Georges St-Pierre‘s announcement on The MMA Hour that he is now ready to return to the UFC has invited inevitable speculation as to who exactly will welcome him back into mixed martial arts. We look at some of the best candidates to take on the returning former Welterweight World Champion:
Conor McGregor: Provided the Irishman is victorious in his rematch with Nate Diaz, this is the sort of superfight that traditionally has Dana White’s eyes lighting up with dollar signs.
Despite being one of MMA’s most ‘pragamatic’ fighters- often happy to score points and avoid damage rather pursue the win over five (very) long rounds- GSP was one of the promotion’s most popular champions and drove large PPV numbers.
A match-up with the biggest star of the present day is one that would appeal to the businessman in the short term. However, it’s debatable whether it would tarnish two of the promotion’s most marketable assets thereafter.
McGregor was at a clear physical disadvantage against Diaz, and that is a situation that would not improve against the Canadian. Coupled with GSP’s wrestling skills, The Notorious one would likely find himself blanketed for 25 minutes.
It’s a battle that would appeal to McGregor’s ego, but not to his critical mind. Unless St-Pierre were interested in cutting to lightweight, the Irishman would likely be at far too much of a disadvantage.
Mike ‘The Count’ Bisping: An idea floated by GSP himself, and certainly one that presents an interesting tactical conundrum. How would the returning former Welterweight Champion’s celebrated grappling translate to a higher weight-class against the bigger opponent?
Oddly, it is a prospect that never really appealed to St-Pierre when he and Anderson Silva were at their respective peaks. Irrespective of this, it is a match-up unlikely to ever take place.
The UFC would never want a current champion to risk losing out to a man unlikely to remain in the weight class, not least one who is no longer a champion himself. And while the fight would be a lucrative one, there are simply too many candidates currently queuing up to challenge Bisping for his newly acquired middleweight belt.
Johny Hendricks: It was the five round war with ‘Bigg Rigg’ which precipitated St-Pierre’s departure from MMA. He edged a highy contested decision victory, but took obvious and lasting damage in one of his toughest ever fights. In the time he was been away, his old foe has won and lost the Welterweight World Title, and been summarily dismantled by karate wizard Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.
Hendricks is set to face up and comer Kevin Gastelum at UFC 200, but if he comes through that significant test, a rematch could settle who is the better fighter once and for all. Whether GSP would want to return immediately against the man who gave him such problems in his last bout remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a prospect that would excite fans.