St-Pierre submitted Bisping with a harrowing third-round rear-naked choke to capture the UFC middleweight title and become one of only four men in UFC history to claim titles in two separate divisions. So with his long-awaited comeback finally behind him, now arrives the big question: What happens next for the welterweight legend?
Is St-Pierre going to stay at middleweight and unify the belts with a matchup against interim champion Robert Whittaker? Or was the journey to 185 pounds a one-and-done experiment? “GSP” addressed his fighting future Thursday on a special edition of The MMA Hour, and even he wasn’t able to say what comes next.
“I can’t say for sure anything. I don’t know anything,” St-Pierre said .
“We’ll see what’s going to happen. I’m very happy. I wanted to take one fight at a time, solve one problem at a time, and from there, make a decision. And I did this — I think it was good for the UFC. They made a lot of money, and it was good for me as well. It was good for Michael Bisping. Michael Bisping is someone that I really admire. He’s incredibly brave and he’s a true example of determination in this sport. He’s the man.
“He said a lot of things about me, but I don’t take it personal. I truly believe that he said it to make the fight more exciting, and actually I should’ve said ‘thank you’ to him, because we sold a lot of pay-per-views.”
St-Pierre, 36, is widely considered the greatest welterweight to ever compete in MMA, but the venture up to 185 pounds was an entirely new experience for him. Despite giving himself six months to pack on muscle, St-Pierre admitted Thursday that he struggled to maintain the extra weight he needed to compete in the middleweight division, suffering through “severe cramps” and other various maladies in camp while trying to force himself to eat five to six times a day. He said his issues hit a crescendo on the morning of UFC 217, as his body only rehydrated back to 191 pounds rather than the 197, 198-pound range he was walking around at before his weight cut.
St-Pierre said he also threw up his breakfast on the morning of fight day, noting that his body seemed to be shutting down on him.
But that being said, the experience wasn’t all bad.
Despite his layoff, St-Pierre scored his first finish since 2009 with his performance over Bisping. There were also a few additional positives of competing at 185 pounds that could lead to St-Pierre sticking around the division.
“In my contract, I have to fight Robert Whittaker,” St-Pierre said. “But you know, it didn’t go that bad (at middleweight). If you look at my fight, maybe I was smaller, but I was faster, I felt more athletic. I had advantages in certain areas, but maybe the size and the weight department was not to my advantage.”
Still, when asked about the likelihood he faces Whittaker next, and the growing sentiment among the middleweight division that St-Pierre isn’t likely sticking around, St-Pierre was noncommittal, admitting that he isn’t even sure if UFC 217 will end up being his final fight. St-Pierre added that he believes he injured his neck in the opening round of the Bisping fight and will need to recover before anything else.
“The middleweight division did not believe I was going to fight Michael Bisping either. And I did, and I won, and I won in a good fashion,” St-Pierre said.
“It’s written in my contract (that I have to fight Whittaker). If it gets me excited, I don’t know. He’s an excellent fighter, and he was in Montreal before — he’s an incredible martial artist. He’s a great champion. I have only positive things to say about Robert Whittaker. ... I don’t know. Look, I just finished off a very hard fight. I’m still bruised up a little bit. My neck, I still feel it. I need some vacation. I’m going to go on vacation, clear up my head and see what’s [next].”
Despite his reluctance to commit to a next step, St-Pierre indicated that he plans to make his decision soon. He said he doesn’t want to clog up the middleweight title picture and noted that “there’s a chance” he still ends up fighting Whittaker.
“I’ll take a few weeks and then I’ll decide,” St-Pierre said. “I have no desire to hold onto the title and freeze the division. That’s not what I want to do.
“There’s a lot of different things that can change. Mixed martial arts is a sport that changes all the time, and like I said, I wanted to come back to make history, to do something that’d never been done before. I know it’s in my contract (to fight Whittaker), but you never know. Dana (White) could come back with some proposition or whatever.
“Dana is the boss, we’ll see what’s going to happen. I just need some vacation now. That’s why I burned out last time, because I was trying to think too much ahead of time. And sometimes when you try to think ahead of time, things that you’re thinking about, you’re wasting your energy because they don’t even happen.”