On last week’s episode of The MMA Hour, former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre announced that he was ready to end his retirement and return to MMA competition. Given GSP’s status as one of the most accomplished fighters in UFC history, it’s not surprising that this news generated callouts from many of the sport’s top fighters, all eager for the opportunity to change the course of their careers with a win over one of the greatest fighters ever. Of course, we also know that GSP has his own ideas for his comeback opponent.
Indeed, between the fighters that want GSP, and the fighters that GSP wants himself, there is a seemingly bottomless pool of options for his comeback fight’s supporting role. So, as the Canadian’s management works with the UFC to hammer out the details of his return, let’s take stock of these options, and see if we can’t determine which one makes the most sense.
We’ll start with the fight GSP wants.
During his time on The MMA Hour, the former welterweight king announced that his ideal comeback fight would be with new UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping—a bit of a twist considering GSP’s reluctance to move up to middleweight to fight Anderson Silva during their coinciding title reigns. Of course, it seems that, these days, pretty much anyone with two gloves and a mouth guard is interested in challenging England’s Bisping.
Luke Rockhold, the man Bisping took the title from, expressed his desire for a rematch with Bisping at the UFC 199 post-fight press conference. In the weeks after Bisping’s title win, former champ Chris Weidman has done his best to sustain a Twitter beef with Bisping in an obvious effort to secure a title fight for himself. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, the consensus number-one-contender at middleweight, has also made plenty of pleas for a title shot. And finally, an aging Dan Henderson, fresh off a revivifying knockout of Hector Lombard, has made his own calls for a title fight with Bisping, evidently eager to repeat his historic 2009 knockout of the new champ.
But alas, the purpose of this article is not to weigh the options of Michael Bisping. All I mean to illustrate here is that there are several accomplished fighters at middleweight currently chomping at the bit for a bout with the Brit. Even as one of MMA’s best-ever it seems unlikely that GSP will be allowed to jump the line in front of all these legitimate middleweight contenders.
Luckily, he’s got plenty of options outside of Bisping—at least, there are plenty of other fighters who want to fight him.
If GSP is really interested in a middleweight run, one such fighter is Chael Sonnen. Sonnen, who has fought for the title at both middleweight and light heavyweight, and was once one of the most popular fighters in the game, announced his desire for a bout with GSP on a Late-May episode of The MMA Hour—before GSP even announced his interest in a comeback. Of course, it’s worth noting that Sonnen is currently serving a two-year suspension after testing positive for a smorgasbord of banned substances back in 2014. Sure, Sonnen’s suspension will end in July, but his complicated situation makes him an unlikely choice for GSP’s comeback.
Another middleweight who has expressed interest in a fight with GSP is hulking former Olympian Yoel Romero, who took to Twitter on Monday morning with this gentle callout. Of course, he too is serving a suspension for banned substances, and as such, doesn’t jump out as the kind of opponent GSP would be interested in.
Thankfully, GSP’s options don’t end there, as the former welterweight king’s recent claim that he could “easily” make the lightweight division’s 155-pound cap produced another interesting callout—also from outside the welterweight division.
In a recent Tweet, former lightweight champion BJ Penn suggested that he’d be interested in meeting GSP at 155lbs when the UFC debuts in New York later this year. Considering both of these legendary fighters would be emerging from short-lived retirements, the fight does make some sense. Of course, it doesn’t take long for the many issues with this prospective showdown to become apparent. First, Penn lost both of his previous two bouts with GSP. Sure, the first of those losses was very competitive, but the second was as decisive as they come. Furthermore, Penn would be emerging from his retirement on the heels of three lopsided losses, while GSP is currently on a 12-fight win-streak—no matter how close his last bout was. For these reasons alone, a third bout between GSP and Penn is unlikely to materialize—not to mention the fact that Penn too, is currently serving a PED-related suspension.
This, finally, brings us back to the welterweight division, where St. Pierre was once such an incredible force. In this division, the most notable GSP callout came from fan favourite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, a former lightweight who is currently riding two dominant wins in the welterweight division. And while the thought of Cowboy fighting anybody, let alone a legend like GSP, is always appealing, the issue with this prospective bout is the same issue that will stop GSP from fighting every other welterweight on the UFC roster—barring one. If the former champion is to return to the welterweight division, it should be against the current champion.
Yes, despite his middleweight ambition, and the multitude of callouts he’s received from opportunistic fighters across three weight classes, it only makes sense that the greatest fighter in welterweight history should return to a chance to reclaim the title he once held for so long. That would mean a fight with the winner of Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley’s July 30th title fight.
Now, it’s true that it’s very exciting to imagine GSP tangling with the game’s top middleweights. There are also surely fans out there who would like to see him take on an action fighter like Cowboy, or drop to lightweight to take on Penn for a third time. But with apologies to Sonnen, Romero, Cowboy, Penn and even Bisping, there is simply no better comeback bout for Georges St. Pierre than a fight with the reigning welterweight champion—whoever that turns out to be on July 30th.
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