When Georges “Rush” St – Pierre (GSP) makes his return to the Octagon on November 4th at UFC 217, it marks the most dangerous fight of his illustrious career. Yes, he is competing in a weight class he has never ventured to before. Yes, his opponent, Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping has won the most fights in the history of the UFC. And yes, he is taking the fight after a four-year retirement. All those factors on their own would suggest that St – Pierre may be in for a long night at Madison Square Garden. However, the reason this fight is the most dangerous of his career is not because of the punishment he may suffer during the fight, but rather the damage – the irreparable damage a loss would do to his legacy.
When St – Pierre left the sport after a controversial split-decision victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, he did so in a way that so few are fortunate enough to do… He went out on top. He handed his UFC title back, solidifying his standing as the greatest welterweight of all-time.
Mike Tyson couldn’t do it. Chuck Liddell couldn’t do it.
Georges St – Pierre did.
Why risk all that he has worked so hard for? He claims that he has reinvented himself heading into the Bisping fight, and that he is hungrier than ever. However, one must question if at 36 years of age, if this is true. GSP tore the ACL in his right knee in 2011. In 2014, months after his last fight, he tore the ACL in his left knee.
The fact of the matter is that while St – Pierre is undoubtedly one of, if not the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time, he is not immune to the clock. Father Time makes fools of us all. Unfortunately, because GSP left the sport in his prime, fans and pundits alike are left with more questions than answers when it comes to the French-Canadian icon. At 36 years of age, after four years of inactivity, and competing on not one but two surgically repaired knees, the optics aren’t great.
It is worth noting that with a win, GSP would become just the fourth man in UFC history to hold titles in multiple weight classes. It is also worth noting the decline in popularity of MMA in Canada in his absence. One look at the disaster that was UFC 186 confirms just that. His return to the Octagon will no doubt rekindle the sport’s popularity, even if only for a brief few moments. For a man with GSP’s competitive drive, and with an opportunity to compete in New York at the world’s most famous arena at stake, it must be tempting. Who wouldn’t want to come back and make history, riding off in the sunset on his own terms?
But he has already done just that.
As we’ve seen more often than not, the sport of MMA is done with fighters before they are done with MMA. It would be tragic to see St-Pierre, a fighter renowned for his intelligence in the Octagon fall in the same trap as so many others have before him.