NEW YORK — As Georges St-Pierre stood in the middle of the octagon dressed in his new hardware and pointed at two fans draped in the flag of his native Canada, St-Pierre accomplished what many thought was next to impossible.
St-Pierre defeated Michael Bisping via submission in the third round of UFC 217’s main event to claim the UFC middleweight championship. St-Pierre is the fourth UFC fighter to hold a belt at two different divisions.
“It is a dream come true,” St-Pierre said. “I don’t have the words. Obviously, this was not my weight class. I took this fight to challenge myself and I am honored to be champion once again.”
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St-Pierre asserted his dominance in the opening round. With the crowd supporting its returning star, St-Pierre capitalized on the momentum by attacking and attempting to use the ground-game to his advantage. After being able to sway Bisping off his feet on numerous instances, St-Pierre finished the opening round strong, but it appeared that the round has taken its toll on him. With his hands on his hips and a wide gash on his nose, St-Pierre felt that he needed to “hide” his pain to finish the fight.
It’s been 4 years since UFC gold has been around his waist. #AndNew @GeorgesStPierre pic.twitter.com/si3UXeWyi7
— UFC (@ufc) November 5, 2017
The Quebec native caught Bisping with a few unsuspecting shots, but what caught the now-former champion off guard was St-Pierre’s final left hook.
St-Pierre’s strike sent Bisping to the ground and the masses at Madison Square Garden to its feet. Despite being pinned and enduring repeated strikes, Bisping didn’t succumb to the ongoing attack. Instead, St-Pierre, who had recorded five victories via submissions throughout his career, resorted to a rear-naked chokehold. Shortly after St-Pierre had the grip in place, the official called for a stoppage. He did what many believed was an impossible task. St-Pierre, who took a four-year absence from the UFC, was atop of the spot of the middleweight division. The Canadian mixed martial arts legend has returned.
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Bisping has long refuted that St-Pierre’s 5 foot 10 inch stature made him a middleweight, especially after St-Pierre’s dominance at the welterweight level but by the end of the fight, Bisping joked that, “[St-Pierre] felt like a middleweight when he had his arms wrapped around my neck,” Bisping said.
“There was a time when I was too small to fight at this weight class,” St-Pierre said. “But now, I’ve put on muscle mass and I am comfortable here.”
St-Pierre’s performance was a coronation of what’s been building from his return. Even with the layoff, St-Pierre’s showcase erased any doubt about if he’s able to amount to the same amount of success he’s had pre-2013.
“Even [Muhammad] Ali didn’t look the same after a three-year layoff,” White said. “Very few people have come back from very long layoffs and not only come back and won in their own division but to move up to 185 lbs and to fight in that division, it’s tough to do.”
So what’s next for Georges St-Pierre?
St-Pierre’s next opponent has already been determined and he was in attendence on Saturday night. During the post-fight press conference, White confirmed that the plan is for St-Pierre to face interim-middleweight champion Robert Whittaker at a later date to unify the middleweight championship.