According to GSP, the plan was never going to be a return to the Octagon this summer, and the UFC knew it.
The first few months of 2017 haven’t come with a lot of buzz for the UFC. There have been good fights – a lot of them even – but for a promotion increasingly dependent on big stars and the ability to deliver box office smashes the product has under-delivered. So it’s no surprise that, when the opportunity to push a big star and a big fight came around, the UFC went in hard.
When Georges St-Pierre announced that he was coming back to fighting and returning to the UFC, the promotion jumped at the opportunity to put him in a middleweight title fight with Michael Bisping. It was a bout that both men had expressed some past interest in and would provide a meaningful bout for GSP’s re-entry.
On March 3rd, the UFC put together a big press conference to announce the fight, with Bisping and GSP fielding questions. But when the subject of just when this fight would take place came around, answers were vague at best. July was the hope, but nothing was set in stone.
Since that presser the bout has fallen apart. GSP released a video in early May telling Bisping he’d be ready to fight after October. That pleased no one, adding fuel to growing fan sentiment that Bisping vs. GSP was an unnecessary holdup to the middleweight division. And Dana White quickly pulled the plug on the fight altogether.
Which all seems to be pretty confusing for GSP. In a recent interview on the MMA Hour, he told Ariel Helwani that he was never going to be ready to fight in July and the UFC knew it all along. That was why the announced bout didn’t come with a fixed date in the first place (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“When the fight got announced with the press conference, we knew that we couldn’t fight in the summer. UFC knew as well that I couldn’t fight in the summer,” St-Pierre explained Monday on The MMA Hour. “They knew that I had an eye injury, but we still did the press conference, and I felt very uncomfortable during this whole time.
“Everybody has advisors, and I was advised to not talk about it, not talk about my eye injury. As an athlete, you don’t want to talk about these things. If you know about it now, it’s because this whole thing became out of proportion, it turned into a very negative thing. As athletes, we all have injuries and don’t want to talk about this, because it gives you weaknesses, something that your opponent can exploit.”
St-Pierre went on to explain that while nothing has gone wrong with the eye-surgery he underwent recently, the healing timetable was always going to be a relatively long one. As to why that’s become a problem lately with the UFC, he’s not sure.
“I don’t know,” St-Pierre said. “Maybe it’s contract, contractual reasons? I have no idea. Even my agent and I were not very excited about that (press conference). We were like, ‘it’s better if we wait a little bit,’ but they decided to do it. It was the first time, if you remember, that they announced a fight — I think it’s the first time in history they announced a fight without a date. That’s for that reason, because they couldn’t put a date yet because we didn’t know. I didn’t know when I would be able to spar. I knew the fight would definitely not happen in the summer.”
Much like Bisping, GSP also admits that he hasn’t heard anything personally from the UFC as to what will happen next. He’s been getting all his updates on the situation through the media. He still sounds hopeful of getting the match made, but with the UFC booking an interim title fight in the mean time, it seems like Bisping will have a set top contender ready and waiting when the champion recovers from injury.