By Adam Martin
When the UFC announced in March that former UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre would be returning to the Octagon in 2017, the decision to name UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping as his opponent didn't make a whole lot of sense. It's now April, and the fight makes even less sense.
First, let's get the obvious out of the way. Bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 in a massive upset, and in the nine months since then has only one title defense, a controversial unanimous decision win over 46-year-old Dan Henderson. Yoel Romero, who is on an ultra-violent eight-fight win streak in the UFC, is the current #1 contender in the middleweight division. Bisping vs. Romero is the obvious fight to make and the fight the fans have been asking for, but Bisping has done a great job of avoiding Romero.
I mean, it's not like fans were even asking for GSP to fight Bisping. From what I saw on social media, most fans thought the long-awaited superfight against Anderson Silva made sense (particularly with Silva coming off of a win over Derek Brunson) or even a fight against UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor, just because it would be such a massive box-office hit. I saw that more fans asked for a rematch against Nick Diaz, a fight against his brother Nate Diaz, and a fight against UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley, but I only saw a small segment of the fan base saying they preferred GSP's return opponent to be Bisping. For whatever reason though, WME-IMG felt Bisping was the right opponent, and that's the fight the UFC booked.
I didn't understand the fight booking at the time, as I felt there were superior options on the table, and a month later it makes even less sense.
UFC 213 in July, so it would be the headliner of International Fight Week. Well, according to GSP himself on The MMA Hour, he thinks July is too soon and a return date in September or October makes more sense. It seems like the UFC rushed this press conference for whatever reason, and announcing GSP vs. Bisping without a date and location attached just looks silly now.
You'd think Bisping would wait that long, considering this would be a huge payday for him, but according to Bisping this week on UFC Tonight, that's too long of a wait for him, and he was under the impression the GSP fight was going to happen in July. Now Bisping is saying he wants to fight in July, and he'll fight someone else instead. Romero would be the obvious name for Bisping to fight, but this week Woodley threw his name in the hat, and Bisping seems interested in that fight. No surprise there, since it's a good matchup for Bisping.
Heck, even a matchup against Silva would have been a lot more exciting, but the UFC instead decided to give Silva to Kelvin Gastelum in a fight where he's likely going to get knocked out by a young buck, when instead the UFC could have easily headlined a pay-per-view with a Silva vs. GSP bout that would have done great at the box office.
Ultimately, if Bisping vs. GSP does happen I expect the fight to do fairly well at the box office, but honestly, the UFC could book GSP against anyone and it would be a box office hit. Instead of going big and doing GSP vs. McGregor, or catering to longtime MMA fans and doing GSP vs. Silva, the UFC instead picked Bisping. At the time it was a questionable choice, and now, with GSP saying he needs more time to get ready, and with Bisping saying he doesn't want to wait for him, it makes even less sense. Maybe the fight turns out to be amazing and the UFC look like geniuses here, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I'm just not excited about GSP vs. Bisping.