NEW YORK — In an era of mixed martial arts where crap talking rules the roost and drama sells pay-per-view events, it took one of the sport’s great champions to remind everyone what the sport is all about.
At least that was one of Georges St-Pierre’s goals coming into his middleweight title fight against Michael Bisping in the main event of UFC 217 on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
“Martial arts is not about who’s got the biggest balls,” GSP said in the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. “Sorry for my language. It’s about technique, setting traps and intelligence. I was fighting a bigger man and I was trying to prove it tonight to all my fans.”
St-Pierre, 34, got the job done quite impressively. Returning after four years away, GSP finished Bisping by rear-naked choke submission in the third round at the World’s Most Famous Arena. GSP had not fought since vacating his welterweight title in 2013 — and now he’s the middleweight champion in his comeback fight. It’s an unprecedented feat.
“Well, this is not really my weight,” St-Pierre said. “I did it for the challenge. There was a time in my career, I was too busy. The challengers were one after the other and I was too small to go up. Now I’m still welterweight size, but I decided to take a shot, because I put on some muscle mass. There’s a point that it’s too much, but now I’m at the point where it’s OK.”
A left hook that cracked Bisping upside the head is what led GSP to getting the fight to the ground and ensnaring the choke.
“I studied a lot of his tape,” St-Pierre said. “I knew he had problems with the shot coming to his right. Our plan was to fake him on his left side to attract his attention and strike him on the right. That’s what we did most of the fight.”
The Canadian star landed plenty of damaging elbows on the ground from the top, but then took Bisping’s back slickly. That’s where the fight IQ part of MMA came into play, GSP said.
“It was a trick,” St-Pierre said. “Sometimes I put traps. I have more experience. Before, a few years ago, I was always trying to force things and I think the best thing in fighting is to try to set up some traps on your opponents.”
St-Pierre, who is supposed to unify the middleweight title with interim champion Robert Whittaker next, was very complimentary of Bisping afterward, despite all of Bisping’s trash talk coming in.
“He hurt me very hard,” GSP said. “A few times, I got stunned. I tried to hide it, but man I wouldn’t like to do that fight again. Oh, f’*ck. Sorry, I don’t want to swear on TV, sorry for that.
“Michael, he’s the toughest guy I fought. This man is amazing. I’m a fighter, but I’ve been a fan of this man. He’s a true example of hard work and perseverance in the sport.”