When I heard GSP declared himself a free agent, I was _________.
Riley Kontek: Shocked. It’s hard to imagine GSP outside of a UFC Octagon. The only way I thought GSP would have not returned to the UFC is if he couldn’t secure sponsors that make it financially worth it. That’s what I assume it came down to, as the Reebok uniform deal alienates yet another star in the company. Where he goes from here, I have no idea.
Jordy McElroy: I was definitely shocked when I heard the news. Georges St-Pierre’s legacy is so synonymous with the UFC brand that even the idea of him fighting anywhere else was inconceivable. There was no doubt in my mind that the UFC would find a way to get a deal done. Perhaps there’s still hope when other suitors enter the fray of the St-Pierre sweepstakes, and the UFC realizes one of the biggest stars in the sport might actually slip through its fingers. If he does indeed sign elsewhere, some promotion is on the verge of hitting the lottery.
Daniel DeMarco: Shocked. To find out the UFC let go one of its biggest cash cows in the promotion’s history — are you kidding me? This seemed like a no-brainer from the moment GSP announced he was officially ready to start competing again. Obviously UFC was going to capitalize and make the most of this, even if GSP just came back for one fight. But no. Somehow UFC managed to squander it and now GSP is free to go anywhere in the MMA world. Boy, 2016 sure is a doozy.
What’s the biggest fight available for GSP outside of the UFC?
RK: I don’t think there are any big fights for GSP outside of the UFC. Ben Askren comes to mind, but I don’t know if One Championship can afford GSP. I think the only company that can even get close to affording him is Bellator, and there isn’t really anybody there that is a sexy fight for him. His free agency is going to bring us an undesirable fight.
JM: The biggest fight out there for St-Pierre is against ONE welterweight champion Ben Askren. That’s a fight hardcore fans have been talking about for a long time. Unfortunately, the bout stalled due to poor relations between Askren and UFC President Dana White. Maybe that’s a fight St-Pierre considers if ONE puts enough chips on the bargaining table. There is also the possibility that he signs with Bellator and does his teammate Rory MacDonald a favor and moves to middleweight to challenge Rafael Carvalho. Poor MacDonald can’t escape St-Pierre’s shadow to save his life.
DD: Ironically, in more ways than one, it’s Rory MacDonald. One: Because St-Pierre and MacDonald have essentially sworn they would never fight each other. And two: Because St-Pierre’s biggest fight outside of the UFC is another ex-UFC fighter himself. I mean, of course there are other top welterweights out there your hardcore fans are aware of like Bellator’s champ Andrey Koreshkov or ONE FC’s champ Ben Askren; maybe Douglas Lima too, I suppose. MacDonald is the name though. And it’s ironic as well because those very factors which make it such an impossible fight to book are also what would make it such a huge fight in any promotion. Who knows, maybe Bellator can prove to be a miracle worker.
What, if anything, does this say about the UFC moving forward?
RK: It says that the UFC needs to fix its current business model, because it’s disenfranchising a lot of the fighters under the banner. Many fighters are unhappy and want out. Even though the UFC brand will always bring them the best numbers, the talent is looking for other opportunities. Jose Aldo wants out and GSP is a free agent? The UFC better take a serious look at itself going forward.
JM: The UFC appears to be so consumed with the Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey gravy train that they forgot the kind of impact St-Pierre can have on the pay-per-view market. He was headlining blockbuster events when McGregor was just a random face on McConnell Street and Rousey was still competing in Judo. He is an OG in the MMA world. Let’s not forget the fact that he never actually lost his welterweight title. The UFC was only worth $4 billion because it is made up of the best fighters in the world. St-Pierre’s departure would open the floodgates for other fighters thinking about jumping ship. The new UFC management better make sure their priorities are in order if they hope to remain the mecca in MMA.
DD: UFC is as stubborn and hard-headed as ever. Goodness gracious, you let Georges St-Pierre get away? Is this not the exact same UFC that is looking to expand even further and happens to have a sizable debt due to the recent buy-out? And now you’re going to be so unwilling to cooperate that St-Pierre becomes a free agent? Obviously I’m not behind the scenes and aware of all the logistics, but on the surface with the information we know, I cannot make any sense of who thought this was a good idea. So GSP wanted a big payday. Yeah, and? He’s one of the biggest stars the sport has ever seen, not to mention one of the top five greatest fighters in MMA history. He should be getting a bigger payday, because he is going to draw in so much attention and revenue from every single angle. UFC is in need of big fish like GSP now more than ever, and it looks like UFC might have shot itself in the foot with this move. Ultimately, we shall see what happens as a result, but it seems like it is going to be a situation where UFC better learn from this mistake now so as not to commit one like it again.