Georges St-Pierre did the improbable Saturday night. He came back from four years away, moved up 15 pounds in weight and defeated Michael Bisping to win the UFC middleweight title. At UFC 217 in New York, “GSP”, a longtime former welterweight champion, became just the fourth UFC fighter to hold titles in two different weight classes. It cemented him on the short list of best fighters of all time, if not made him the consensus greatest ever.
His future, though, remains uncertain. The UFC wants him to unify the middleweight title with interim champion Robert Whittaker next. And St-Pierre has said that is written into his contract. But many, including his boxing coach Freddie Roach, still think he’d be better off back to welterweight.
“I think I would like to go to the lower weight division, back to the weight that he’s more comfortable with and more used to,” Roach told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “But the thing is, that might not be available at this point. We do need to work that out with the promoter. One thing about UFC, usually what they say goes. Conor McGregor wants to be the boss now, wants to be the promoter or co-promoter, from what I’ve read about him and so forth. But he does have the contract and I’m sure he has to follow it like everyone else.”
GSP himself did not commit to any future weight class after the fight Saturday. He said middleweight was not his weight and he fought Bisping for “the challenge.” UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley is already clamoring for that fight. Then there’s always the dream matchup between GSP and McGregor, which could happen at 170.
Roach’s feeling stems in part from St-Pierre’s performance Saturday. While it was excellent and he finished Bisping by third-round submission, GSP did tire in the second round. And at welterweight, his cardio was always impeccable.
“I think it was the weight that got to him a little bit,” Roach said. “He’s not used to carrying that much weight. I think it did kick in a little bit quicker than usual. Again, we’ll work everything out and all get together and discuss what’s the best move next for Georges.”
That conversation will include the entire team, Roach said, and GSP himself, of course. The legendary boxing coach said he is now in this with St-Pierre for the long haul and he expects to be in the Canadian star’s corner from here on out. And the weight class choice will be a joint effort, he said.
“I want to just map out everything,” he said. “I think we all need to get together as a team and make that decision as a team decision. I’m not the only one there and I want to see what everyone else thinks and so forth, what their thought patterns are on it. There’s always pluses and minuses, negotiation. We have to work this out with Dana, of course. The promoters themselves. I won’t make that decision myself. I need a little help with the other guys, I need to get their input also. Georges’ input is the most important to me, though.”
Overall, Roach was very pleased with GSP’s performance on the feet. In the second round, Roach said he noticed that Bisping was countering St-Pierre’s excellent overhand right with a right hand of his own. Roach said he told GSP to go with the left hook to counter that — and it worked marvelously. The left hook is what dropped Bisping, leading to the rear-naked choke finish.
“We weren't supposed to be the better boxer than Bisping,” Roach said. “He was supposed to be a better boxer than we are, but Georges proved that to be wrong in the first round. He outboxed him really, really well and the overhand right was working really, really well.”
The only thing that made Roach a bit concerned was St-Pierre getting tired in the second round. That’s something that needs to be talked about, he said.
“He was maybe getting a little bit tired,” Roach said. “I think just going into the fight, moving up in the weight division, not sure that’s his best weight division or if he’ll fight there again, but we’ll see how it goes.”