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Since Georges St. Pierre defeated Michael Bisping at Madison Square Garden in November, the pressing question on the mind of many fans revolved around who the Quebecois legend might compete against next. Many options were closed when St. Pierre elected to vacate the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title and made it clear he didn’t have great interest in continuing to compete in that division. However, plenty of intriguing options remain if St. Pierre’s health allows him to continue. There has thus been much discussion stemming from St. Pierre’s comments on prospective opponents during a recent appearance on “The MMA Hour.”
When presented with three potential names, St. Pierre in response didn’t simply comment on those specific fighters. Rather, he outlined his mentality in considering any future opponents. St. Pierre is interested in big fights that will draw well, of course. However, St. Pierre emphasized much more what each potential opponent would mean for his legacy. It’s understandable that would be a priority for St. Pierre, given how long he has competed and all he has accomplished. It also leads to an unmistakable top priority if St. Pierre elects to continue.
The first name St. Pierre addressed was Nate Diaz. It’s a fresh matchup, as the two fighters have not fought before. Diaz’s name means more than it ever has on the heels of his fights with Conor McGregor. Moreover, there is a back story that can be traced to when St. Pierre fought “The Ultimate Fighter 5” winner’s brother, Nick Diaz, in what was one of the most anticipated bouts of GSP’s career. In spite of those pros, a fight with the younger Diaz doesn’t offer much at all for St. Pierre’s legacy. As St. Pierre noted, he would be a heavy favorite against Diaz. He won solidly against the elder, bigger Diaz, and his brother offers a similar stylistic challenge. As such, St. Pierre wouldn’t be in position to gain much in victory. It would draw on pay-per-view but wouldn’t be considered particularly meaningful to most, including apparently St. Pierre himself.
The option that has gotten much more interest and discussion for quite some time has been a megafight with McGregor. It’s striking to hear St. Pierre be down on that fight since, in many respects, it’s ideal for him. It would unquestionably be the biggest attraction of the bunch and make St. Pierre the most money. It’s also a fight that St. Pierre would have a very good chance of winning, as the smaller McGregor would likely have trouble handling his wrestling. The fact that St. Pierre was not enthusiastic about the Irishman suggests sincerity in his quest for legacy fights because that’s where the appeal of the McGregor showdown breaks down. Yes, a fight with McGregor would draw a lot of eyeballs, but the people watching wouldn’t consider a win by St. Pierre to be one of the primary examples of his greatness as a fighter.
In some ways, St. Pierre-McGregor would be similar to McGregor’s fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. It was one of the biggest audiences of Mayweather’s career, but it won’t be something fans bring up in explaining why Mayweather was a great fighter. Obviously, the deck was stacked in his favor in a bout against an MMA fighter under the boxer’s rules. McGregor-St. Pierre certainly wouldn’t be lopsided in that sense, but there’s still a big size disparity. If St. Pierre won, that’s what fans would immediately bring up, unfair or not. It’s a fight with a ton of upside for McGregor but not nearly as much for St. Pierre.
That leads to the final name that was discussed: UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. He might draw the lowest pay-per-view buy rate of the three -- although I’d wager not because it has a great story -- but if St. Pierre wants to bolster his legacy, Woodley is far and away the best choice. When St. Pierre left the sport in 2013, he left an opening at the top of the welterweight division that Woodley has taken over. Staying active while St. Pierre stepped away from professional competition, Woodley racked up wins against the best fighters in the division. Woodley’s wrestling, defense and power present real jeopardy from a style standpoint against St. Pierre, even at his best.
While St. Pierre was successful in his UFC return against Michael Bisping, it’s still an open question how he compares in 2018 against the next generation of welterweights. He is still largely perceived as a figure from the past. If he came back and bested the multi-time defending welterweight champion after an extended hiatus, it would demonstrate a long-lasting standard of excellence that few fighters -- if any -- have ever been able to match. It would another accolade in his hall-of-fame career, but it would be a different type of credential than anything he has done yet, including the Bisping fight.
Beating Woodley would be no easy task. It’s likely St. Pierre would go into the bout as an underdog, and it certainly seems on paper like a tougher fight than McGregor or Diaz. However, that danger is why it’s the legacy fight. St. Pierre would have the opportunity to reaffirm his greatness against a younger, more active competitor on the top of his game. It’s the plot of about five “Rocky” movies and 10 Randy Couture pay-per-views. Meet the challenge, Georges. Take the legacy fight. Test yourself against “The Chosen One.”
Todd Martin has written about mixed martial arts since 2002 for a variety of outlets, including CBSSports.com, SI.com, ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, MMApayout.com, Fight Magazine and Fighting Spirit Magazine. He has appeared on a number of radio stations, including ESPN affiliates in New York and Washington, D.C., and HDNet’s “Inside MMA” television show. In addition to his work at Sherdog.com, he does a weekly podcast with Wade Keller at PWTorch.com and blogs regularly at LaTimes.com. Todd received his BA from Vassar College in 2003 and JD from UCLA School of Law in 2007 and is a licensed attorney. He has covered UFC, Pride, Bellator, Affliction, IFL, WFA, Strikeforce, WEC and K-1 live events. He believes deeply in the power of MMA to heal the world and bring happiness to all of its people.