Michael Bisping's title run might end up being the strangest in modern UFC history and he hasn't even defended the belt yet.
Since Bisping won the title off of Luke Rockhold at UFC 199, the debate over who his first title defense should be against has been vigorous. Contenders have been coming out of the woodwork trying to get a crack at Bisping's middleweight championship with Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Anderson Silva, Jacare Souza, Yoel Romero, and Dan Henderson all calling Bisping out. So far Henderson appears to be the front runner for the title shot, with Bisping adamant that he wants to avenge his previous loss to the MMA legend and a groundswell of fan support for giving "Hendo" one last crack at a title. However last week, former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre officially announced his intention to return to the UFC after a nearly 3 year layoff, saying that his first choice for his return would be a title fight against Michael Bisping.
After winning a controversial split decision over Johny Hendricks in November of 2013, St-Pierre famously walked away from MMA citing that he needed time off from the rigors of fighting. He would also later go on to say that he was very unhappy with the PED situation in MMA at the time and that that played a factor in his reticence to make a comeback. When the UFC partnered with USADA to crack down on PED usage in the sport, St-Pierre commented that the changes were a good step towards getting him to return.
But the UFC St-Pierre is returning to is vastly different from the one he left behind. The welterweight division currently has a logjam of legitimate contenders deserving of a title shot with Robbie Lawler set to defend his belt against Tyron Woodley at UFC 201, Stephen Thompson having a guaranteed shot next, and the winner of the Demian Maia vs. Carlos Condit bout at UFC 202 also making a strong case for a crack at the title. While from a business standpoint, slotting St-Pierre into a welterweight title shot is the best course of action, the former welterweight kingpin hasn't shown a tremendous amount of interest in that, instead favoring a shot at Bisping or even a drop down to lightweight.
For his part, Bisping hasn't shied away from the match-up and yesterday on his radio show The Countdown on SiriusXM Rush he went one step further by calling out St-Pierre and berating him for his leave of absence.
"I have nothing against Georges St-Pierre apart from the fact that he retired from the sport and was like, ‘No, I can't do it because people are taking performance enhancing drugs.' Well guess what, they were and they're getting caught. But if you're a man, if you're a fighter, if you're not a little bitch, you'll still continue to take those chances and try to beat those people. You won't run away to the shadows and disappear because you think you can't compete. I'm not the coward. I'm not the coward that needs to takes steroids to compete with these guys. And I would have thought that Georges St-Pierre was man enough also to have the same attitude."
St.Pierre is the second longest reigning champion in UFC history and quite possibly the greatest fighter of all time. Bisping calling arguably the greatest champion in the history of MMA a "little bitch" while angling for fights against a 45 year old man currently ranked number 13 in the the world is sure to give his detractors plenty of ammunition. However, St-Pierre is one of the biggest stars in company history and picking a fight with him sets up likely the biggest money fight possible for Bisping, which is the current operating procedure of the UFC (see McGregor, Conor) and something the very savvy Bisping seems aware of.
"Just for the record, I will call GSP out. I've got somebody in mind for my next fight and when that's taken care of, if GSP's man enough and he wants to step on the dotted line and fight, I will happily fight Georges St-Pierre."
Should Bisping get the fight Dan Henderson, win, and then get the fight with St-Pierre, his first two title defenses would be against an opponent who has won 3 of his last 9 and an unranked opponent who hasn't fought in 3 years and who could arguably be fighting two weight divisions lower.
2016 has been an incredibly strange year in the world of MMA. This would fit right in.
You can listen to the excerpt from the show below.
5 MUST-READ STORIES
McMahon. Brock Lesnar does not care what Stephanie McMahon says about his return to MMA.
Steroids. Brock Lesnar also doesn't care about the steroid allegations levied against him.
Vacation, all she ever wanted. After UFC 200, Miesha Tate wants to take time off, possibly return in November or December.
Middleweight acts hard on guy maybe fighting at lightweight. Jacare Souza calls GSP a chicken, vows to break his neck.
Legacy. Jon Jones is no longer looking to move to heavyweight.
EXTRA CREDIT READING
Truthers. Deadspin's Felix Biederman discusses the prevalence of conspiracy theorists in the MMA community.
WEC Never Die. Sherdog's Jordan Breen celebrates the WEC's 15 year anniversary.
Robin Black and Dan Hardy breakdown Aldo-Edgar 2
JBJ on Highly Questionable.
The Beat from today.
I swear JBJ posted a Tweet that said #ballsdeep but I didn't screen shot it and can't find proof anywhere. Perhaps I'm imagined it but if anyone did manage to get a screenshot of it send it my way.
No my manager said that, he's just trying to stir up drama. As if we don't have enough https://t.co/IP7Ylh72RR— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) June 30, 2016
Inspirational Jon Jones is the least fun version.
Falling down is part of life, getting back up is living.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) July 1, 2016
DC trying to Bisping it.
The 2 most interesting men in the world.
Finally got to meet the world's most interesting man LOL pic.twitter.com/OGr5xnOctG— Sage Northcutt (@sagenorthcutt) June 30, 2016
So ready for this.
JJ on mitts.
WWE with the realistic expectations.
No idea what's going on here.
Cat Zingano out here killing it.
Fighters be like.... I was 175 in January & 145 today. Reality vs expectation. There is a much bigger fight than what you see go on in that cage. And If I can do it, anyone of y'all can. #teamalphacat #ufc200 #bulkingJ/K #strongAF #regretnothing #alphacatzingano #sorrynotsorry #notashamed #thatbasstho #cake
Joe Pingitore (6-2-1) vs. Bill Jones (12-10-0); CES MMA 37, August 12.
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
2006: The quarterfinals of the 2006 Pride open weight grand prix took place at Pride Critical Countdown Absolute. Mirko Cro Cop stopped Hidehiko Yoshida with leg kicks, Josh Barnett submitted Mark Hunt with a kimura, Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera wona unanimous decision over Fabricio Werdum, and Wanderlei Silva stopped Kazuyuki Fujita with soccer kicks. Silva was a replacement for Fedor Emelianenko who could not compete due to a hand injury.
Georges St-Pierre is, in my opinion, the greatest fighter ever to step foot in the cage. He doesn't need to do anything to secure his legacy. Go look at his resume. It is bulletproof. Only 2 losses, both brutally avenged, and only 1 opponent of questionable legitimacy (sorry Dan Hardy, though at the time it really wasn't crazy). Him dropping to lightweight is insane and honestly I think Lawler puts him on a stretcher. Genuinely, the only fight that GSP should take is the past-its-prime-but still-delightful Anderson Silva superfight. Or, in the same vein, a fight with Vitor Belfort could be fun.
...I would also accept a Conor McGregor fight strictly because that is the biggest PPV in UFC history by a wide margin and I think things like that are fascinating.
And there we have it M.Rmy. This weekend is the calm before the storm that is next week. Enjoy the weekend and happy 4th of July to those celebrating. When we get back, it's the biggest week of the year. Until then, be easy.
If you find something you'd like to see in the Morning Report, just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and let me know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting.