August 13, 2017

UFC 217: GSP vs. Michael Bisping Is Official, For Real This Time

By Adam Martin

The on-again, off-again superfight that has held the middleweight division at hostage for the last six months will finally happen this November at Madison Square Garden in New York City, when UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping puts his title on the line against former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217. GSP confirmed the fight was official last week, posting a photo of himself signing his bout agreement against Bisping on his social media pages. The UFC is expected to announce the details of the card shortly, with a rumored co-main event of UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt taking on former champion TJ Dillashaw.

For GSP, this main event bout will be the former longtime welterweight champ’s first fight in four years, his first step back into the Octagon since a brutal November 2013 bout against Johny Hendricks, a bout which GSP won via controversial split decision. Afterwards, he announced that he would be stepping away from MMA and giving up his 170 belt, citing both damage and the prevalence of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.

GSP announced his intentions to return to active competition earlier this year, and the UFC prematurely booked this fight against Bisping, hoping for a date at UFC 213 in Las Vegas in July. With Bisping still injured and GSP filming movies, the two were not able to fight this summer, and the UFC seemingly moved on, with UFC President Dana White saying Bisping would defend his title against interim champion Robert Whittaker, and GSP would be fighting Tyron Woodley for the welterweight title.

But after Woodley put on a stinker against Demian Maia at UFC 214 -- he won a clear unanimous decision, but the fight was a snoozer -- White ripped into Woodley and took the GSP fight away from him, giving it back to Bisping because “he will bring the fight” to GSP, according to White. Many fans were upset by White’s decision, but at the end of the day, the UFC gets to book the fights it wants, and the promotion clearly feels like GSP vs. Bisping is the real money fight.

Although any GSP return fight will do well both at the box office and on pay-per-view, the UFC is banking on both Bisping’s ability to talk trash and his recent string of performances to elevate anticipation for this superfight to another level. Both GSP and Bisping are two of the longest-tenured and most active fighters in UFC history, and GSP has hinted for his entire career that he wanted to move to 185 and try to win another belt there. He will get that chance this November when he takes on Bisping.

For Bisping, this fight is the culmination of his fantastic under-appreciated career. Bisping never really got any respect for the last decade he was in the UFC, but his last three fights were wins over Anderson Silva, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson, and fans are now buying into him as a legit fighter and champion. However, many of those fans are also upset at Bisping for “milking” his injury and waiting around, ducking contenders like Yoel Romero and Whittaker, who just beat Romero, while waiting and hoping for this GSP fight. It turns out Bisping was right to be patient, however, because he is now going to be rewarded with the biggest payday of his career when he steps into the Octagon against GSP.

You may not like the matchup, but you have to admit it’s intriguing. Bisping is known for his excellent boxing, cardio, and takedown defense, and he’ll be going up against GSP, who is known for his technical striking and wrestling. Both men have been criticized as point fighters throughout their careers, but at the end of the day, both men have been proven winners inside the Octagon, and this fight is very interesting when you break it down on paper. It’s a fight that should prove to be very lucrative for the UFC.

The UFC just hit a home run with UFC 214, doing close to a million buys for that show, and are poised to hit another home run when Conor McGregor fights Floyd Mayweather. After a slow start to the fiscal calendar, the UFC is now firing on all cylinders. This superfight between Bisping and GSP is poised to headline UFC 217, another big event for the company, and at this point, the UFC is hoping no injuries happen (though fans who don’t like the matchup may be). Regardless, it’s a big fight, and now that it’s official, the welterweight and middleweight divisions can soon move on from GSP and Bisping holding them hostage.

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