TORONTO — It’s 1,300 days and counting since Georges St-Pierre last fought. But the former UFC welterweight champion says he feels better than ever on the comeback trail.
“I’m in the best shape of my life,” the 36-year-old Montreal MMA star said in an interview Thursday.
There is a chink in the GSP armour, however.
“Let’s say you go out with your friend and have a few drinks, it takes more time to recuperate,” he admitted. “But all the rest — you’re wiser, smarter, more experienced, more powerful, stronger.”
St-Pierre, whose last fight was at UFC 167 on Nov. 16, 2013, ended his hiatus from the sport when he signed a new contract in February. The UFC announced GSP would move up a weight class to face middleweight champion Michael Bisping later this year.
St-Pierre and the UFC have since clashed over when the fight should take place. UFC president Dana White wants it sooner than later. GSP says he can’t fight until November because of an eye injury.
St-Pierre (25-2-0) says he spoke to White this week to press his case to battle Bisping.
“I told Dana if you want to do it in November, I’m the man … I think it’s a great fight, a fight everybody wants to see.”
But the bout is still up in the air, it seems.
White told Fox Sports Australia in May: “Michael Bisping is going to have to defend his title now. We’re not waiting for GSP.”
Things became more complicated when Bisping injured a knee. That could open the door for an interim championship bout between No. 1 contender Yoel Romero and No. 3 Robert Whittaker, with a healthy Bisping fighting the winner.
White has said if Bisping survives that, the bout with GSP could go ahead at a later date. A Bisping loss and St-Pierre’s comeback may have to be back at welterweight.
“My eyes are on Bisping,” St-Pierre insisted.
“I always said that if I come back, it would be to do something different — something that can elevate me,” he added. “Because I have a lot to lose.”
Fighting Bisping at 185 pounds merits the risk, he believes.
The brash Brit has a title and holds the UFC record for most wins (20).
“Plus he’s been very cocky. he’s said a lot of things about me,” said St-Pierre, who has 19 UFC victories.
“I take a big risk. I can lose big but I can win big,” he added. “And I will win big.”
St-Pierre says he will retire “right away” if he loses. He will keep going if he wins.
The UFC says it has no official position on GSP’s return fight other than what White has said in recent interviews.
“We look forward to seeing Georges return to the Octagon as soon as we are able to set a date and opponent,” a UFC spokeswoman said.
Bisping, who last fought in October, has stepped into the cage eight times since St-Pierre left the scene. GSP has kept training — he underwent knee surgery as a result of a practice injury — and his Twitter feed shows him doing everything from gymnastics to push-ups with a car tire on his back.
St-Pierre looks bigger these days, weighing between 195 and 200 pounds. He used to walk around at 185 pounds when he competed as a welterweight.
He hired a nutritionist to help him get use to the extra weight he will be carrying to fight the 38-year-old Bisping (31-7-0).
Tyron Woodley, the current 170-pound champion, is due to face No. 1 contender Demian Maia next.
The Canadian clearly believes he has some bargaining power, given his past pay-per-view successes. St-Pierre says he remains in the top echelon of draws along with Conor McGregor and the Diaz Brothers.
St-Pierre stepped away from the sport after winning his 12th straight fight, albeit via a narrow decision over Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks. He said he needed the break because his life had become “completely insane” and a “freaking zoo.”
Today he has no regrets about that decision.
“I should have walked way a little bit earlier. Maybe I would have come back earlier.”
The fighter spoke at an appearance at a downtown MMA gym to promote the new Nintendo Switch game “Arms.”