This entire Georges St-Pierre vs. UFC clash is beginning to resemble a nasty divorce. The two have coexisted before to create financial and mixed martial arts perfection, but have now found themselves at in impasse. St-Pierre says he’s no longer under UFC contract after never officially getting a fight offer while UFC says the Canadian superstar is in fact a member of the roster.
While most MMA promotions would jump on a dozens grenades just to talk to GSP about signing with them, UFC seems more than content in playing a game of contractual cat and mouse. The sad thing is that St-Pierre wants to fight and the promotion could surely use a proven draw of his caliber, especially with Jon Jones on the shelf, Ronda Rousey a loss away from permanent retirement and Conor McGregor ready to deliver shocking news after UFC 205. After all, GSP is the greatest welterweight of all time and easily one of UFC’s best pay-per-view torchbearers to ever enter the Octagon.
Luckily for St-Pierre, whether he has to wait a while to split from UFC or can somehow make it as quick as a band aid removal, there are a ton of other promotions out there that will sign him the hour he is “officially” released. The 170-pound division is one of the more stacked weight classes in MMA today, which is why GSP can challenge any of the following five veterans to forge success outside of UFC.
Winner of Jon Fitch vs. Jake Shields
A bout with either Jon Fitch or Jake Shields would be simply nostalgic for St-Pierre. He defeated both men during his epic title reign in UFC, defeating each via unanimous decision. While GSP hasn’t competed in nearly three years, Shields and Fitch haven’t improved all that much since “Rush” initially beat them down.
Fitch and Shields are scheduled to meet at World Series Of Fighting 34 in December in New York City for the welterweight championship. Either fighter, especially Shields, would serve as a great opponent in GSP’s first fight back. And even though St-Pierre would be fighting on unfamiliar ground, he’d be doing so against familiar foe.
If St-Pierre wants to test himself to the absolute maximum in his first fight back outside of UFC, Ben Askren is easily the top choice. As an undefeated wrestler who has mirrored GSP’s own ground-and-pound prowess throughout his career, Askren has been waiting for a huge fight for years now. Askren and UFC have never met eye-to-eye when it came to joining hands, so fighting GSP would be the closest thing to fighting in the big show.
While ONE is the least known MMA promotion alongside non-UFC outlets like Bellator and WSOF, it would give St-Pierre the best chance to call his own shots. If he was able to defeat current welterweight champion Askren, his success outside UFC could easily turn the MMA world on its head.
Outside of UFC, Benson Henderson is the most likely superstar to bounce around divisions. And while he didn’t have success against Bellator welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov this past April, he’s a capable force at 170 pounds. St-Pierre may even be open to meeting “Smooth” at a catchweight of 160-165 pounds.
Henderson will be fighting Michael Chandler later this year for the Bellator lightweight championship and currently doesn’t hold the welterweight title, but that shouldn’t offset St-Pierre’s interest. At one point, GSP and Henderson were simultaneously two of the most dominant UFC champions in the world.
If St-Pierre wants the most money and a new shiny gold belt around his waist, fighting Bellator welterweight king Andrey Koreshkov would be ideal. However, if GSP were to come aboard and stick his nose in the way of teammate Rory MacDonald’s quest for divisional supremacy, things could go awry at Tristar gym.
Having said that, MacDonald is out until summer 2017, so there is time for GSP to enter Bellator, challenge for the title and let things play out with “Red King” like they were back under UFC control. Unfortunately for St-Pierre, Koreshkov is no pushover. The Russian champion has compiled a sensational 19-1 professional record, losing to only the aforementioned Askren three years ago.
When it comes to St-Pierre’s options in finding a superfight outside of UFC, look no further than Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler. While Chandler and GSP compete in two different weight classes, it’s a matchup too good to pass up. Heck, it would pit the greatest UFC champion of all time against the greatest Bellator champion of all time. That sells itself.
As far as the action goes, GSP would obviously have a size advantage on the ground, but Chandler is super athletic, more explosive on the feet and has devastating power in both of his hands. Even without the title involved, it may be St-Pierre’s best chance to bank millions and rub it in the face of UFC.
Whatever happens with GSP, the MMA world will keep churning. But if he signs with a promotion other than UFC, it could change the sport’s direction and speed.