Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping never made a whole lot of sense.
Even as UFC President Dana White appeared on Sportscenter on March 1 to make the official announcement, this matchup had its problems.
White couldn’t say when or where the fight would happen, and when ESPN’s David Lloyd asked him to explain the logic behind the oddball pairing—considering St-Pierre had been out of action since 2013 and would be moving up in weight to fight for the middleweight title—the promoter didn’t have a great answer.
"I'm not a big believer in long layoffs,” White said. “Even Muhammad Ali, after a long layoff, didn't look the same … but [St-Pierre] is always in shape, he takes care of himself physically, and we'll see what happens."
“We’ll see what happens,” appears to be the UFC’s answer to a lot of things these days.
A bit more than two months later, the situation surrounding this fight hasn’t gotten any clearer. We still don’t have a date, location or supporting pay-per-view card. In fact, the more time that passes between the announcement of St-Pierre vs. Bisping and the actual fight, the more it becomes clear there are better options.
While we wait, the 185-pound division continues to blossom into one of the UFC’s most competitive weight classes. Even before the announcement of this bout, middleweight title hopefuls were lined up three-deep—with Yoel Romero, Luke Rockhold and Jacare Souza all waiting for Bisping to finally get around to defending the title against one of them.
In the interim, that list of contenders has only grown.
Gegard Mousasi’s win over Chris Weidman at UFC 210—albeit a controversial one—moved him within striking distance of top-contender status. And while Souza’s prospects have cooled after his second-round TKO loss to Robert Whittaker on April 15, Whittaker merely usurped his place in line, solidifying his own status as the title suitor with perhaps the most momentum.
Bisping doesn't give a fig about any of this, of course, and it's easy to understand his position.
After 10 years and more than 25 fights as an Octagon regular, he became the most improbable UFC champion since Matt Serra by knocking out Rockhold in their short-notice fight at UFC 199. Now, at 38 years old, he wants to use that stroke of late-career good fortune to make himself a chunk of change.
The cost of such an approach, however, is continuing to hold the actual 185-pound title picture in suspended animation. This is something Bisping is already taking flack for, as he lamented on a recent episode of his Believe You Me podcast:
"Whatever I do, I get s--t off everybody," Bisping said. "Conor McGregor … can do whatever the f--k he wants. He can leave the UFC and go chase a boxing match and [he’s] still the best thing ever—holding up two divisions whilst he's at it. But me? All I tried to do is get a big payday and I'm the scum of the earth; I'm the devil."
If anybody deserves a little leeway here it's Bisping, right?
Here's the thing, though: The last time a bonafide top middleweight contender got a shot at the belt was December 2015, when Rockhold captured it from Weidman at UFC 194. Bisping has already had one off-the-beaten-path title defense, fighting 46-year-old Dan Henderson to a unanimous-decision win at UFC 204.
So, while it's fine to sympathize with Bisping's desire to get paid for his previous years of service, how many times can we let him do this? Especially for a fight like Bisping vs. St-Pierre, which might be cool—but not cool enough to spend six or eight months waiting for it.
Meanwhile, it’s not at all clear what is going on with GSP.
During the months between when the former welterweight champion alerted the media he was ready to return and when he re-signed with the UFC, St-Pierre gave the impression he was raring to go. The biggest issue, according to him, was getting someone from the newly WME-IMG-owned organization to call him back.
This led to no small amount of speculation about why the UFC would try to slow-play St-Pierre’s return. There were even questions about whether GSP being a client of CAA—one of WME-IMG’s main rivals—might be gumming up the works.
Now that he is back, however, it's St-Pierre who appears in no hurry.
The original timeline said the UFC would target this fight for summer, but now indications are that St-Pierre won’t be ready until fall.
Recent footage showing him looking—shall we say—large and in charge only muddied the already murky waters of his comeback. We’re still not sure if the video, shot during an advertising shoot for an MMA apparel company, was some kind of troll job, a trick of the lens or an honest-to-goodness sign that GSP has an awful lot of work to do before he’s ready to compete.
Not even Bisping is prepared to wait forever. On a different podcast episode, Bisping said if GSP is unwilling to set a date for their bout, he'll find someone else, though it's impossible to know how much of that is merely a negotiating ploy.
"Without sounding like an a--hole, it’s my belt," Bisping said. "I’m the champion, and I’m not willing to sit around until September or October."
This week, St-Pierre teased the notion that the fight might go down at Madison Square Garden, but still was only willing to concede it could happen “in a few months”:
That sort of delay is problematic, and the ripple effects are being felt far and wide.
Former middleweight champion Anderson Silva said during an appearance on this week’s The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani that the UFC had previously promised him the first crack at a returning GSP. Now that St-Pierre vs. Bisping is booked instead—and now that St-Pierre vs. Bisping is cast into its own holding pattern—Silva isn't pleased.
He threatened to retire if the UFC can’t land him an interim title bout against Romero. And you know what? Silva is right. Nearly everybody would be better served if the fight company could just set up the St-Pierre-Silva superfight we’ve all been talking about for going on half a decade.
St-Pierre balked at a fight with Silva back in the days both were champions, citing a lack of desire to move up to middleweight. Since he’s doing that now of his own accord and no longer has a championship to vacate or lose, those previous obstacles could be cleared away.
If the UFC could convince GSP to take that fight—though, perhaps that's a big "if"—it would surely put up better box-office numbers than a fight against Bisping.
Especially since Silva-GSP would free up Bisping for another opponent, preferably against either Romero or Whittaker.
Wouldn’t that be simpler?
Wouldn’t it be more elegant?
Wouldn’t it make more money?
And hey, if St-Pierre and Bisping are so hot to fight each other, there’d be nothing stopping the UFC from booking that fight next.
Perhaps it wouldn’t even have to put half the company on pause to pull it off.