Possible opponents for Georges St-Pierre’s UFC return

From left: UFC stars Michael Bisping, Tyron Woodley, Conor McGreogr, Anderson Silva. (AP Photos)

With the news that Georges St-Pierre is finally returning to the UFC (for real this time), expect speculation to ramp up regarding who his next opponent will be.

MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani, who broke the news, reported that St-Pierre’s targeted return date will be sometime in the third quarter of 2017.

UFC president Dana White confirmed to Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times Friday that St-Pierre officially signed his new contract.

“He’s back. I’m excited,” White told Pugmire. “We worked at it for a long time and finally got it done…but I have no idea when he’s going to fight right now. We don’t have anything booked and literally haven’t talked to anybody about it.”

St-Pierre hasn’t fought since November 2013 but that won’t stop the UFC from booking him in a high profile matchup. The Canadian has said in the past he’s interested in adding to his legacy and isn’t focused solely on winning his title back.

With that in mind, here are the top options for St-Pierre when he steps back into the Octagon.

Michael Bisping

The current middleweight champion verbally agreed to fight St-Pierre in Toronto, offering to headline December’s UFC 206 after a scheduled main event between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson fell apart. Nothing came to fruition because St-Pierre was still in a contract dispute with the UFC.

“Nothing would make me more happy in the world than to fight you in Toronto, Michael,” St-Pierre said in a Twitter message at the time. “Last week, I met with [new UFC owner Ari Emanuel], and I made peace with [Dana White]. I tried to resolve things, but unfortunately, right now it’s not happening. Hopefully, things will change soon.”

St-Pierre has only ever competed at welterweight (170 pounds) during his UFC career but has said he’s open to taking fights at middleweight (185 pounds) if it makes sense and the fans want it.

The fact Bisping’s title would be on the line would serve as motivation for St-Pierre. From Bisping’s perspective, a matchup with St-Pierre is far more lucrative and less dangerous than potentially defending his belt against Yoel Romero or Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

Anderson Silva

At one point in time, when both were champions at the height of their dominance, a GSP-Silva superfight was the most tantalizing matchup fight fans could ponder.

Even though St-Pierre hasn’t fought since 2013 and even though Silva is 41 and coming off a controversial unanimous decision victory over Derek Brunson at UFC 208 where he looked like a ghost of his former dynamic self, this matchup remains buzzworthy.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao happened more than half a decade later than it should have but it still did massive business. Same would be true for GSP-Silva.

“I think a superfight with Georges is great,” Silva recently told FOX Sports. “It’s a big step for this sport because I think a superfight with me and Georges St-Pierre or Conor McGregor is good for this sport and for the fans. I think [it would be] the best show for this sport.”

Tyron Woodley

A matchup with Woodley depends on several variables. One, does GSP care more about the welterweight title than he does more lucrative superfights? Two, would Demian Maia’s “next in line at welterweight” status factor into the UFC’s decision making process? Three, will Woodley even be the welterweight champ when GSP returns?

Woodley must first defend his title in a rematch with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC 209. Then, if Thompson wins the belt, would GSP want to fight him? They’ve worked together in the past at Tristar Gym and GSP has even called Thompson the best striker he has ever trained with.

If Woodley beats Thompson – something he couldn’t do when the two fought to a draw at UFC 205 – there’s a strong chance he’ll call out St-Pierre.

“Knocking off these big names in fights really solidifies me as the best welterweight that’s ever done it. Fighting Georges St-Pierre really puts the exclamation point at the end of it,” Woodley told FOX Sports. “It sounds like (GSP) is serious about coming back and I don’t think it should be a question of anybody fighting him before me.”

Conor McGregor

The wild card here is a certain Irish superstar. He’s currently aiming to put together a blockbuster boxing match with Mayweather, but it’s unclear at this time if the UFC will prevent it from ever happening.

In terms of how many pay-per-views it would sell, a McGregor-GSP fight would have the potential be the biggest fight in UFC history.

McGregor won the UFC’s 145-pound title, then the 155-pound title and recently told an audience during a Q&A in Ireland he also has his sights set on the top stars at 170 pounds, including St-Pierre.

“I will go in and slap that fool [Woodley] around the Octagon and take that third belt, no problem. That’s a real situation,” McGregor said. “I don’t know who else. All of them. GSP is another one.”

In November, after McGregor schooled Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, St-Pierre was among the betting favourites to be named McGregor’s next opponent. St-Pierre’s sat at +700 behind Nate Diaz (+175), Tyron Woodley (+300), Khabib Nurmagomedov (+400), Jose Aldo (+500) and Nick Diaz (+650).

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.