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Khabib wants Georges St-Pierre in April, but politics could get in the way

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A superfight between Khabib and GSP seems like a no-brainer, but there’s a lot of reasons this fight probably won’t happen.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is set to return in September to fight #1 conteder Dustin Poirier, his first title defense since defeating Conor McGregor in October of 2018. That’s a long while between fights but according to Khabib’s agent Ali Abdelaziz, his fighter plans to make up for lost time by fighting three times in seven months: September in Abu Dhabi, then in December, and then again sometime in April.

For the April card, Abdelaziz made it clear that they wanted legendary former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre as an opponent.

”If Georges St-Pierre can figure things out with the UFC by April, that’s the deal. He would like that fight in April,” Abdelaziz told ESPN. But it sounds like they aren’t holding out for the superfight. “If not, it can be any contender.”

Unfortunately for fans who would love to see this matchup between two of the most dominating grapplers in mixed martial arts, there’s a lot of things standing in the way of that fight happening. Most of them involve the UFC, their current business model, and UFC president Dana White’s general attitude towards St-Pierre.

This isn’t the first time a Khabib vs. GSP fight has been brought up. St-Pierre’s decision to retire was actually made after he approached the UFC regarding a fight with Nurmagomedov and they ‘categorically refused’ to even discuss any terms. Since then Georges has been eating like a man headed down to lightweight and training like a fighter. He’s even left the door open a little to the idea of returning. But he also removed himself from the USADA testing pool, meaning any comeback would include a mandatory six month testing period before any fight could happen.

That would require the UFC to actually be interested in the fight and being willing to pony up the kind of money to make it happen. You’d think GSP vs. Khabib would be a no-brainer, the kind of superfight that is almost criminal not to make. But it’s an unusual time for the UFC. They seem more interested in trying to keep the lid on their fighter pay structure than setting up massive fights.

Just last week they gave up on re-signing Brock Lesnar for a big money heavyweight title fight against Daniel Cormier because he wanted a big upfront paycheck rather than pay-per-view points. Those are no longer as easy to estimate now that all US PPV buys go through ESPN+, where you have to be a subscriber. Smart way to get people to sign up for the streaming service, but an extra hoop that’s undoubtedly cutting into units sold. With that deal just coming into effect, there’s simply not enough data for any fighter to know how it will affect their bottom line. But rather than ‘sharpening Brock’s pencil’ and working something out, the UFC walked away and declared the deal dead.

If they’re willing to say no to Brock, what are the chances a deal with Georges St-Pierre is possible? The UFC seemed generally uninterested in him coming back after a three year hiatus. And that was before St-Pierre held up the middleweight division for the better part of a year to take the belt off Michael Bisping, only to drop it and step back away from the sport to nurse a case of colitis. White seems to have taken that as a personal slight, a sign that GSP was all for himself and not the promotion. As he said in August, the UFC simply wasn’t interested in one off money fights with Georges St-Pierre.

It has always seemed crazy to us that the UFC would turn down a fight of this magnitude. But at least it made a little sense a couple of months back. The lightweight division was clogged with contenders. There was Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson and Max Holloway. But Ferguson is away dealing with health issues. Holloway is back at 145. Poirier is facing Khabib in September, and then Khabib will face the next #1 contender in December ... whoever that may be, because the logjam has suddenly cleared.

Khabib is the one doing the work to clear it, and maybe he’ll be the one doing the work to bring everyone to the table to make a Nurmagomedov vs. St-Pierre fight go through. But as we mentioned, the UFC seems like they’d rather it didn’t happen then add two more fighters to the list of guys making Conor McGregor money. We hope something could happen to work things out, but understanding the business side of things gives us little hope.