It appears that Georges St-Pierre is finally set to return to the UFC.
According to a report from MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani, the Canadian superstar is close to signing a new multi-fight contract with the UFC.
The 35-year-old hasn’t fought in more than three years but never said he was retired and confirmed in 2016 his intention to return to the Octagon. St-Pierre vacated his welterweight title and took an indefinite leave of absence in December 2013 following a split decision win over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167.
“The reason I wanted to go back and fight is because I feel right now that I’m at my best,” St-Pierre said back in October. “I’m truly confident I can beat the guys that are champions right now. I’m that confident.”
St-Pierre (25-2) had been in contract negotiations with former UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta and promotion’s old ownership group early in 2016 in an attempt to rework his contract.
The Saint-Isidore, Que., native last fought prior to the UFC signing its sponsorship deal with Reebok. St-Pierre is sponsored by Under Armour, a competitor of Reebok, so the fighter had always said it would be a potential stumbling block in negotiations.
UFC president Dana White repeatedly opined that St-Pierre didn't have the desire to compete.
"Georges St-Pierre will not fight again," White told reporters in Las Vegas at UFC 200. "I've said that before and I'll say it again. Georges St-Pierre is done. He is retired. He will not fight again...I've been in [the fight game] since I was 19 years old. I know the mentality of a fighter that wants to fight and I know the mentality of a fighter that does not want to fight."
St-Pierre never stopped training during his time away from the sport and became involved in the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association.
St-Pierre had been offered various fights during his negotiations with Fertitta, including ones that would’ve taken place at UFC 200 or UFC 205, but he thought the best date for a return would be on Dec. 10 at UFC 206 in Toronto. However, when the UFC was sold to WME-IMG in July, any potential offers St-Pierre received from Fertitta were null and void and negotiations were put on hold by the new ownership group.
"The UFC told us they would take a huge financial risk to have me back and they would need to spend a lot of money to reintroduce me to the new audience," said St-Pierre, who indicated money was the ultimate factor as to why a deal wasn’t reached. "What we asked for was really – trust me – really reasonable."
With Conor McGregor pursuing a boxing superfight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., Ronda Rousey’s fighting career in doubt, Jon Jones sitting out due to his latest suspension, Brock Lesnar’s recent retirement, and the Diaz brothers taking time off, the UFC lacks stars with drawing power. These factors could have contributed to the organization finally coming to an agreement with St-Pierre.
Generating revenue is priority No. 1 for WME-IMG, which is fronting the bill from the $4.025-billion purchase, and St-Pierre is still one of the most popular, recognizable stars in mixed martial arts despite his lengthy layoff.