Georges St-Pierre made his successful return to the Octagon at UFC 217, where he took the middleweight title from Michael Bisping, notching another historic moment in his already storied career. But what comes next?
Even St-Pierre doesn't know.
St-Pierre readily admits that he is contractually obligated to remain at middleweight for his next UFC bout. If he returns to the Octagon, there is a clause in his contract that requires him to unify the UFC middleweight championship he just won with the interim version of the belt that Robert Whittaker currently holds.
“Robert Whittaker is in my contract. If I want to fight again, it has to be against Robert Whittaker at 185 [pounds]. It's in my contract. I cannot go fight Tyron Woodley or go fight another guy. My contract is that the UFC doesn't want me to fight anywhere. I have to fight Robert Whittaker, that's my contract. That's the term of my contract,” St-Pierre said during a UFC 217 post-fight media call on Thursday.
“The UFC did not want me to go to middleweight and drop the belt and go to another weight class. It's business. They want to protect their belt. It's normal from their point of view. That's why they wrote that clause in my contract.”
That's all well and good, but at the same time that he says he is required to fight Whittaker next, St-Pierre also admits that he isn't sure what his next step is.
It may be in his contract to fight Whittaker, but St-Pierre is hesitant to commit to that bout.
“I don’t have any intention of making the (middleweight) guys lose their time,” St-Pierre said, before casting a shadow of doubt on his future as a fighter. “I’m gonna go on vacation next week (then talk to the UFC). Right now, my contract is written that I have to fight Robert Whittaker, but a lot of things can happen in MMA, you see things change all the time.”
There are a number of things that could happen to change the equation.
One, St-Pierre sounded very pleased with his return to the Octagon to capture the middleweight title. Finally haven chosen to fight instead of being required to fight made him happy. But was that all he needed to cap an already legendary career? Is it possible that he might simply decide to walk away, making his contractual obligation a moot point?
Then again, if he were to say to the UFC that he'd rather walk away than to defend the belt at middleweight, whose to say they wouldn't relent?
Contracts were made to be broken, after all. And when money is involved, contracts get broken rather quickly.
“I don't plan to hold the title and not defend it. I'm not going to do that when there is other guys in line,” said St-Pierre. “I always take one fight at a time. I want to do something to make history, to do something in the sport that has never been done before. That's my goal, to raise the bar, to do something new. That's what motivates me.”
That doesn't exactly sound like St-Pierre is content to simply be a champion defending his belt. It would be an accomplishment to make a run at middleweight similar to his title reign at welterweight, but his words bely something bigger, though even he doesn't appear to know what's next.
His contract may be written, but it's not written in stone. The UFC needs stars to continue to push its product to new levels, and that is something that is required after being bought out for roughly $4 billion. So if St-Pierre has something bigger than defending the belt in mind, and it makes business sense to the UFC (meaning dollars and cents), the contract can be broken.
The question that remains, however, is what's next for Georges St-Pierre?
“I don't know. I don't know yet. I have no idea what's going to happen. I'll find out soon, but I don't know yet. I don't know even know myself what's going to be the next move.”
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