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It’s been almost a year since Georges St-Pierre’s December 2013 announcement that he was stepping away from the sport of mixed martial arts, and barely a week goes by without some form of an update on his whereabouts.
There has been constant speculation on a potential return, and St-Pierre has done just enough to stay relevant in the news. His sporadic appearances have been greeted with the same questions, and he continues to give the same vague answers.
Few could blame St-Pierre for walking away from the sport when he did. After a hard fought and controversial bout with Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, St-Pierre had accomplished everything there was to do in the sport. If you count his interim championship reign, he had held the title on three separate occasions with nine title defenses, and is regarded as one of the greatest mixed martial artists to even put on gloves. He had defeated all of his rivals, avenged his losses and seemed content to walk away.
But many continue to doubt whether or not St-Pierre’s retirement is serious, despite his insistence that certain criteria must be met before he would consider a return.
The first and most important stipulation is that St-Pierre and his opponent take part in independent drug testing. With a growing feeling that cheats are running rampant in the sport, St-Pierre has earned the opportunity to set a few standards before his return. The UFC needs his superstar power, which puts him in an advantageous position when it comes to negotiations. The sport needs him.
The other thing potentially holding Georges back is his health. Although he generally stays in incredible shape, he tore his left ACL in March of 2014 only a few short years after tearing his right ACL in 2011. His knees will never be what they once were, and no amount of training can change that. St-Pierre can defeat a lot of opponents, but Father Time isn’t one of them.
That being said, he’s returned from ACL surgery before to put on spectacular performances, and there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t do it again.
Firas Zahabi, Tristar head trainer and good friend to St-Pierre, believes that “Rush” will return at some point once his knee is healed. He says that St. Pierre is a fighter by nature and won’t be able to turn that off. He doesn’t think St-Pierre can separate himself from being a mixed martial artist after having been a part of the sport for so long.
UFC President Dana White has declared that if or when St-Pierre returns to the sport, he will be granted a welterweight championship opportunity in his first bout back. Although it’s not a decision that might sit well with the other top contenders, from a business standpoint it’s the most logical choice. St. Pierre is money. The UFC needs money to survive. Therefore, he gets the shot. It’s quite simple, really.
Perhaps the most intriguing bystanders to a potential St-Pierre return are Hendricks and Rory MacDonald.
Hendricks is hungry to avenge his disputed loss to St. Pierre, and although he has no say in what might transpire, would likely encourage a return to the Octagon.
MacDonald, a training partner of St-Pierre, likely solidified his world title opportunity with a win over Tarec Saffiedine at UFC Fight Night 54 MacDonald has said that he wouldn’t fight St-Pierre, but how long does a fighter in his prime hold onto loyalty over championship fame? And could the same be said if St-Pierre returned during a potential MacDonald championship reign?
Things are about to get interesting in the UFC’s welterweight division.
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