in this chapter of his career than anything else. He doesn’t necessarily need money but he wants money fights, just like every other fighter in the UFC. The only difference is he has the ability to get some of them, because, no matter what Dana White says publicly, he sees the value in having Georges fight, especially when UFC is having such a “big” year financially.

That’s the reason why Georges took the Bisping fight in the first place, since even he knew how little sense it made to be granted a title shot in a weight class he had never competed in before — a weight class he had been against competing in when he was busy cleaning out the welterweight division years ago — and after having been away from the sport for so many years and when there were so many other fighters much more deserving of the opportunity than him, like Robert “2 Bobby 2 Knuckles” Whittaker.

He knew all of that. He also knew how big his return to the sport would be and how much bigger it could get if said return was in the main event at Madison Square Garden and if it was against one of the most divisive champions in UFC history.

Georges knew how big a fight it was. He also knew how winnable it would be, despite the complications that would come from adding additional mass to his frame so he could cut down to 185, as he had said for years that’s the way he’d handle a middleweight fight.

And complications it caused, as Georges felt like his body was shutting down all the way up to the fight. After he accomplished his goal, what he had to show for it was a new belt and a case of ulcerative colitis, which he said was the biggest consideration when it came to vacating the championship he won a month earlier, which is exactly what he did last week.

Still, even if he came out of the fight perfectly healthy, did anyone honestly expect he’d want to fight again at middleweight? He’s dreaded the idea of it for years and he made it known immediately after he beat Bisping that he didn’t enjoy the change in weight class and is more than likely not doing it again.

He probably wouldn’t have even taken the fight if the champion was anyone other than Bisping. He wouldn’t have taken the fight if Luke Rockhold was still the champion, or if he had to straightaway face Robert “Bobby of 1000 Knuckles” Whitaker. Neither of those guys offered the high profile showcase Bisping did.

Plus, those fights would have been a lot tougher to train for. I mean, those might have required actual effort…

I kid the former champion. He has nothing to be ashamed of. He does, after all, get to say he won and defended a UFC Championship. Cub Swanson can’t say he’s done that. Or Kelvin Gastelum.

I just hope that, while I don’t think anyone should be surprised that things played out the way they did, even though I might be able to understand why they would be, it really makes no sense to be angry at GSP over doing it.

Remember, it’s UFC who offered the fight to him. Georges had been interested in the fight since it was first floated out a year ago when Bisping challenged him to a fight at UFC 206, snowballing until it finally went down at UFC 217. At any point UFC could have nixed it for integrity’s sake.

Actually, UFC did nix the fight but then decided to put it back on because Robert “Bobby Knuckles with a Vengeance” Whitaker was hurt and wouldn’t be ready to compete when they wanted him to. So, just like that, the fight was back on, which is entirely on the UFC. All GSP did was see an opportunity and, after spending so many years taking the fights UFC wanted him to take, he staked a claim for what he wanted. I think you can say he had earned it.

Plus, even though it can be said that Georges hurt the integrity of the sport by taking a fight the UFC offered him, he has since done his best to uphold that very same integrity by dropping the title he knew he had no interest in defending.

GSP knew he didn’t want to fight at middleweight again, let alone be a defending champion again, so, instead of mulling it over or walking around with the belt to proclaim how great he is and how everyone needs to step up to his level, he graciously stepped aside so he wouldn’t gum up the works.

That means, after a year and a half of what felt like a prolonged hostage situation, also known as “The Bisping Era,” the title is finally free to be defended again by a fighting champion in Robert “Bobby Wars: The Last Knuckles” Whittaker, who was promoted to full champion and will defend his title for the first time against former champ Rockhold in February.

At least GSP respects the sport enough to know when to step aside. He’s done it once and he did it again. Unlike some fighters….

That’s right. Georges isn’t busy talking to Manny Pacquiao or hiding from Irish drug cartels. He’s doing right by the sport, or doing as much right as he can considering how screwed up the sport is right now.

At least this news has allowed us to move one step closer to a life where it might be okay to admit that we’re MMA fans again.

Probably not before we see Tyron Woodley fight Nate Diaz, though. Enjoy that $15 million while the rest of the sport starves…

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lighthearted look at the world of MMA in his writing…usually.

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Georges St. Pierre, Evan Zivin