UFC 217: Dana White On GSP’s Return, Next Opponent, and Breaking Canadian PPV Record

UFC 214 Dana White
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

UFC 217 was a historic night that will go down in the annals of MMA history as a turning point for the UFC. The return of GSP was no small part of that.

Never before had three titles changed hands in a single evening. Never before had a fighter (GSP) returned after a four year absence and come out victorious.

St. Pierre did just that, winning a championship in the process. Three divisions were now wide open, where any number of contenders could emerge to challenge newly crowned kings and queens.

“No matter how much of an expert you are or you think you are, this sport’s crazy.”

UFC President Dana White addressed the shocking comeback of Georges St. Pierre in the post-fight press conference early Sunday morning at New York’s MSG. He also spoke on the historic nature of the night, saying that “I always say that this sport is about holy s*** moments. This is the holy s*** card. Every time I got up to walk over to the octagon, the whole crowd was going ‘holy s***’ or ‘wow!'”

“No matter how much of an expert you are or you think you are,” he concluded, “this sport’s crazy.”

As for the success of GSP, White said that “It’s great. It’s great to have GSP back.”

Touching on what made the victory so special, the UFC President noted that “[GSP] came in after a four year layoff and fought a tough fight tonight. People think Bisping’s easy, show me one easy fight Bisping’s been in, that you just go in and walk over Bisping. You don’t do it. GSP looked real good tonight.”

The question is now what (and who) comes next, and where. Obviously, the UFC has announced a big PPV in interim middleweight champion Robert Whittaker’s native Australia next year. UFC 221 will take place in Perth in February, and Whittaker was present when the date was announced. While White would confirm following UFC 217 that Whittaker is next for GSP, he did not sound firm about where the bout would go down.

A Canadian PPV Record

When asked about a date in Montreal or at Toronto’s Skydome (now called the Rogers Centre), White replied that “it would obviously make sense to go back to Montreal with him.”

That’s because GSP has clearly resonated with Canadian fans, despite time away from the sport. Noting that Mayweather-McGregor had held the record for PPV buys in Canada, White elaborated, saying “we’re pretty sure this beat Mayweather-McGregor in Canada tonight. I told some of you yesterday that this would do a million [overall], I was way wrong. It did over a million.”

“I’ll have a definite answer tomorrow, but it’s looking like we destroyed it.”

White isn’t lying. Numbers available to Cageside Press show that in some areas of Canada, viewership between UFC 216 (headlined by Demetrious Johnson) and UFC 217 increased as much as tenfold. UFC 216 was something of a low point for the promotion, but the event was actually hosted in Edmonton, Alberta.

Could the UFC bring GSP back to his native Montreal? Time will tell. For now, the Canadian two-division champion will likely need some time off. White explained that “I don’t even know with GSP. He was transported to the hospital, he’s got to get stitches in his nose.”

“If he doesn’t take Bisping down and keeps it standing, he comes out of that fight with almost no damage” the UFC President observed. “Bisping did some serious work from his back, split his nose open and had blood all over his face. He took some big shots from the top position, and if he didn’t do that, he’d come out pretty much unscathed.”

“We’ll see how he is, I don’t know what the status [of GSP is]” Dana White finished.