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Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping slated for UFC middleweight title fight

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Georges St-Pierre officially has an opponent for his UFC return. St-Pierre will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon against UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping in a 185-pound title fight later this year.

UFC president Dana White announced the news Wednesday on SportsCenter.

St-Pierre (25-2) and Bisping (30-7) are expected to appear in Las Vegas on Friday for a joint press conference to discuss the news. The UFC is currently targeting the second half of 2017 for GSP-Bisping, per White, although a date and venue have yet to be finalized. St-Pierre is required to undergo four months of enrollment in the USADA testing field before he is allowed back to active competition, hence the delay.

St-Pierre, 35, is widely considered to be the greatest welterweight fighter to ever compete in mixed martial arts. In facing Bisping, he will make his middleweight debut over three years since exiting the sport as the reigning two-time UFC welterweight champion. A celebrated figure in Canada, St-Pierre defended his 170-pound belt nine consecutive times prior to his UFC departure — a record for the division — culminating in a hard-fought split decision over Johny Hendricks in Nov. 2013.

After spending more than a decade toiling in the upper ranks of the 185-pound division, Bisping, 37, became the unexpected UFC middleweight champion in June 2016 when he scored a first-round knockout of Luke Rockhold at UFC 199. The polarizing Brit then defended his title with a narrow unanimous decision win over Dan Henderson. He is currently riding a career-best five-fight UFC win streak that includes a harrowing victory over Octagon legend Anderson Silva.

St-Pierre first announced his desire to come back to MMA in June 2016 on The MMA Hour in the aftermath of Bisping’s upset win, with St-Pierre expressing a desire to return to the Octagon and challenge Bisping for the middleweight title. That return was ultimately complicated by a series of contractual disagreements with the UFC, culminating in an Oct. 2016 interview on The MMA Hour during which St-Pierre announced that he was a free agent and had terminated his UFC contract.

But those contractual issues were eventually resolved, leading to St-Pierre officially re-signing with the UFC last month.

Though he had a viable middleweight contender waiting in the wings in Yoel Romero, Bisping repeatedly stated over recent months that a St-Pierre fight interested him the most, largely due to the drawing power of St-Pierre’s name and the financial implications that came along with it of the Brit’s first multi-million dollar UFC payday.

“The only reason I’m saying Georges St-Pierre is because I know he wants to fight me, and I was offered a fight with him. That’s the only reason he’s in my mind,” Bisping said recently on The MMA Hour. “If I wasn’t offered a fight with him [in 2016], I wouldn’t be thinking Georges St-Pierre. But that just got that carrot dangled in front of my face of a several-million-dollar payday. Call me stupid, but I want that f*cking carrot. I want that several million dollars in my bank account. I want it for my children’s sake, for my family, for when I’m retired so we can still live a good life.

“That’s why I’m doing it. Not because I’m trying to rob the UFC, or rob the fans of the No. 1 contender, or do wrong to Yoel Romero. I want it for my family’s sake. So in a perfect world, I fight Georges St-Pierre, I will beat Georges St-Pierre, I will not be injured in that fight Georges because Georges never injures anybody in a fight, and then I will do a quick turnaround, within six weeks I will fight Yoel Romero. That’s what he wants, that’s what he’ll get. I’ll guarantee you right now, hand on my heart.”

Bisping will now get his wish, and one of the Octagon’s most fabled names will once again be returning to the eight-sided cage.