UFC 217 Has The Wrong Main Event



by Mike Pendleton | Chicagoland Sports Radio | a special to Cagesiders

While Georges St-Pierre may be one of the greatest MMA fighters to ever step foot inside the UFC octagon and one of the best champions the promotion has ever had, it may have been a mistake to give him the headlining main event fight in his return to face Michael Bisping for the middleweight title at UFC 217 on November 4.

First and foremost, GSP was one of the most dynamic and unstoppable champions as the 170-pound welterweight champion, but his return will see him move up 15 pounds in weight to face an aging Bisping who is having the biggest moments of his career in the back half of it. While there is no taking away from Bisping who would become the first fighter ever to beat both Anderson Silva and St-Pierre if he is victorious at UFC 217, there has been plenty of questions and criticism surrounding this matchup.

Besides just the rankings and weight class issue with this fight, the rivalry between the two seems too fabricated and in some ways uncomfortable. On one hand you have the very-outspoken, trash-talking, beer-drinking, Michael Bisping who has the UFC record for most wins and his opponent is one of the nicest, most soft-spoken, almost model-citizen and one of the greatest champions to ever compete. The trash talking is so one-sided that it comes off as Bisping is just trying to bully “Rush” St-Pierre.

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None of the fabricated rivalry feels right and none of it certainly feels like it should be the main event fight in the UFC’s return to Madison Square Garden. Back in 2016 the promotion made their NYC debut when Conor McGregor defeated lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two weight divisions simultaneously. Following up history and following up the sport’s biggest star with a fighter who has been away for four years, is not ideal. Not only has the sport grown and changed in GSP’s time away from fighting but so has the fan base and the thought that his fans would come flocking back when he returns, is probably a far-fetched thought at best.

With all that being said, the actual fight between GSP and Bisping inside the Octagon could be very intriguing and entertaining. The outside trash talking could play a factor in how GSP decides to attack Bisping, but at the end of the day, this fight seems as if it’s in the wrong place and time for what it is: a money fight as the UFC tries to bring back a former cemented star.

We saw that not only was it Conor McGregor’s star power that sold the show at UFC 205 but also that there was a good rivalry between the two to really put it over the top. So as the conversation is had that Bisping vs St-Pierre are the main event on the wrong fight card, the conversation as for what should replace it must also be had.

The real main event should be what is scheduled as the co-main headliner between bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and former teammate TJ Dillashaw. From a promotional standpoint, neither of the former TUF 25 coaches have gotten a chance to really steal the spotlight from Bisping or GSP and seem as if they’re in the backseat for this ride.

Former teammates Garbrandt and Dillashaw were originally scheduled to fight and headline at UFC 213 following the conclusion of TUF 25 but the champion had to withdraw due to a back injury. So certainly, it is logical to believe that there is some fatigue to this fight and the spotlight it deserves, but make no mistake, it’s these kind of fights that would make 217 even more electric. There has been plenty of bad blood between both fighters individually and the gyms/coaches in which they train with, but it seems as if this fight is just flying under the radar.

The UFC is in need of a good rivalry right now. McGregor vs Nate Diaz may never happen again, Jon Jones is on the sidelines once again so his feud with Daniel Cormier is left unanswered, which sets up the perfect opportunity for Garbrandt and Dillashaw.

There’s plenty to say about this fight. The two former Team Alpha Male teammates have gone back-and-forth in the media, and with the title on the line, the bad blood between the two only sweetens the pot from a promotional standpoint. This rivalry isn’t fabricated, this fight doesn’t need extra attention or promotion. Garbrandt and Dillashaw would likely fight in the middle of the woods in Oregon if they had to, and that’s why they deserve the main spot at UFC 217.

Unfortunately unless a fighter is pulled from the card due to weight cutting issues or injury, there’s a zero to slim chance that these two former friends will move up. There has been chatter that UFC 217 isn’t selling the way that the promotion or anyone had really hoped for, and one can only question if a fabricated main event between two totally different people and certainly two totally different fighters, is the reason to blame for underwhelming ticket sales.

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