While the MMA world is in a frenzy over Georges St-Pierre returning from a three-year hiatus to challenge UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping for his crown, there’s a certain “Soldier of God” in Florida who is none too pleased with Wednesday’s announcement.
In a money move, the UFC decided to put Yoel Romero (pictured) on the back-burner in favor of pitting Bisping against someone who has never competed in a UFC middleweight bout and has been “on a break” for 39 months. Granted, said opponent is GEORGES ST-PIERRE, but the former welterweight king’s credentials won’t help Romero sleep any better tonight. It certainly won’t help his bank account tomorrow.
After coming to terms with St-Pierre last month on a new contract, the UFC’s new owners, who shelled out a whopping $4 billion in July to purchase the company, desperately needed to make a splash for his return.
The planet’s premier mixed martial arts promotion is in dire need of superstars now that Anderson Silva is losing his battle with Father Time, Ronda Rousey has cratered back down to earth, Jon Jones is still suffering the consequences of doing Jon Jones things and Conor McGregor is chasing a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Word from St-Pierre’s camp is that he’s not currently interested in trying to reclaim the welterweight throne that he dominated before voluntarily relinquishing it in December 2013. The next logical move would be to gift him to Bisping for a middleweight title tilt.
And make no mistake, “gifted him to Bisping” is appropriately worded. St-Pierre is the biggest money fight out there for Bisping, who revealed this week on “The MMA Hour” that he’s “never had a $1 million payday” during his 13-year MMA career. Well, back up the Brinks truck, Mikey, because you’re about to make bank.
The move is a win-win for the UFC. St-Pierre has the chance to become just the fourth fighter in UFC history to win titles in two different weight classes in his return, which would once again solidify his status as one of the organization’s biggest global superstars. The UFC also hedged their bet because Bisping is arguably the worst champion the company has ever seen (Bisping didn’t sniff a UFC title fight until 26 bout in), so GSP could have faced far tougher competition than the 37-year-old in a comeback fight.
Unfortunately for Romero, someone has to take the L, and in this case, it’s him. St-Pierre’s return couldn’t have come at a worse time for Romero, as he’s three months removed from sending former middleweight champ Chris Weidman into unconsciousness with a perfectly placed knee to the dome at UFC 205 to notch his eighth straight win. Romero finished off six of those victims via some form of knockout.
Speaking of Romero’s torrid run, before Weidman he edged Ronaldo Souza, the other man who got shafted by GSP’s return (but not nearly as badly as Romero), plastered former champion Lyoto Machida and beat a gritty Tim Kennedy.
The other bad news for Romero is that he’ll turn 40 next month. Randy Couture (45) is the only fighter in UFC history to hoist the hardware after clocking the big 4-0, and that was in a very weak heavyweight division. So time is certainly not on Romero’s side.
What’s Romero’s play from here? He certainly can’t ride the pine and hope to face the winner of St-Pierre/Bisping since that bout hasn’t even been assigned a date yet. A win over second-ranked Luke Rockhold would certainly have to cement his top contender status (shouldn’t it???). A rematch with third-ranked Souza is also in play since his win was via controversial split decision.
Either route is risky, even if both fighters sit below Romero in the rankings.
Sometimes UFC title shots are earned, other times they’re given. Romero will have to continue trying to earn his the hard way.