Though it isn’t by much, Georges St.-Pierre opened as a betting favorite over two of his most likely future challengers in the UFC.
After returning from a four-year hiatus and jumping a weight class, GSP toppled middleweight king Michael Bisping to claim the title. He becomes number four on the list of UFC fighters who have won championships in two weight classes, and has now tied Bisping’s record for all-time UFC victories with 20.
There was plenty of speculation about whether the former welterweight king, who claimed nine title defenses during his historic run, would be the same as he once was. Opinions and analysis have noted slight changes in GSP’s speed and technique. However, it’s a testament to his talent level that GSP is still considered one of the top bets in the sport even if he has lost a step.
Some have said GSP looked better than ever. He faced criticism before due to a perceived lack of finishing ability, winning most of his championship title defenses via decision. But after choking Michael Bisping unconscious in the third round of their UFC 217 clash, GSP looks like a betting favorite against his two most likely future opponents.
The first man who has been pegged as a potential fight for GSP is the current interim middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker. A unification bout between the two would make sense, and it would make for an interesting clash given Whittaker’s stellar record in recent years.
Now on a seven-fight winning streak and not having lost a fight since UFC 170 back in 2014, the man known as “The Reaper” tore through top middleweight contenders like Derek Brunson and Ronaldo Souza. Emerging as dark horse of the division, he laid claim to the interim belt after a close five-round war with former Olympic wrestler and knockout artist Yoel Romero at UFC 213.
Whittaker fought the type of competition many wish Bisping had faced, leading many fans to view Whittaker’s belt as the more legitimate of the two. Whittaker is a little closer to GSP’s size, but arguably has better wrestling and more punching power than Bisping. A clash between he and GSP would likely be one of the bigger fights the middleweight division has ever seen.
The other opponent who has been discussed for GSP is a man who can match his star-power and fan interest – Conor McGregor. In the time GSP’s been gone, McGregor has emerged as one of the sport’s most popular figures ever.
McGregor has also won titles in two different weight classes. But unlike GSP and the others who accomplished this feat, McGregor held both simultaneously. He defeated Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez to win the respective featherweight and lightweight titles. He also split a pair of bouts with Nate Diaz, proving he could hold his own in the welterweight class where he’d likely meet GSP if the fight materialized.
Nothing is certain yet, but the return of an MMA superstar in true form has fight fans buzzing about his next move.