A couple of weeks ago, Dana White told reporters that he would be “super pissed” if then UFC middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre refused to face interim titlist Robert Whittaker and vacated the belt he won from Michael Bisping instead.
Shortly after St-Pierre did exactly that, however, the UFC president claimed that his emotional response never quite reached those incandescent levels. Rather, White suggested that he had seen it coming all along. He made it seem like this had been an inevitability from the outset and depicted St-Pierre as a cherry picker – something that was both insulting to Bisping and slightly unfair to ‘GSP’ considering it had just emerged that the Canadian legend had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
“I thought I would be [super pissed], but I’m not. I expected it,” he said. “Listen, I had him sign a contract that said he would defend against Whittaker for a reason — because I knew he wouldn’t.”
“He doesn’t want to fight anybody at welterweight,” White continued. “That’s why he fought Bisping. He didn’t want to fight [Tyron] Woodley, he didn’t want to fight [Stephen] ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. He didn’t want to fight any of those guys. He wanted to fight Michael Bisping, and he did, and now he’s off again. So, listen, I’m not shocked, I’m not mad. It is what it is(via MMAFighting).”
On Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, St-Pierre’s esteemed Brazilian Jiu-jitsu coach John Danaher painted a very different picture.
“Actually, he entered the contract negotiations saying he would fight Whittaker,” said Danaher. “He had every intention of fighting twice, a minimum of twice, at middleweight.”
Things have since changed drastically as a result of St-Pierre’s ongoing medical issues, however. Not only is a return to middleweight now seemingly unlikely, but there is a chance that St-Pierre doesn’t make a return of any kind.
“[Retirement] is definitely a possibility,” said Danaher. “These are deeply personal decisions that Georges has to make. More over, they have to be made not as spur of the moment decisions.”
“These are life-changing decisions, so they will have to made on the basis of Georges’ reaction to the medications that he’s taking for ulcerative colitis.”
“From what I understand, the standard medications for ulcerative colitis take some considerable amount time to take effect – anywhere from three to eight months – before you’ll even notice any changes. We have to see how he reacts to his medication regiment and make a decision based on that(Transcription via Peter Carroll).”
Danaher was the first to reveal the extent of the troubles that arose and wreaked havoc during St-Pierre’s camp for the Bisping fight. In a social media post a few days after UFC 217, Danaher claimed that the former longtime UFC welterweight champion suffered from stomach pains and frequent episodes of vomiting due to a calorie-packed diet that was designed to help him gain weight ahead of his middleweight debut.
The best laid plans of mice and men: As a coach one of the main aspects of my job is to conceive plans of action that raise the likelihood of an athlete winning an event. Yet despite our best intentions, there is always a good chance of things going awry that require spontaneous change and adaption in the face of unexpected circumstances. All the major MMA fight camps I have been a part of furnished unforeseen incidents and drama that could not have been predicted and which had to be overcome. Probably the most flawless and well run fight camp I ever saw was that of Georges St-Pierre in preparation for Nick Diaz (Interestingly, his prior fight camp with Carlos Condit was probably the worst). We had an excellent game plan, the physical preparation was excellent, superb choice of sparring partners, all match contingencies covered, no injuries, no backstage drama, perfect weight cut – everything was perfect – until the very night before the fight when Georges drank some watermelon juice for rehydration that had been too long out of the fridge and got a badly upset stomach. He spent the entire night vomiting. It was so sad to see such a perfect camp get ruined at the last minute by such a minor oversight. The night of the fight, Mr St-Pierre came in underweight and drained. We had to curtail the warm up for fear of exhausting him before the bout even began. There was some drama with Mr Diaz’s camp insisting that both sides have their hand wraps double checked. This was done, but we did not want them to see how bad Mr St-Pierre looked, so he had to put on an act of confidence and vigor when they came in the dressing room. In the end, Mr St-Pierre showed why he was a great champion that night, putting on a dominant shut-out performance to win a unanimous decision – no one in the audience would have guessed how serious a problem he had to overcome. He used a system of pacing the rounds and timing the takedowns and allowing standing escapes to maintain the pace of the fight whilst controlling the action but at the same time, not exhausting himself. It worked brilliantly and the problem was overcome. This kind of adaptation is crucial in fight preparation at all levels.
After he was diagnosed with colitis, St-Pierre himself suggested that his attempts to gain weight were the cause of the illness.
Though the bigger issues here seem to be a medical and physical ones, Danaher asserted that St-Pierre would also have to be psychologically prepared for and willing to partake in another arduous camp.
“What I don’t like to see is people fighting because they think they have to,” continued Danaher. “This is a very, very hard sport. I don’t think many people are aware of the rigors of what goes on in a championship level fight camp.
“It’s not for the faint of heart, and if you’re not 100 percent committed to the project and it’s not something you positively enjoy doing at least in some way, you don’t have to love every aspect of it but there has to be some kind of deep feeling of enjoyment fulfillment – then I don’t believe you should get involved.
“I know one fight camp where Georges wasn’t mentally committed to it was the fight camp with Hendricks, where there were doubts about whether he wanted to be fighting anymore. That was probably the fight camp where he had the least motivation to get in there, as he normally would.
“Here (for the Bisping fight) there was tremendous motivation.
“Georges was extremely enthusiastic about the fight and expressed a deep desire to comeback. But, there was a physical problem, which was making it difficult.”
Ahead of the Bisping fight, the chance to become a two-weight champion was a dangling carrot that perhaps dragged him through the tough times. Having achieved that, however, would St-Pierre be able to find the fuel to continue? Would the chance to regain his old welterweight crown stoke the fires adequately? Or would it seem like going over old ground? He has shown some interest in a return to 170lbs, but is it strong enough to drag him back into the gym after a bout with illness?
Another question, of course, is would the UFC allow ‘GSP’ to fight again? He signed a contract saying that he would defend the middleweight title if he ripped it from Bisping. He has reneged, albeit for medical reasons. Will they allow him to come back at a lower weight and make a mockery of that agreement, as well as their authority?
Danaher doesn’t have the answers to these questions and isn’t sure about what will happen going forward. Rather, he told Helwani that we will all just have to wait and see how St-Pierre’s recovery goes.
“Your first question was medically will he be able to comeback? The answer is we don’t know yet and we’ll see how he reacts to the medication,” Danaher told his host. “Your second question was psychologically is he in the game – does he want to do this?”
“I know for a fact that prior to the Bisping fight the answer was yes. Since this medical problem has come up and become so prevalent and emerged so strongly in the middle of the last camp – it’s an open question at this point. It’ll be determined by how he reacts to the medication that he is on.”