GSP’s return to action comes during an awkward transition phase in the UFC, where the lack of star power proves pivotal under new management.
Reports came out two days ago that Georges “Rush” St.-Pierre (GSP) had finally come to an agreement with the UFC, successfully re-signing with the promotion.
This comes after more than a 3-year absence and some back-and-forth posturing between him and the UFC. Quite frankly, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Stars in short supply
After reaching new heights in mainstream popularity over recent years, the UFC is currently lacking any major stars.
Its (once) mega star Ronda Rousey is coming off her second consecutive loss in devastating fashion, and there is no certainty if or when she will return. And even if she does return, there’s no telling if she can still rake in the numbers and public interest she once did.
The promotion’s other huge star Conor McGregor is also out of action as he gears up for the birth of his first child in May. It’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing him fight for the first half of 2017. And with talks of him fighting Floyd Mayweather and him re-negotiating with the UFC so he gets “what [he’s] earned,” we don’t know when he’ll be back in the Octagon.
Additionally, former pound-for-pound champ Jon Jones is likewise out of action due to a suspension. Brock Lesnar, who was one of the UFC’s biggest draws, has also official retired from MMA and been removed from the roster. Another big star in Anderson Silva, who was once touted as the G.O.A.T. of MMA, is still fighting, but he’s nowhere near the draw he once was.
All the other big names and division champions of the UFC lack that unique mesh of marketability, star power, and undeniable ability to win that we’ve seen to be necessary to become a mega star in MMA.
GSP’s return marks the comeback of a legend, of a winner, of a bankable star. Yes, he’s 3 years removed from fighting, and we don’t know if he’ll perform as good as before. But here is a guy with personality, mainstream appeal, and (most important) a great track record in winning fights.
Match-ups made interesting
The fact that GSP is returning also adds to a scene that’s in dire need of reinvigorating.
Look at the upcoming title fights (official or projected) from all the UFC weight classes: Most of them are rematches. Stipe Miocic vs. Junior dos Santos, Daniel Cormier vs. “Rumble” Johnson, and Stephen Thompson vs. Tyron Woodly are all rematches.
Even the women’s featherweight division’s first ever title defense could be a rematch in GDR vs. Holly Holm. Cody Garbrandt and Dominick Cruz are also talking about a potential rematch between them for the bantamweight title.
While there’s nothing wrong with rematches per se, too many of them at once is not the best thing for the UFC at this point in time. It gives you the notion that the promotion has few new contenders and few unique match ups to make. And in the rematches we’ve mentioned, there’s no mega star involved in any of them, there’s little bad blood, and few storylines that appear compelling.
The addition of GSP in the mix presents several interesting match ups. There are already talks of him fighting middleweight kingpin Michael Bisping (for GSP’s chance to become a 2-division champ), Anderson Silva in a long overdue “superfight,” or a rematch with polarizing “needle-mover” Nick Diaz.
All these match ups have star power and a solid storyline to go by, which we’ve learned are vital in promoting a fight.
Return of a poster boy
The UFC (MMA in general, really) has been plagued by steroid and banned substance use as of late, and it’s given the sport a bad rap. Numerous big names like Jones, Lesnar, Silva, and more have all been linked to banned substance use, and then here comes GSP, a marketable ambassador to the sport. He’s long advocated for a clean sport and has never had any drug-related issues.
GSP, who was one of the first MMA athletes to get a mainstream sponsor in Under Armour, is a clean cut French-Canadian who embodies the martial arts spirit and lifestyle.
The bottomline here is that GSP’s stock is at an all-time high now, given the UFC’s need for bankable, marketable stars. He’s the fighter the UFC and MMA needs right now. Time will tell if we’ll be impressed with his performance.