As expected, Georges St-Pierre made an immediate splash in his Octagon return, taking the UFC middleweight championship from around Michael Bisping’s waist at UFC 217 last November.
As immediate as St-Pierre’s impact was, however, his return into the ether was just as stunning.
UFC president Dana White revealed St-Pierre’s return at a press conference in March of 2017. Upon making the announcement, White also named Bisping at the former welterweight kingpin’s first opponent under a new multi-fight deal.
Though it took the better part of the year, and some bumps and bruises along the way, the fight finally happened in November. Not only did St-Pierre take the belt from Bisping, he fought like we’d never seen before. GSP was much more aggressive than we’d seen him in the past, trading blow-for-blow with Bisping, before eventually submitting him via rear-naked choke late in the third round.
For comparison, before St-Pierre decided to take a four-year hiatus that began in 2013, he had won his seven fights prior to Bisping by way of decision, earning a reputation as a boring, albeit dominant, champion.
Shortly after claiming the belt, however, St-Pierre disclosed that he had been suffering from a condition known as colitis, which had caused him severe stomach pain and other symptoms during his training for the fight, which continued after UFC 217. With his recovery path largely open-ended, St-Pierre vacated the UFC middleweight championship he had just won, and once again stepped away.
Over the past couple of months, everyone has wondered if he would return once he’s cleared this health hurdle, but St-Pierre has been largely quiet on the subject. His longtime head coach, Firas Zahabi, has not. When pressed on the matter, he believes that St-Pierre will eventually be too tempted to stay away.
“I honestly don’t bother him about it because I know everybody is always asking him about it, 24 hours a day. When I see him, I don’t talk about the next fight. We don’t talk about it. We know each other. I know what he’s thinking, he knows what I’m thinking, that’s it, and we leave it at that,” Zahabi said when initially asked by Fight Hub TV if he thought St-Pierre would be back. But pressed for more, Zahabi had to admit that he thinks St-Pierre is too competitive to remain on the sidelines at just 36 years of age.
“I think, personally, that he’s going to fight again. He doesn’t know. Nobody knows, but I think that he’s just so hyper-competitive that eventually he’s gonna wake up one day and be like, ‘I need a challenge.’ I just think that’s the type person he is. That’s how I see him, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Zahabi continued, adding that he doesn’t think there’s much of a chance at an immediate return.
“I have no idea, (but) I think he’s out for at least a year or two. I don’t know. We all love Georges, but he’s put in so many years, he’s put in so many bouts, I don’t think it’s fair to ask him for more.”
His first exodus was a four-year stretch by the time that St-Pierre finally returned to the UFC to face Bisping, but he looked good. Despite his health issue, St-Pierre did not appear to have much ring rust on him. But another year or two before he again steps into the Octagon? St-Pierre already defied the odds once, could he do so again?
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