Georges St. Pierre’s UFC return is far from a done deal at this point, but should he come to terms with the Las Vegas-based promotion, his first opponent would quickly become the next topic of interest.
Tyron Woodley, the reigning welterweight king, will make his first title defense against Stephen Thompson at UFC 205 in New York City on Nov. 12. No matter who wins the bout, it sounds as though either man would have no issue putting the 170-pound belt on the line against the longtime former champion. Such a booking would allow the Tristar Gym standout to skip the likes of Demian Maia, who has compiled an impressive six-fight winning streak in the division.
“Our game of mixed martial arts is one part entertainment and one part sport. From a sport standpoint it would make sense for Demian Maia to get this fight,” Woodley said during a media call. “From an entertainment standpoint, and I guess you could say from a sport standpoint since he left as a champion -- he’s the greatest welterweight of all time -- [it makes sense for St. Pierre to get it]. If he comes back, as a gesture of respect I don’t think he should have to fight one or two fights, I think he should fight for the title.
St. Pierre vacated the title in late 2013 after defeating Johny Hendricks at UFC 167. His indefinite leave of absence was largely peaceful until this year, when “Rush” revealed that he was in negotiations to make a comeback.
After Woodley claimed the belt with a first-round knockout of Robbie Lawler at UFC 201, he initially brushed aside Thompson’s public challenge to angle for a fight against either St. Pierre or Nick Diaz. But before Woodley was even booked to face Lawler, there were already rumors that St. Pierre was on the verge of a return. Had it happened sooner, Woodley was prepared to take a step back.
“When I was getting ready to fight Robbie, it was known that Georges might come back. If Georges came back, he was gonna jump [over] me,” he said. “I knew that and I was OK with that. I don’t think that should change for anybody. I think everybody should be understanding of that.”
Thompson, meanwhile, has spent time training at Tristar and previously helped St. Pierre prepare for fights of his own when he was previously active. Being in the presence of one of the sport’s pound-for-pound greats only fueled his own desire to carve out a career in MMA.
“He is definitely one of the best guys who ever stepped out in the Octagon, one of the best welterweights who’s ever stepped out there,” Thompson said. “To be honest, I have no idea what’s going on, where’s he’s at in negotiations, if he’s coming back or not. He’s one of the main reasons I’ve got in the sport in the first place. I was training with him, helping out with his fights, that’s actually why I started mixed martial arts.
“Yeah, man, give him that title shot.”