THE SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: Examining George St. Pierre facing Michael Bisping in his UFC return and why that fight was made

By D.R. Webster, MMATorch Specialist

Michael Bisping after beating Luke Rockhold for the Middlweight Title at UFC 1999 (photo credit Jake Roth © USA Today Sports)

This week, the return of Georges St. Pierre was made a reality. UFC President Dana White announced that his return fight was booked and, as rumored previously, he’d face Michael Bisping for the UFC Middleweight Title.

The fight was officially announced on Wednesday when White appeared on ESPN. Then a press conference for the fight was held on Friday before UFC 209 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas where we got to hear from both Bisping and GSP for the first time about the upcoming superfight.

While an official date for the fight was not announced, Dana White mentioned that he hopes to have the fight headline during International Fight Week in July, with the event likely to be UFC 213 on July 8 in Las Vegas.

Bisping was nowhere to be found when the press conference began, leaving the spotlight to the returning GSP for a while, giving the media there chance to ask GSP about his return and his future plans.

He discussed the changes in the UFC since he was last with them and talked about feeling revitalized with his return to the sport. However, he refused to specify his next move, win or lose after this fight, several times comparing the UFC to the stock market and his desire to make big fights and wait to see whose stock is the highest before making his next move.

Once Bisping finally showed up, possibly drunk, he took over the entire proceeding and started to chip away at GSP, leading to some fun back and forth between the two. Bisping accused GSP of taking the fight because he thought that Bisping was an easy option for his return.

“You think I’m an easy fight, just like Anderson (Silva) did, just like Luke Rockhold did when I knocked him out in the first round, just like everybody does,” he said. “Time and time again, I prove them wrong. This is the guy – the greatest of all-time – who didn’t want to face Anderson when he was the man, but he comes out of retirement to face me.”

GSP replied to Bisping’s comments, complementing Bisping’s hard work ethic during his career instead of going after him. “Michael is a different kind of fighter, he’s a fighter that doesn’t rely only on his talent,” he said. “He’s a hard worker and a grinder. I admire that. Outside of his attitude, I admire his work ethic because no matter what you throw at him, he’s going to come back. No matter which obstacle I’m going to put [in front of him], he’s going to try to cross it, so I’m going to have to take him out of order during the fight and I’m aware of it.”

Based on this press conference, the lead up to this fight should be great. Bisping knows just what to say to grab some headlines and is always funny to watch when he starts to mouth off. Even GSP couldn’t resist chuckling to himself at some of Bisping’s comments. It hasn’t begun to get heated between the two yet, but it is definitely entertaining so far.

Also GSP mocking a possibly drunk Bisping, telling him that he smelled of alcohol and that he was embarrassing himself was a highlight.

Not only was Bisping a great choice for a GSP return fight due to the possible gulf in skill between the two and the fact that he has the UFC Middleweight Title to put up, but also because Bisping, a bit like Conor McGregor, knows how to talk and how to make people excited to see his fights. Whether you are supporting him or hoping to see him be beaten, he can sell a fight well which works out for GSP who is not much of a talker.

However, he has a lot of star power. The fact that he has been away for a while makes this fight even more of an attraction, being the first time fans will see him back in the Octagon since 2013.

Of course, a lot of people are commenting that Yoel Romero was passed over again despite being the no. 1 contender for the UFC Middleweight Title, which he definitely was, but it’s the fight business and now, more than ever, with entertainment-based WME-IMG as owners of the UFC, big money fights and spectacles will be favored over true competition.

In the early days of the UFC, it was all about competition and finding out who was the best in the world was. That is fading into the background a bit more these days/ After buying the company for $4 billion, WME-IMG want results and are pushing for them, so having GSP face Bisping is a much bigger fight overall than having GSP face Tyron Woodley or having Bisping face Romero, despite what the rankings say.

Both of these fights may be better when it comes to the true competition of the sport and overall action during the fights, but money talks and this makes the most business sense.

Also, Dana White explained during Friday’s press conference that part of the reason the fight with Bisping came together is because Bisping was the only champion available at the time. “The Woodley fight was already happening with [Stephen] Thompson and you don’t know how those guys are going to come out of this fight, who’s going to win? Is one of them going to get hurt? Does something bad happen to one of the guys? We don’t know those things. So how am I going to bring George St. Pierre back unless I have an absolute positive fight for him and Bisping was ready. Bisping wanted the fight, so it was the fight to make.”

With Woodley already booked for Saturday’s UFC 209 and the UFC wanting to book a fight for the returning GSP as soon as possible due to the lack of star power this year without any Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey fights on the horizon, Bisping again was the best option.

GSP’s return is more important to the UFC bottom line than Yoel Romero’s title shot. Romero was always going to lose out here, although he will have his shot at the belt at some point, perhaps later in the year.

For now the spotlight is on the returning Georges St. Pierre and you can’t help but look forward to seeing him and Bisping build this fight for the next few months and look forward to his return to the Octagon as well as the possible historic implications for his career, with a possible title for him in a second weight class.

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE: THE SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: Examining Bellator’s decision to file a lawsuit against UFC regarding legal documents

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