Georges St. Pierre has an opponent for his long-awaited Octagon return, even if the date is still to be determined.
UFC President Dana White announced on Wednesday during an appearance ESPN’s SportsCenter that St. Pierre will face middleweight champion Michael Bisping at some point in 2017. Bisping’s title will be on the line when they meet (online sportsbooks).
“We haven’t set a date yet, but that’s the fight,” White said. “He has to be tested by USADA for the next three months. There’s a lot of things that have to happen for Georges to come back, and then we’ll pick a date.”
St. Pierre will return to action for the first time since he defeated Johny Hendricks via split decision at UFC 167 on Nov. 16, 2013. Shortly thereafter, “Rush” vacated his welterweight belt and announced that he was taking an indefinite of absence from the sport. St. Pierre first expressed interest in making a return this past summer, but he and the Las Vegas-promotion were only recently able to come to terms on a new contract.
“He wanted to take a break. He wanted to take some time off from the sport. He’s been taking about coming back for a couple of years,” White said. “I personally wasn’t a believer, but he and I got together in Las Vegas. We had dinner and we got a deal done.”
Bisping will enter the matchup on the strength of five consecutive victories in the Octagon. He claimed middleweight gold with a shocking first-round knockout of Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 and defended the crown with a five-round decision win against Dan Henderson at UFC 204 this past October. “The Count” was expected to make his second defense against top contender Yoel Romero, but it appears those plans will be put on hold for now.
“Everybody wants to take a shot at Michael Bisping. They think he’s beatable,” White said. “And obviously Georges St. Pierre is no different. He’s gonna step up and try to take his 185-pound title.”
Once St. Pierre’s return became a reality, several potential opponents were mentioned for the former pound-for-pound king. One of those was reigning lightweight champion Conor McGregor, but White shot down those rumors on Wednesday.
“Not even close,” he said.
St. Pierre exited the UFC for the first time on the heels of 12 consecutive victories. His last defeat was one of MMA’s biggest upsets, a first-round TKO loss to Matt Serra at UFC 69. He avenged that defeat by stopping Serra in the second round at UFC 83 approximately one year later. The 35-year-old Tristar Gym standout owns a 25-2 career mark and is 19-2 in UFC competition.
“He’s one of our biggest stars. If you look at the Chuck Liddell era. Anderson Silva, GSP. He was one of the big stars who helped build the sport and build the UFC,” White said. “He never lost his title. He walked away and left the belt. Many people still consider him the 170-pound king.”