The impending return of UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre couldn’t be coming at a better time.
St-Pierre is the lone Canadian fighter that really conjures up excitement from coast-to-coast for casual fans of the sport, or even those with little to no interest at all.
Every time the Montreal native steps into the Octagon it’s almost as if it’s a national holiday, at least as close as a sporting event can come to being one.
That level of excitement has been missing throughout the country in the sporting world this year – the beloved NHL is currently in the midst of a lockout and even when they were playing not one Canadian team made it past the opening round of the playoffs, the Olympics provided a month of distraction but Canadians have always been partial to the winter games, the Blue Jays had a tumultuous season, the Raptors are still far from a contender, heck, even Steve Nash chose sunny California over playing in Toronto.
Not only has 2012 been a letdown for the Canadian sports scene in general it’s also been the worst in recent memory for what has been dubbed “the Mecca of MMA” by UFC President Dana White.
Just a year after 55,000-plus packed the Rogers Centre for UFC 129, 2012 was off to a disastrous start for Canadian MMA right from the get-go as GSP was looking at an extended period of recovery following a December knee surgery.
In March, a planned Pay-Per-View for the Bell Centre fell by the wayside when the UFC couldn’t book a suitable main event.
UFC 149 in July marked the promotion’s inaugural event in Calgary and was supposed to feature a “sick card” for what could be Canada’s newest MMA hotspot. Instead, injuries depleted the lineup and the result was arguably one of the worst UFC events in the company’s history and a lot of ticked off fans.
Even last month when UFC 152 rolled into the Air Canada Centre, ticket sells weren’t as strong as the UFC’s two previous stops in Toronto. On top of that, those that attended the show were lambasted by White during the post-fight press conference for booing at times during the UFC flyweight title fight.
This year has been such a turbulent one for the UFC in Canada that many believe the “Mecca of MMA” moniker may now belong to Brazil.
Thankfully, 2012 isn’t over yet and St-Pierre’s grand return against Carlos Condit at UFC 154 at the Bell Centre on Nov. 17 has the potential to once again captivate a market looking for something to cheer about.
You can complain about St-Pierre not finishing an opponent for three-and-a-half years, or that he doesn’t display any personality anymore (what’s that Georges, Condit is your toughest fight to date?), but you can never take away the sense of pride one gets from seeing a fellow countryman be the best in the world at something, especially if it’s a sport.
If GSP losses to Condit it would cap off the one of the worst years in Canadian MMA history. If he wins, it’d help start getting rid of the nasty taste left in our mouths from the year up until this point, and allow for the excitement of a potential GSP vs. Anderson Silva super-fight to take place, a matchup that would generate enough interest to put 2012 in the rear-view and bring MMA back into the forefront of outlets that may have lost interest, much the same as Silva vs. Chael Sonnen did this summer.
His return is the best chance of salvaging 2012 for Canadian fight fans and rekindling the passion that made them “The Mecca of MMA” in the first place.
He may be successful and walk away a winner, or he could put the proverbially icing on the cake of a year to forget, but one thing is for sure -- it can’t come soon enough.