At UFC 217, two fighters met in a clash that seemed unlikely to ever materialize.
Michael Bisping had made for himself a legendary UFC career, racking up more wins than anyone, with 20 victories during his time with the promotion. He’d come a long way since winning his season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, and went on to dethrone middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in a shocking upset.
On the other side of the cage that night in Madison Square Garden was a man who also knew about creating a legacy of excellence in the world’s premiere MMA organization. Georges St.-Pierre had been one of the promotion’s consistent champions as the UFC rose to mainstream popularity. He won the welterweight title and defended it multiple times, before stepping away from the sport for four years.
There were questions about the size difference, GSP’s potential ring rust, and his cardio at 185. But GSP was the better man that night, dispatching Bisping in the third round with a rear-naked choke and securing the middleweight title. This made him the fourth man to win UFC gold in two different weight classes.
But there was another burning question regarding this situation – would GSP stick around at middleweight to defend his belt? Many people doubted he would, though GSP claimed that it was a condition of his contract.
Fast forward to the present, and GSP has found himself battling colitis. He elected to vacate the title, which may have been due to his desire not to throw the division into further disarray after it’s jumbled state over the past year.
While Luke Rockhold was happy to hear the news, as he’ll be facing the now undisputed champ Robert Whittaker at UFC 221, not everyone viewed the act in a completely positive light.
Michael Bisping recently discussed GSP’s decision to step down as champ. “He’s a prick,” said Bisping. “God bless him.”
Bisping cited both the positives and negatives of the move. He noted that it was good in a way, as a fighter never wants to see a person who beat them go on to lose more fights. This would bring down the stock of the fighter who lost, and raise questions about who else could have potentially beat them.
However, the former champ also talked about the negatives. He also noted that the move could come off as cowardly. “But at the same time, it looks like a bit of a (expletive) move, you know what I mean?”
The UFC has seen a few of its divisions thrown into disarray after champions were either unable to or unwilling to defend their titles. Light heavyweight has seen interim belts created and undisputed titles stripped, as Jon Jones’s legal and personal troubles continue to haunt him.
Featherweight and lightweight were also subject to a bit of confusion, as multi-division champion Conor McGregor chose to chase superfights instead of defending his titles. Bisping has stated his intentions to retire soon, but spoke of his desire to have one more fight in the UK.