Georges St-Pierre built his career by dominating his opponents on the ground. He’d get top control and wrestle and grind his way to victory.
That didn’t exactly happen at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden last Saturday. Sure, St-Pierre took down Michael Bisping three times in their middleweight title fight. But, St-Pierre took most of his damage while on top of Bisping, including a nasty cut on his forehead.
“I was a little bit rusty,” St-Pierre said Thursday on a conference call. “It’s been four years since I fought.”
Those strikes also included one that significantly hurt his neck, St-Pierre said. An elbow in the first round from Bisping to the back of the head near where the neck and spine join caused the pain, St-Pierre said. Still, the man with the four-year layoff managed to submit Bisping via rear naked choke in the third round to win the title.
“My neck was so inflamed, when I was on the floor, I had a hard time posturing up to strike because it was hurting me very bad,” St-Pierre said. “It was a very weird feeling. I felt like my muscles were numb and dead. It was very strange. After the fight, when I cooled down, it was terrible. My neck couldn’t move. It was very bad.”
St-Pierre was transported to a New York City hospital after the fight. On Thursday, he said he was doing much better and expects to be 100 percent soon. He also said the placement of that strike was unintentional and absolved Bisping of any wrongdoing.
In his post-fight interview Saturday, St-Pierre spoke of setting traps for Bisping to fall into during their fight. On Thursday’s conference call, the new champion elaborated on what he did and how it came to fruition.
St-Pierre knocked down Bisping with a left hook late in the third round that led to the finish. That counter was an adjustment in the corner from trainer Freddie Roach, in response to Bisping’s adjustments in the second round. St-Pierre followed up with some elbows, and as Bisping worked to get back up, St-Pierre backed off for a brief moment.
“The way he stands up, he likes to go belly down on four points and stand up from there,” St-Pierre said. “So instead of wasting my energy trying to hold him down like I did before, I decided to give him the space to go belly down, try to stand up. And when he exposed his back, I took his back and choked him.”
That brought an end to the fight and put St-Pierre in the record books as the fourth fighter in UFC history to win titles in multiple weight classes.
It also put the former welterweight king in the spotlight for this line of questioning: Who will he fight next? At what weight class? Will he even fight again?
“Right now, my contract is written that I have to fight Robert Whittaker,” St-Pierre said Thursday, referring to the interim middleweight champion. “But, a lot of things can happen in MMA. You see things change all the time.”
St-Pierre said he plans to go on vacation next week, then discuss the next move with his team and the UFC.
“I have no intention of holding the belt and freezing the whole division,” St-Pierre said. “Robert Whittaker is in my contract. If I want to come back, if I want to fight again, it has to be against Robert Whittaker at 185 [pounds]. That’s in my contract. I cannot, for example, go fight Tyron Woodley or go fight another guy.”
Yes, but as St-Pierre said and as fans are constantly reminded, both in the cage and out of it, anything is possible in mixed martial arts.