Former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre says he will be bigger and better in his November comeback fight against middleweight title-holder Michael Bisping.
The 36-year-old from Montreal has been on hiatus since Nov. 16, 2013, when he won a split decision over Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks for his ninth straight successful title defence. St-Pierre said at the time he needed to step away from the limelight because his life had become "completely insane" and a "freaking zoo."
Four years on, St-Pierre (25-2-0) faces the 38-year-old Bisping (31-7-0) in a high-profile UFC 217 main event on Nov. 4 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
St-Pierre kept training during his time away — tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in 2014 for the second time — and says he is a better athlete today than he was four years ago.
He will certainly be bigger, preparing for the move to 185 pounds.
When St-Pierre had to weigh in at 170 pounds for welterweight title defences, he would walk around at 185-186 pounds. After an eight-month layoff — and a regimen of weight-lifting — he was as heavy as 195-196 prior to his victory over Dan (The Outlaw) Hardy at UFC 111 in March 2010.
He is currently at 200 pounds.
"As soon as I knew I was fighting Bisping, I got ready, I got focused on that 100 per cent," he told The Canadian Press in a phone interview. "I hired a nutritionist, started a special diet and increased my muscle mass. And it makes me feel good."
St-Pierre, who has black belts in karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, has also gone back to his karate roots.
"I should never have left it," he said. "I think that karate suits my style better. I’ve also been working on different things — ground attacks, leg-locks, stuff like that."
And he is working with renowned boxing trainer Freddie Roach, whom he has long admired.
"It’s like my fighter fantasy to have Freddie Roach in my corner," said St-Pierre. "He’s always been busy in the past, coaching Manny Pacquiao, but he’s going to be there (on fight night) with me and he’s going to be there for my whole training camp.
St-Pierre also promises an aggressive game plan against the California-based English title-holder.
"Bisping is the champion. I’m the challenger, so I’m going to have to bring the fight to him."
With Conor McGregor counting his money after his boxing super-fight with Floyd Mayweather and Jon (Bones) Jones facing another possible doping infraction, the return of a marquee attraction is timely for the UFC.
St-Pierre has said he will retire if he loses to Bisping, but will keep going if he wins. He has no problem returning to welterweight but says the UFC would rather he defend the middleweight title.
Oddsmakers favour St-Pierre, with most listing him at -150 (meaning you need to risk $150 to win $100). Bisping is listed at +120 (meaning you need to risk $100 to win $120).
The UFC spotlight switches to Edmonton on Saturday when flyweight champion Demetrious (Mighty Mouse) Johnson takes on No. 3 contender Ray (The Tazmexican Devil) Borg at Rogers Place.
Johnson, the organization’s first and only 125-pound men’s champion, is looking for his 11th consecutive title defence.
"If you want to (name) a pound-for-pound (champion), I think he’s the No 1 candidate," said St-Pierre.
St-Pierre has kept his brand busy during his time off, with nine "partners" listed on his website. His most recent campaign is for Bud Light.