Tuesday, 14 August 2018

UFC icon Georges St-Pierre is shrewd to target winner of Nurmagomedov-McGregor

By Alistair Hendrie

Georges St-Pierre, the former UFC welterweight and middleweight king, recently told Joe Rogan that only three things in life turn him on: “Money, women, and dinosaurs.” Although the latter vice may be hard for many to understand, the first two are slightly more reasonable. Regarding GSP’s love of money, “Rush” is one of the most astute businessmen in the game, a wise old head at 37 years old who will only take the most lucrative bouts available. He doesn’t fight for a love of the sport. He doesn’t fight as an outlet for aggression. He fights to secure his and his family’s future.

That’s why his comments earlier this week, revealing his interest in tackling the winner of Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, are so intelligent. Indeed, the victor of the October 6 UFC 229 main event – a lightweight blockbuster with Khabib’s belt at stake – represents the most financially attractive contest for St-Pierre, especially considering his inactivity and reluctance to risk his faculties unless the money is right.

Look at it this way: McGregor headlined four of the UFC’s five highest-grossing pay-per-views, while Nurmagomedov’s UFC 223 showcase against Al Iaquinta in April generated a gate of $3m, setting a record for sporting events at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Clearly, fans will fork out to watch “Notorious” and “The Eagle.” Money talks and as such, St-Pierre has used all of his nous to ensure he’s primed to face the next 155 lbs champion.

After all, the Canadian legend is no stranger to raking in the dough, he has earned an estimated $7m in purses over 22 contests with the UFC since 2004. St-Pierre may be minted, then, but his affinity for cash isn’t to do with any airs or graces. It’s more to do with security, safety, and a need to prop up his loved ones later on in life.

St-Pierre against either of the UFC 229 headliners would do huge numbers regardless of its location. Imagine ice hockey chants ringing around the Bell Centre in Montreal; picture throngs of Irish fans singing their hearts out at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium; or, alternatively, think of Nurmagomedov’s passionate fans in Russia. St-Pierre and UFC President Dana White know a super fight when they see one, and this could be exactly what the pound-for-pound great needs to convince him to return.

Truth be told, there’s not much else out there for St-Pierre. Consider the welterweight scene, which St-Pierre ruled in two stints between 2006 and 2013. Today’s 170 lbs king, Tyron Woodley, will defend his title against Darren Till on September 8 at UFC 228. His last two defenses – both by decision, over Demian Maia and Stephen Thompson – failed to get the heart racing and drew more boos than acclaim, leaving him tumbling down the pecking order in the GSP sweepstakes.

Till, too, would be a silly matchup for the former titlist. The Brit is a huge welterweight at six-foot and rather than just clearing up at welterweight, Till has more recently revealed his plans to target the middleweight and light-heavyweight straps. Moreover, given that UFC 228 will be Till’s US debut, it’s unlikely St-Pierre will pick such a wildcard for his return.

Whatever GSP’s next move is, though, you can bet it will be exciting. The Tristar mainstay shocked the world when he submitted Michael Bisping for the middleweight prize last year, and St-Pierre appears to have relaxed with age. He now looks more comfortable with a mic in his hand and prior to the Bisping clash, offered more of his impish, cutting trash talk.

Added to that, which MMA fan wouldn’t want to see St-Pierre challenge for a third title? A shot at lightweight gold, if the UFC allows it, would entail a strict diet and a gradual weight cut, but the sacrifices would be worth it. If St-Pierre can make his way back to the octagon, cement a record third UFC belt, and set up his funds for life, he’ll achieve a sense of closure which few mixed martial artists can hold claim to.

This article was originally posted on The Runner Sports in August 2018. Sample all of my The Runner Sports work here

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