On paper, UFC 217 is one of the most stacked MMA events of the year. There is no questioning that. The Madison Square Garden extravaganza features a championship triple-header, with one of the most decorated names in MMA history — former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre — returning from a four-year layoff to challenge middleweight titleholder Michael Bisping on Nov. 4 in the night’s main event.
Together, St-Pierre and Bisping have accounted for more major UFC moments than any other pairing in recent Octagon history, sharing 48 UFC appearances over a combined 21 years of fighting under the promotion’s banner. That’s a lot of history that will be standing in a cage together once UFC 217 rolls around.
But is Bisping vs. St-Pierre deserving of its main-event status?
UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, who fights rival T.J. Dillashaw in the night’s co-headlining bout, doesn’t think so.
“This isn’t a gimme fight,” Garbrandt said Wednesday on a UFC 217 media conference call. “The GSP-Bisping fight is a gimme fight. They’re just trying to sell tickets. Our fight sells on all avenues, all angles, everywhere. Everyone wants to see this fight. It’s a grudge match. It’s two fighters going to go out there, the former champion fighting a champion, so that in itself is the main event.
“No disrespect to Rose (Namajunas) and Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I think they’re great fighters, but we’re the real main event of Nov. 4.”
Garbrandt wasn’t alone though.
While he and Dillashaw may disagree on many things, they share the same sentiment when it comes to the top of the UFC 217 bill.
“Like Cody said, me and him are the real main event of this card,” Dillashaw agreed. “Seventy percent of the fans want to see our fight more than any of the other ones on this card.”
The remarks came less than a week after UFC color commentator Joe Rogan revealed that ticket sales for UFC 217 were struggling. Rogan wondered whether St-Pierre’s popularity, which was once higher than almost any other fighter on the UFC roster, has held up over the Canadian legend’s four-year hiatus away from the sport, and questioned if the fight between Bisping and “GSP” was as in-demand as the UFC hoped.
And not surprisingly, on Thursday, Bisping was quick to respond.
Asked for a reply to Garbrandt’s comments, Bisping didn’t mince his words while speaking about the bantamweight champion.
“Listen, I’ve never paid to watch somebody that’s the size of my leg in my life,” Bisping said. “Cody needs to spend less time plucking his eyebrows and more time living in the real world, because it ain’t the main event. Simple as that.
“So he can f*cking drudge about whoever he wants, Cody. I love Cody. Cody’s awesome, he’s an amazing fighter. But don’t talk sh*t about me, pal.”