By any account, Georges St. Pierre’s return to the Octagon following a four-year hiatus was a smashing success.
The longtime welterweight champion and pound-for-pound king didn’t miss a beat in his comeback at UFC 217, as he choked Michael Bisping unconscious in Saturday’s headliner at Madison Square Garden to capture 185-pound gold. While UFC President Dana White has questioned St. Pierre’s desire in the past, he was effusive in his praise for “Rush” after the fighter’s latest triumph.
“To return after a four-year layoff is never easy. Very few people have done it in their careers and looked good,” White said on Fox Sports 1. “Not only did he come back after a four-year layoff, he moved up a weight class. Everybody thinks Michael Bisping’s an easy fight. Show me one fight where Michael Bisping was every an easy fight. Even tonight when Georges took him down and was on top of him, Mike was doing a lot of damage from the bottom. Hit him with that elbow, split him open. Hit him with a lot of elbows. GSP looked great tonight.”
Heading into UFC 217, there was plenty of speculation regarding St. Pierre’s next move should he defeat Bisping. There were some rumblings that the Tristar Gym standout would vacate the title rather than defend it against an opponent such as interim middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
St. Pierre himself didn’t exactly commit to an extended stay at 185 pounds during his post-fight interview, but he didn’t exactly say he was leaving the division, either.
“Obviously, this was not my weight class. I took this fight to challenge myself and I am honored to be champion once again,” St. Pierre said. “It is about setting a trap and that is what I did. My respect to Michael Bisping. He hurt me very bad and I had to hide it. There was a time when I was too small to fight at this weight but now I’ve put on muscle mass and I am comfortable here. Thank you everyone; this is a real honor.”
St. Pierre wasn’t able to further clarify his UFC future, however, as he was transported to the hospital following his fight with Bisping. UFC President Dana White, though, kept things simple when discussing St. Pierre’s next move.
On Fox Sports 1, White said “[St. Pierre’s] staying at 185 pounds.” And later, at the post-fight press conference, the UFC boss did a little post-event matchmaking: “Whittaker is next for GSP,” he said.