Georges St-Pierre did one thing that is by no means been completed over the course of UFC historical past on Saturday when he returned from a virtually four-year layoff to defeat Michael Bisping and turn out to be new UFC Middleweight champion.
It was the right option to conclude UFC 217, which occurred at Madison Square Garden in New York City and aired on pay-per-view. Three new champions have been topped (a document for a single UFC occasion), and the outcomes ranged from surprising to thrilling to outright inspirational.
After Rose Namajunas pulled off one of many UFC’s all-time title struggle upsets with a first-round knockout of Joanna Jedrzejczyk to say the UFC Strawweight title, and T.J. Dillashaw knocked out Cody Garbrandt within the second spherical of their grudge match to win again Bantamweight gold, St-Pierre made his long-awaited return to the Octagon and as soon as once more proved his greatness.
St-Pierre has achieved lots throughout his profession, however what he did at UFC 217 was unprecedented. Not solely did the previous longtime UFC Welterweight titleholder come again from a 1,449-day layoff and look pretty much as good or higher than ever, he managed to maneuver up a weight clbad and turn out to be simply the fourth fighter in UFC historical past to say belts in two divisions when he choked Bisping out chilly with a third-round submission.
The French-Canadian known as it “the greatest night” of his profession, and for good cause. He joined UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture as the one fighters in historical past with three separate title reigns, tied the document for many victories in UFC historical past (20) and set a brand new document for many title-fight wins (13).
Although Bisping pestered St-Pierre within the lead-up to the struggle, claiming that he would make “Rush” remorse coming again to the Octagon, St-Pierre silenced the now-former champion with a sensational efficiency. At 36, St-Pierre appeared refreshed and as expert as ever, which is a scary proposition for his future competitors.
St-Pierre was taken to hospital instantly after the struggle attributable to a number of lacerations on his face. He was unable to talk about his future plans, and whereas contractually obligated for a title unification bout with interim UFC Middleweight champ Robert Whittaker, there are many choices for one of many largest superstars within the sport.
There have been some issues about whether or not St-Pierre’s star energy had diminished after a lot day off. Apparently that wasn’t the case. The New York crowd showered him with “GSP” chants all through the night time, and in line with UFC President Dana White, UFC 217 “destroyed” the 1 million pay-per-view mark, which might make it the group’s most profitable occasion of the yr.
Moreover, St-Pierre clearly wasn’t forgotten in his native Canada. White mentioned the cardboard is monitoring to set all-time information for gross sales in “The Great White North,” and St-Pierre’s comeback had such an impression that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even wished him a public congratulations.
Félicitations Georges! Like you by no means left. You’ve made us proud as soon as once more. ?? https://t.co/eK1GA5w2og
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 5, 2017
St-Pierre’s profitable comeback additionally signified the return of some humility to the UFC’s championship staple. St-Pierre has lengthy been touted as the right instance of a respectful and honorable champion who generally is a function mannequin for others. The two different champions topped at UFC 217 match that very same mildew.
Dillashaw and Namajunas have been basically bullied going into their respective title bouts with Garbrandt and Jedrzejczyk. That looks as if an odd time period to make use of given their standing as skilled fighters, however whether or not it was a built-in disdain attributable to previous conflicts or easy pre-fight intimidation techniques, each challengers discovered themselves in conditions the place they have been being relentlessly antagonized.
They refused to damaged by the domineering champions, although. After a wild back-and-forth struggle, Dillashaw caught his former Team Alpha Male coaching accomplice Garbrandt with a fight-ending mixture to turn out to be the 135-pound champion for the second time.
Dillashaw was chastised by Garbrandt and the remainder of his former teammates for leaving the health club on unfavorable phrases. He bottled that up and let it go contained in the Octagon, placing the primary blemish on Garbrandt’s document. The rivals briefly embraced after the bout, and whereas Garbrandt refused to take again any of his feedback, Dillashaw tried to be the larger man.
“I respect him as a fighter,” Dillashaw says. “I have not appreciated the accusations and just the crap talk, and trying to diminish my name and who I am. That’s one that I won’t ever forgive him for. I do respect him for being a great competitor and I’m sure we’ll see him again.”
Whether Dillashaw favored it or not, he is conscious battle sells on the earth of fight sports activities and it is all the time going to be a part of the sport. Namajunas plans on taking an alternate method throughout her title reign, and she or he made that very clear with an emotional post-fight speech.
Instead of relishing within the truth she simply knocked out Jedrzejczyk – arguably the best feminine fighter the UFC has ever seen – in roughly three minutes, Namajunas used her platform to ship a heartfelt message in regards to the state of the game (and the world).
“There’s just been a lot of trash talking,” Namajunas says. “People aren’t actually being true to themselves or sincere. Maybe that’s simply what they really feel they should do to entertain, however I am type of sick of it. I am sick of all of the hate and anger. I really feel like we have now an obligation as fighters to try to be a greater instance.
“Martial arts is about honor and respect. It takes plenty of braveness to get in that cage regardless of who you might be. I simply need to try to set an instance in that manner. Just with the remainder of the world, I feel there’s plenty of negativity in every single place you look. It’s simply negativity on a regular basis. I’m simply making an attempt to be that constructive mild as a lot as doable. I am not good, both. But possibly we’ll determine easy methods to make this world a greater place.”
As somebody who got here via a tumultuous upbringing with bodily and emotional turmoil, Namajunas is not enthusiastic about following within the footsteps of a Conor McGregor and being a boisterous champion. She refused to have interaction Jedrzejczyk within the lead-up to the struggle and let her efficiency do the speaking.
Not each champion will relate to Namajunas’ perspective, however after UFC 217, the corporate has at the very least three champions who confirmed that the quietest individual within the room is usually probably the most harmful. And that is three greater than it had earlier than.
Mike Bohn is Rolling Stone’s fight sports activities reporter. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.