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Fightweets: Is Georges St-Pierre risking his legacy with his return?

Esther Lin photo

It seemed like just another weekend in the mixed martial arts world was on the docket, with Saturday’s Bellator 172 and Sunday’s UFC Fight Night in Canada.

Then a bonkers news day broke out on Friday, with Georges St-Pierre making his return to the UFC official and Cris Cyborg being cleared by USADA.

So let’s not waste any more time, then, as we move along to the latest edition of Fightweets.

Is GSP risking his legacy?

@RuckerYeah: GSP is my all-time favorite and I want to remember him as he was. Is he risking his legacy?

That’s the real danger in St-Pierre’s return.

And it’s also a major part of the appeal in his comeback: Can GSP, who turns 36 in May, be the fighter he used to be, or something close to it?

When St-Pierre walked away from the sport in Dec. 2013, he was on the short list of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. He remains on that short list and is still considered by most to be the greatest welterweight of all-time.

This isn’t like the return of fellow legend B.J. Penn, who was on a long and painful decline well before he first announced his retirement, then was brought back as cannon fodder to help raise Yair Rodriguez’s profile.

Although the last image we had was of St-Pierre up on the podium following a controversial decision victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, ice pack to his face, with bruises all over, fact is GSP hasn’t lost a fight since his upset loss to Matt Serra in 2007, with 12 straight wins and 18 in his past 19.

That makes his return a whole lot of different than other legends, including the fact GSP insisted all along he wasn’t using the word “retirement” during his long sabbatical.

So what type of fighter will we see? St-Pierre has had surgery on both knees, but presumably has also had time to let them heal as much as they’re ever going to.

He also cited inadequate drug testing as a reason for leaving. With USADA’s testing in place, we’re as close to a level playing field as we’re ever going to get in this game.

So all the factors seem to point to the time being right for GSP’s return, including, and this is no small factor, the fact he can command a big paycheck because the UFC needs big stars.

Still, three years away is three years away, and for every Dominick Cruz who returns to championship form, there seem to be a dozen who find the game passed them by.

Which is why the direction GSP chooses to move from here will play such a big role in his success or failure. Which brings us to ...

@JHKamper: Who should GSP face in his comeback?

That’s the multi-million dollar question, right?

Let me start with the fight I least wish to see: GSP vs. Michael Bisping. Middleweight is, far and away, the most intriguing division in the UFC at the moment. It’s a bunch of killers in their prime, with a champion perceived as vulnerable, and with one of the sport’s greatest legends in the mix as well. There are already enough UFC weight classes in a state of flux without putting this shark tank of a division on hold any longer than it needs to be.

From there, it really comes down to what both the UFC and GSP are looking to accomplish in this latest run, and at least of the time of this writing on Friday night, no one seems to be tipping their hand on which direction they’re heading.

Is GSP looking to make one last run at a title? If so, a tuneup fight might not be the worst thing in the world. GSP has been out for more than three years. While going up against a mid-tier guy in his return fight might risk a giant payday down the road if he falls flat, his return fight is going to be a big deal no matter whom he fights. If there’s a long game here, letting GSP work out the kinks en route to a welterweight title fight -- and yes, he deserves to cut the line at welterweight if he wants it -- could be a sound longer-term investment.

But the modern-era UFC is all about making the big cash grab now and worrying about tomorrow later. Maybe there’s a way to bridge the gap: Have St-Pierre fight Nate Diaz. Diaz has made it clear he’s only coming out for big-fight money. He’s proven a capable B-side of the draw on said major events. A bout with Diaz the Younger would give St-Pierre a quality test in his first fight, in the division, and have the sellable hook of Diaz going for revenge over brother Nick’s 2013 loss to GSP.

Beyond that? I don’t know about you, but Anderson Silva just doesn’t seem like a superfight anymore. In Silva, we’re talking someone who, while still having an aura, has fought his last three fights as a co-main event, a last-minute fill-in, and a Fight Pass headliner. Silva is a quality added attraction on a card these days but he’s no longer the straw that stirs the drink.

And then, of course, there’s the subject we have to broach: Conor McGregor. There are so many reasons why this fight shouldn’t happen. He shouldn’t be allowed to hold up another weight class, this time lightweight. He seems to be hellbent on boxing Floyd Mayweather, but that seemed to be in the absence of any other major fights in the UFC on the horizon. GSP could be the bout that wrenches McGregor away from his Floyd fixation. This fight might just be so wrong it’s right.

UFC 208 fallout (and Cyborg)

@auggie85: Holm and Brunson have both appealed their losses. What can we expect out of this? No contest? Nothing?

Well, since you sent this tweet, Derek Brunson decided against officially protesting his loss to Silva with the New York State Athletic Commission. Which was probably the right call, since judging is subjective, and you’d likely have to find actual malice or conflict of interest to overturn even a bad call.

But still, bad judging has been the norm in New York state since they’ve started holding mixed martial arts events. And if we’ve learned anything from the sport’s two-decade long odyssey in the Empire State, it’s that New York state officials have a level of arrogance and self-importance that make officials in other states who have the sort of arrogance we’ve come to expect from state officials jaws drop.

So should it be any surprise the first big events in New York have been unadulterated sh*tshows from an officiating standpoint?

Which leads us to the remaining protest on the docket: Holly Holm’s complaint about her loss to Germaine de Randamie in the main event. Holm was hit hard with punches after the horn sounded, but de Randamie was not docked a point for either infraction by referee Todd Anderson. This made the difference in 48-47 across-the-board scores making de Randamie the first UFC women’s featherweight champ.

We’ve heard an interpretation of the rules which states that the fighters should continue after the horn until the referee comes in and stops it. If this is a case, this is a flaw in the rules which needs to be fixed. What’s the point of even having an official timekeeper if his or her timing isn’t considered official? A round is exactly five minutes long and you shouldn’t be allowed to do damage at 5:05 because the referee is slow. This would be sort of like saying a basketball player can keep scoring points even though the ball was in his hands after the horn because the referee didn’t come over and take the ball away from him. And hey, if the fighters can’t hear the horn, maybe get a louder horn or buzzer or siren.

Either way, in order to get the result overturned, NYSAC officials would have to admit they erred in assigning a referee with minimal big-fight experience into a main-event title fight on a card with a gate of more than $2 million. But this would require New York officials to be able to admit being wrong. Given how long it took to legalize MMA, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that one. Holm’s best bet is probably accepting GDR’s offer of a rematch. And our best bet would be for NYSAC quietly breaking off a tiny portion of the six figures they’re making off their share of the gate and flying in a top referee next time they hold a big event.

Since we’re talking women’s featherweight, this seems as good a spot as any to talk about the return of Cris Cyborg, who was granted a therapeutic use exemption for the banned diuretic spironolactone and cleared of her potential USADA violation on Friday, after we had put out final call for questions and all but had this column done.

Some thoughts off the top of my head: 1. USADA really needs to figure out a better system for announcing potential violations. Cyborg joins Yoel Romero and several others who get hung out to dry as cheaters in public when the truth turns out to be far less cut-and-dried; 2. Dana White really, really needs to stop publicly trashing Cyborg. He only has X amount of drawing cards and Cyborg is one of them; 3. It will sure be interesting to see whether GDR, who had offered Holm a rematch, decides to opt for hand surgery; 4. If she does, does the UFC go for an interim featherweight title fight involving Cyborg, which would mean they’d create an interim title before the inaugural one ever gets defended, and give the UFC two champions in a three-fighter weight class? and 5. Even given all that, the UFC has got to be happy with Friday’s developments. Last week we were talking about Bellator putting on a better main event than the UFC in London; this week two major draws return to the fold on the same day.

@semondude: Do you think Derrick Lewis can be champion?

It’s pretty obvious “The Black Beast” has a ceiling as a fighter. He has devastating knockout power and has also shown a better ability to get out of bad situations than he gets credit for. But he also gets into too many of those situations against less-than-elite opposition in the first place, which means it’s likely going to catch up to him somewhere along the way as the competition gets better.

On the other hand, Lewis is pretty much MMA’s pound-for-pound social media world champion, and, giving him a mulligan for the Atrocity in Albany last time out, his fights are usually exciting. And that in and of itself is a. Not the worst place to be and b. enough to make me interested in his fight with Travis Browne on Sunday night. Especially since I don’t think Browne represents that ceiling I think Lewis will eventually hit.

@auggie85: Fedor or Mitrione?? How??

You know, part of me thinks Matt Mitrione is absolutely going to smoke Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 172. Emelianenko, after all, had trouble with Fabio Maldonado. Then part of me thinks that Mitrione is an entertaining but flawed fighter, one susceptible to a well-placed punch, and that power’s the last thing to go, so I find myself interested in this fight after all. And “hey, let’s see what happens” was kind of the appeal of this fight in the first place, wasn’t it?

Oh yeah, you asked me who wins ... I’m going with Fedor. Via knockout. I’d tell you why, but you only asked who and how.

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