It’s been a year and a half since welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre [22-2], aka GSP, last fought in the UFC. Not since UFC 129 and a successful defence against Jake Shields have fight fans been able to see the pound-for-pound great and arguably best welterweight of all time ply his trade in the the octagon. Why?
Because GSP has had to get a brand new knee installed, that’s why. A blown ACL shattered hopes any fans had for super-fights involving the charismatic Canadian facing a string of contenders including a contest that everyone wanted to see - St-Pierre against all time great Anderson Silva.
Well thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and it’s ability to ensure blown knees are no longer blown careers, Georges St-Pierre will return to fight for the welterweight title at UFC 154 this Saturday against interim champion Carlos Condit [28-5] at Montreal’s Bell Centre. In Condit, GSP could not be facing any stiffer a test as a return fight. This means that very quickly fans will be able to answer one key question. Is the returning GSP the one of old, or one that has lost a step? Or a knee to be more precise.
One thing that’s certain though is that in the time the Canadian has been away from the sport, he has longed for the sport as much as the sport has for him.
When I got hurt, I was away for so long and I had to change my routine. I’m very pumped, and I’m glad to be back.
- Georges St-Pierre
“What I realized most is how much I missed it,” St-Pierre explained during a media conference call. “It’s like when you’re in love with your girlfriend, when you’re with her, you sometimes don’t realize you love that person, but when you’re away for a long time, you realize you love that person, you miss her.
“It’s the same thing in fighting. When you do it every day, the stress makes you forget you like it. When I got hurt, I was away for so long and I had to change my routine. I’m very pumped, and I’m glad to be back.”
So on Saturday night when St-Pierre enters the octagon against Carlos Condit it will be a return home. Home at the Bell Centre where over 15,000 Montrealers will be going bezerk for him. And a home in which a man named Carlos Condit will be gunning to end St-Pierre’s long undefeated streak. In Condit, St-Pierre will be facing a armored defence with few visible chinks and a fighter who has ended 26 of his 28 career victories within the distance, not something that St-Pierre can claim all too easily.
Even before his knee injury, criticism has been levelled at the champion’s caution first approach. Early career destructive knockouts have been replaced by 5 of his last 6 fights going the distance. How will the recuperated St-Pierre attack a man who ends his fights early and at will. It’s something that will lead fans to salivate over until Saturday night. But what about that main course? Dessert - in the shape of Anderson Silva.
Anderson Silva will be cage side for the fight on Saturday, and while he claims he won’t get in to challenge the winner, assuming it to be GSP, don’t be surprised if Dana White gets his way. There is a super-fight and much money to be made. Anderson Silva is not there to see the sights of Montreal, as much as he’ll have you believe.
A win for GSP on Saturday lifts the UFC back into the forefront of every fan’s mind. Mired in failed drug tests, cancelled cards and boring fights a Silva - St-Pierre fight will all be that is talked about. A Condit victory though could mean the end to any of those hopes and it’s not as unlikely as you think.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @IGuryashkinESPN.