Georges St. Pierre is suffering from concussive head trauma. He has a love child. His father is dying. He’s legally indebted to former agent Shari Spencer for the rest of his career.
It’s hard to figure out which of the media headlines & allegations is true or false. Who the hell knows what is really going on?
What we do know is that in an MMA industry where fighters have less business leverage than boxers, one of the few levers of powers available is time away from the business — especially when you are the undisputed ace of the biggest MMA promotion in the world. Georges St. Pierre fits that bill for the UFC. The ratings for the Fox Sports 1 UFC 167 prelims enjoyed a nice spike as compared to recent FS1 UFC airings. GSP sells PPVs and attracts eyeballs to television sets.
After his controversial split decision win over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, Georges St. Pierre should have all the leverage in terms of what business conditions he wants on the table for any re-match down the road. This is why Dana White flared his temper after the fight was over. With GSP’s camp hinting that their man wanted time off, UFC knew that this would equal big trouble for them in terms of making money on PPV. Without GSP & Anderson Silva, the UFC is in a world of hurt.
Dana White is already talking about announcing plans for a re-match between GSP & Hendricks in a couple of weeks. The pressure from UFC to get the re-match booked ASAP because St. Pierre doesn’t have much time left in his fighting career is a true sign of panic. It’s the kind of mindset that would lend you to believe that they want to see Johny Hendricks get the belt and give GSP his swan song. In other words, a clean ending as opposed to a messy divorce.
It’s the wrong strategy. The UFC should hope that St. Pierre takes a leave of absence. There are many business reasons for hoping that the man gets his private life straightened out.
1. Fight fans love seeing big stars make big come backs.
The re-match is going to draw money tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. The longer the wait, the more opportunity there is to build up the re-match.
The UFC has the ability to strip St. Pierre of the belt. They could have Hendricks fight someone like Robbie Lawler or Carlos Condit for the actual belt or an interim belt. They could sign Ben Askren and throw him into the mix as an evil outsider who would be a perfect foil to Dana given his unconventional fight style.
If Hendricks is the best in the division, he’ll beat the other fighters available at his disposal. And it would only create more momentum for the re-match against St. Pierre at a later date. It would place Hendricks in a situation where he could get the decisive win over St. Pierre and retire the man. He would truly call himself the champion. And if St. Pierre won the re-match down the road, he would get his crown back and demonstrate what an all-time champion he is.
Rushing the re-match feels like UFC trying to terminate GSP’s career as soon as they possibly can. It doesn’t make sense for either party at this point. Giving St. Pierre time off in order to make a comeback at a later date would actually put him a new role in his MMA career — underdog. The fan favorite would only draw more support for his attempt to get revenge on Hendricks. If Johny Hendricks is as good as advertised, he’ll still be the champion when GSP returns.
2. The UFC needs to focus on building up new stars to eventually replace Georges St. Pierre.
The key to the Welterweight division, now that Rory MacDonald has a blemish on his record, is to build a new cast of stars. Ben Askren has that potential. Robbie Lawler has found new life with American Top Team. Carlos Condit is out there to cause trouble. The promotion needs to create new stars in absence of St. Pierre because new PPV draws are needed for the UFC. There will be a life after GSP. Better to let him take a break and build new rivals now than to stay hooked to GSP as the top ace and then be left with no new major draws on the table.
They need new stars at Welterweight who can draw more than 300,000 PPV buys when headlining big shows. St. Pierre is the one guy who still has that ability to draw 750,000 PPV buys for a major fight.
3. It’s physically more dangerous for a fighter who doesn’t have his heart into fighting and creates a situation ripe for serious injury.
Nothing is more dangerous than a fighter who is in a bout against a powerful opponent and simply doesn’t have their heart in it. It’s a sad ending. It’s also a violent ending. Nobody wants to see St. Pierre knocked out and put on a stretcher for his grand finale. Champions should go out in grand fashion. Win or lose, GSP should fight with 100% heart and effort. At this stage of his career, he has to work extra just to maintain his status quo of championship level performance.
I’d rather see St. Pierre with 70% of his skill set but 100% motivation & heart than 100% skill but only 50% motivation. When you aren’t motivated, you get knocked out. You get hurt. Just ask Anderson Silva all about that when Chris Weidman sent him to the canvas. That’s when the serious damage really happens. If you go out on your shield with full effort, no one will feel bad. If you fall on your sword while looking tired and mentally drained, that is the kind of lasting image that fans will never be able to erase out of their minds.
But what about the fact that MMA is such a fast-evolving sport that taking substantial time off would mean GSP is behind the curve in training and preparing for the best fighters in the world? Let’s call this “the Fedor factor.” If there is one fighter who I would trust to be able to keep up with the rigors & demands of maintaining a world class level in terms of training & strategy, Georges St. Pierre is that man. St. Pierre is vastly differently than Fedor in terms of the kind of training he is willing to do. Fedor trained the same way from day one until his last fight.
Bottom line? A long break for St. Pierre from the UFC would do wonders for both parties. There are more pluses than minuses from a business perspective. It would give the UFC an opportunity to make new stars and would give St. Pierre a chance to clear his head and find some balance in his private life.
Front-Page Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp