For the past few years UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has been the biggest mixed martial arts star in the entire world. He has headlined numerous pay-per-view shows, received dozens of lucrative endorsement deals, and brought a great deal of attention and money to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As can be expected for a guy in this position, St-Pierre has been respected, loved, and adored by just about everybody in the UFC, from president Dana White, to commentator Joe Rogan, to owner Lorenzo Fertitta. Hell, even the guys who fight him end up liking GSP too. I mean after all, if you promote him, fight him, or have him signed to a contract, then you stand to make a good deal of money. Considering all of this, why has every one of these people been uncharacteristically cold towards the champ since UFC 167? This is true especially White and Rogan, with both relentlessly telling various media outlets things like “GSP definitely lost the fight,” “GSP needs to retire and give Hendricks the belt,” and “GSP thinks it’s the end of the world but its not…” Here we will look at the likely explanation for this.
The GSP Factor
St-Pierre has been a remarkably valuable commodity for the UFC. Aside from his popularity in Canada and his mass appeal to just about every demographic out there, he has been wildly successful in the biggest money maker for the UFC: pay-per-view buys. Since UFC 58 in March 2006, GSP took part in PPV cards that have averaged 650,000 buys, and with the price of a PPV ranging from 45 (back then) to 60 dollars (nowadays), and the UFC splitting the PPV revenue with the carrier, that is an insane amount of cash that GSP helped to generate – somewhere in the neighborhood between 450 and 600 million bucks!
As amazing as it has been for the UFC to have GSP during the last decade plus, imagine the fear of losing that cash cow. GSP may not be retiring in the coming months or the next year or maybe even two, but he will be gone eventually and so will the cash that he generates. Obviously the UFC brass is aware of this and probably has been planning for this for some time. The smart thing for them to do would be to build up another superstar in the same division that can take St-Pierre’s place. To use the last remaining years of the GSP era to build a fighter that is loved, hated, or a mixture of the two to draw big numbers and carry the 170lbs division… the problem is that a fighter who fit the bill did not appear until late 2011, and that fighter was Johny Hendricks.
A Suitable Replacement
The UFC would build up Hendricks as they simultaneously stopped pushing the GSP bandwagon, leading up to a huge changing of the guard event that would make Hendricks a superstar. The problem? GSP won the decision against Hendricks, and the incredible punching power previously displayed by the challenger – that made him interesting – was barely visible in the fight. On top of all this, GSP stole any buzz that Hendricks had generated during the fight by taking to the microphone after their UFC 167 bout and declaring that he was… gonna hang up the gloves… for a while… and he had nothing else to add. Talk about an anticlimactic ending!
So the reason the UFC is being cold to St-Pierre is simple, and comes down to the oldest justification in history: MONEY. Bottom line, GSP will be gone soon and White and company need to use him to build their next cash cow. I’m sure with White, who is always talking about how wealthy St-Pierre is, feels that since he helped get him to that level then GSP needs to do the UFC a solid and pay it forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel Dana and company are being just a little bit too coldhearted about the whole thing, but I am not surprised. This may be a business, but Georges St-Pierre has been about as loyal, consistent, considerate, and lucrative as any fighter in UFC history. In the time that guys like Brock Lesnar have come and gone, GSP has remained equal parts work horse and golden goose. Even if he threw a monkey wrench into the plans of the UFC, he deserves to be treated with the same respect that he has always shown everyone else, even the people he beat the ever-loving crap out of.