The state of the UFC welterweight title chase appears to be relatively clear-cut heading into UFC 205.
Reigning champion Tyron Woodley will look to defend his strap for the first time against karate stylist Stephen Thompson on Nov. 12 in the co-main event of the blockbuster New York event. After that, the next man in line looks to be Demian Maia, who topped off a six-fight win streak with a resounding first-round submission over Carlos Condit this past August.
But there is one variable which could throw a monkey wrench into Maia's chances, and that is the return of Georges St-Pierre. The legendary former UFC welterweight champion is currently caught in a public standoff with the UFC after contract talks stalled for St-Pierre's comeback at UFC 206.
At this point, it is anyone's best guess how the dispute plays out. But if the two sides are able to agree to terms, both Woodley and Thompson believe it would be only right for St-Pierre to get an immediate shot at the UFC belt.
"We don't know what's going on with Georges," Woodley said on a Wednesday media conference call. "It sounds like he wants to fight. It sounds like there are things that are keeping him out of fighting, and that's where it's at. Our game, mixed martial arts, is one part entertainment and one part sport. So from a sport standpoint, it would make sense for Demian Maia to fight the winner of this fight.
"But from an entertainment standpoint, and I guess you could say sport as well because [St-Pierre] left as the champion -- he's the greatest welterweight of all-time -- and if he comes back, I think as a gesture of respect, I don't think he should have to fight one or two fights. I think he should come right in and fight for the title. When I was getting ready to fight Robbie (Lawler), it was known that, ‘hey, Georges might come back, so if Georges comes back and you don't have this fight, then he's going to jump you.' And I knew that and I was okay with that, so I don't think that should change for anybody. I think everybody should be understanding of that."
St-Pierre, 35, is widely considered to be one of the greatest champions in UFC history. He defended the welterweight title nine consecutive times before vacating the belt in 2013 and taking an extended hiatus away from the sport. But St-Pierre has indicated a desire to return to the cage over recent months, and Thompson agreed with Woodley that St-Pierre's résumé is obviously good enough to warrant him jumping the queue.
"I'm right there with you, man," Thompson said. "He is definitely one of the best guys who ever stepped out in the Octagon, one of the best welterweights who ever stepped out there.
"He is, and he's one of the reasons why I got into this sport in the first place. I was training up with him, helping out with his fights, and that's why I actually started mixed martial arts was because of Georges. So yeah man, give him that title shot."
As for the likelihood of that happening, that is a question that remains in limbo. After St-Pierre publicly declared that he was a free agent, the popular Canadian and UFC executives recently met in Las Vegas in an effort to mend fences. Both sides said the talks were beneficial, but a deal remains undone. And even Thompson, who has trained extensively with St-Pierre in the past, isn't sure where this road will lead.
"You know what, I have no idea, man," Thompson said. "I hear things like, oh, it's going to happen. Then I hear it's not going to happen, negotiations aren't right, where they wanted. Of course he's saying he's a free agent, the UFC is coming back with, ‘no, you aren't a free agent.' So to be honest, I have no clue. No clue."