After Georges St-Pierre publicly posted on his Instagram account, that he has officially signed on to fight UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping, a new seed has been planted in the Canadian’s homeland. Will it reinvigorate the marketplace or will it it be just another tree in the forest?
As a resident of The Great White North, I can honestly say that Georges’ post did not catch the attention many thought it would. When he first announced his comeback earlier this year, there was a sense of pride amongst many in the Canadian sports scene. Mainstream outlets, both within the sports realm and outside of it, jumped on the story right away.
Despite my personal bias, I’ve always maintained that Canada still has a hunger for the UFC, but it has been squashed and figuratively silenced. During it’s peak, GSP was the welterweight champion of the world, a three-time athlete of the year in Canada and every move he made, every word he spoke, every public appearance he did, was captured and broadcast to the nation.
Then, after being publically humiliated by UFC President Dana White after his bout vs. Johny Hendricks, that “Canada is the Mecca of MMA” plane took a massive nose dive. White’s comments infuriated Canadians while GSP sat there, licking his wounds, realizing it was time to move on.
At the time, Georges was a walking ATM machine for the promotion. But it was a different era back then and GSP had enough. He pulled the plug from the wall and went about his own business.
But the damage was done. Fans were disgusted with White, the UFC and it began a domino effect of viewership and waning interest that remains to this day. To my understanding, the only peaks the UFC has seen in viewership and pay per view numbers since Georges’ departure from the scene have been when Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor competed. For the most part, Jon Jones has been in and out of competition.
Unfortunately, there has not been a Canadian fighter that has been able to break through into the mainstream to take the torch for Georges. One such fighter who could easily do it is Elias Theodorou, but the Toronto native is handcuffed by the lack of media attention he deserves. Like Georges, he has the look but better than St-Pierre, is that he has a different type of wit and will not hold back when a mic is put in front of him.
‘The Spartan’ is at the top of the Canadian UFC fighter food chain that deserves far more attention than he currently deserves. One look at the UFC roster and you will see a bunch of Canucks that pretty much no one in the country has potentially heard of, yet deserve to be seen and heard and to make way more money than they are garnering right now.
Names like Misha Cirkunov, Chad Laprise, Randa Markos, John Makdessi, Mitch Gagnon, Aimenn Zahabi, Alexis Davis, Sarah Moras, Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Jordan Mein, Steve Bosse, Mitch Clarke, Jason Saggo, Gavin Tucker, Ryan Janes, Sheldon Westcott and Jonathan Meunier.
The reasons why none of them have yet or have not captured the attention of the Canadian fanbase, to yours truly, is obvious, but part of that, and a big one, is the UFC’s. Yes, it takes two to tango, but to build fighters into stars that the UFC can profit from while the athletes can make more money, isn’t rocket science. The fighters have to do their part, but so does the promotion … and the promotion just has to make better decisions in the country they do business in.
History has proven that under the right circumstances you can easily build and get names like Georges St-Pierre, Patrick Cote, David Loiseau, Rory MacDonald, Mark Hominick, Sam Stout, TJ Grant, Sean Pierson and others.
It’s not a coincidence that the UFC has taken a nose dive in Canada. Fans are unaware of the patriots they can cheer for but they all know who Georges St-Pierre is. And with him coming back later this year, there will be renewed interest in the octagon based product.
Ironically (or should I say coincidentally) enough, it comes at an interesting time for the UFC in Canada. No doubt they will try and parlay it accordingly and this time, we will see if they make the same mistake twice.
Georges is almost back and if they want to ski down that mountain to revitalizing their product, they need to be much smarter than what they were a few years ago. Canada has always been there for the taking. They let it go and too many fighters have suffered from it, as has their product.
Georges was a catalyst before and it looks like he will be one once again. History could be repeating itself in a country I believe the UFC needs a lot of help in. But they have gone in two different ways in the past. One way, saw them fill the Rogers Centre with over 55,000 people. The other way saw them barely hold any events in the country with their product nearly off of the Canadian sports radar.
Time will tell, but with Georges St-Pierre returning to action, there is a glimmer of hope that Canada could once again become the Mecca of MMA.