Opinion: GSP should be next in line for a shot at the Welterweight belt over Colby Covington
On Saturday night, Colby Covington seemed to make a definitive case for the next shot at Tyron Woodley. However, that case isn’t quite as clear as it may appear. There is another welterweight that has a stronger claim to the next crack at taking Tyron Woodley’s belt. That man is Georges St-Pierre.
The case for Covington is obvious. He won his last 6 fights, 3 of those came against top 15 opponents, and the last won him the interim belt. His striking looked vastly improved in his fight against Rafael Dos Anjos. He pushed a ridiculous pace in that fight as well. For the first time in his career, he really looked like he could threaten Woodley.
GSP is a different animal. He’s third all-time in consecutive UFC title defense and he’s a two division champion. For a little over 6 years, he completely dominated the welterweight division. In my opinion, Georges St-Pierre is the greatest fighter to ever set foot in the octagon. Over the course of his career, he has earned this shot over and over again.
There is also a major gap in the drawing power of GSP and Covington. Covington has recently been able to rile fans up with his Brazil hating, nerd bashing persona. The problem is that we have absolutely no evidence that the vitriol toward him from fans will actually translate into pay-per view buys. He has never been trusted to headline a UFC fight card and UFC 225 was only his third appearance on a UFC main card. The extent of his drawing power is simply unknown. That’s not an issue GSP has.
With St-Pierre, you know what you’re getting. He hasn’t had a card he headlined sell less than 600k pay-per-views in over a decade. He headlined the most successful PPV of 2017 and won a belt in a second division on that card. That win will likely help make him even more of a draw. He is the surefire draw the division needs right now. Tyron Woodley has never been a big draw and has put on two of the most dull performances of his career in his last two fights. The second of those fights came on the second biggest card of 2017 and didn’t endear him to the large number of fans watching the fight.
Training at LA Wildcard gym with my friend and coach @FreddieRoach – Always great to be here! Good luck to @antoniosimsjr and @iagokiladze for their upcoming boxing matches! pic.twitter.com/IHLM9RnyNs— Georges St-Pierre (@GeorgesStPierre) May 25, 2018
A win over GSP would instantly make him more marketable or a GSP win would add his stardom to any title fight in the division. In a time where the UFC is struggling to sell PPVs, the UFC needs as many marketable champions as possible. The winner of this fight could also eventually take on Conor McGregor after fighting the interim champ. This is something the UFC would love as it gets their biggest draw a shot at winning a 3rd title on pay-per-view. That fight would be massive.
With two stacked pay-per-views coming up, the UFC needs a fight that can sell a card by itself. Woodley-GSP would be a fight that fits that mold. Unless McGregor is coming back soon, GSP is the only fighter on the UFC roster that can sell a card by himself. There have been recent rumors that UC 228 will take place in Canada and that would make GSP a perfect fit as the main event.
There is also a time component to this fight. Covington is only 30 years old. Based on the massive improvements he made in the 8 months since his fight with Demian Maia I think it’s fair to say that a few extra months of training could give us the most dangerous version of Covington we’ve ever seen. For Woodley and St-Pierre that simply isn’t true.
Woodley is 36 years old. GSP is 37. Both men have excelled in their careers in part due to their freakish athleticism. Nobody knows how much longer either man has before that starts to go away. Waiting to make this fight happen could deprive fans of one of the highest level fights of all time. We saw in Chicago what can happen when we match greatness against greatness. When champions are faced with great opponents, it brings out their absolute best. It’s happened time and again that we’ve seen the greats of the game rise to a new level against their greatest opposition.
While GSP-Woodley likely wouldn’t lead to the type of insanity that Whittaker-Romero 2 produced, it would be the most talent we’ve ever seen in a welterweight fight. It isn’t often that we get the chance to see the two best fighters in a division’s history square off while both at their best. When we get the chance to see it we should do everything we can to get that chance. GSP didn’t look to have lost a step against Bisping, but we don’t know how long that will be true for.
To me, this vastly outweighs the importance of a meaningless belt. The UFC isn’t even pretending they matter anymore. They put one up for grabs at UFC 221 in February, only 7 months after Whittaker won an interim belt of his own. It was also only 2 months after he was promoted to the undisputed champ. He defended the belt 11 months after winning the interim belt. Tony Ferguson won an interim belt in October, was stripped of it in April, and now likely won’t be the next contender for the lightweight title. As great as Covington looked on Saturday, his interim belt shouldn’t even exist. If he didn’t have it then I wouldn’t imagine many people would mind making him wait. If the UFC won’t even pretend there is meaning to the belts anymore, then why should we let them be an excuse to keep ourselves from greatness?
I understand that Covington looked impressive at UFC 225 and is supposed to fight for the belt next. I just don’t want to be deprived of potential greatness because of a pointless belt. Colby can have his shot after the GOAT. I’m okay with letting Colby wait a few extra months for his shot. I’m not okay with the idea of never seeing Woodley-GSP because the UFC needs to continue pretending interim belts matter. They don’t. Witnessing greatness like we saw on Saturday night does.