Georges St-Pierre, who once not only held the UFC’s welterweight championship for more than five years, he was also considered Canada’s ‘Athlete of the Year’. It was an accolade he won three years in a row, from 2008-2010 and made him a national treasure. Now, seven years later, it appears that gold has lost it’s luster.
In what I can only deem as a peculiar and disappointing analysis, I feel as if I am walking the frozen tundra of my area of Canada as one of the very few people who know Georges is returning to action after a four year hiatus.
There was once a time when a GSP fight was a lock for one’s Saturday night’s plans. And with his impending return this Saturday night, my own personal research as to the interest in his big middleweight title fight vs. champion Michael Bisping nearly null and void.
Back in the (not so distant) day, my email and phone would be a non-stop discussion medium for ‘how is Georges going to do’ or ‘are you available to talk about the fight’ questions. I would hit the grocery store to purchase products and would be stopped in the aisles or in the line-ups to talk about his fights.
During business meetings, the topic of GSP would inevitably come up. At these meetings, others would introduce themselves to get any intel from me, to see how Georges would do vs his next adversary. Heck, even those looking to put money on GSP would reach out to see what my thoughts would be.
The analogy I have used countless times of my personal litmus test of how well a UFC pay per view will likely do was always simply a barometer of my interactions online or in person / passing with the folks outside of the MMA bubble. When Georges fought, the figurative meters would peak, almost red line. The only other fighters I can say that would red line the meter were Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor.
With a mere few days left to go until St-Pierre steps back into the octagon, the meter here has barely moved. In fact, when I say barely, I literally mean it hasn’t moved much. While a few media outlets have reached out to me to discuss Georges’ return, the average Joe and Joanne on the streets are nowhere to be found.
Instead, I’m the one who brings it up in regular conversations, informing anyone and everyone I come across that our beloved Canadian icon is returning to action this Saturday night … and the reactions have been mixed.
From ‘no way’ to ‘really!?!?’ to the counter-question of ‘are you going to watch?’, the buzz is simply not there. I sincerely thought this was going to be a situation which would rejuvenate the sport in a country that UFC President Dana White once called ‘The Mecca of MMA’. And my goodness have I been wrong thus far.
Yet if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years covering MMA, it’s simply that there is still time.
Time for the masses to jump on board. Time for the mainstream public in Canada get wind that Georges St-Pierre is back. He hasn’t faded away. While the UFC has taken a popularity hit in The Great White North, there is no real strong reason for Georges to feel the wrath of the public’s forgotten perception of the UFC.
During a recent meeting this week with a UFC related sponsor, I was told ‘the damage was done’, referring to ‘the sport being dead’ in our parts and that ‘is the UFC even on TV anymore’, I had to take a step back and respectfully disagree.
It’s still alive. It’s not dead in Canada, and neither is Georges St-Pierre’s career. While it is currently in an unfortunate sad state of affairs, perhaps a win by the Canadian on Saturday night will have everyone buzzing on Sunday morning. And perhaps this high will last for awhile, changing the trajectory of the sport to an upward trend instead of it’s slow tailspin over the past few years.
Time will tell, but as a Canadian, I cannot fathom what a GSP loss on Saturday night would do for the sport in Canada. While a story for another day, as it stands right now, my fingers are crossed that Georges can do what he did in the past: take the sport of MMA and the UFC brand to a level on par with the other major sports consumed in this country.
It may feel and sound like crickets in Canada right now, but hopefully it will be thunderous roar of approval come Saturday night, and well into the weeks to come.