Robert Whittaker likes his chances should he face Georges St. Pierre in a middleweight title unification bout somewhere down the road.
After a four-year hiatus, St. Pierre returned to the Octagon at UFC 217, where he captured 185-pound gold with a third-round submission of Michael Bisping in the evening’s main event at Madison Square Garden in New York. It was St. Pierre’s first appearance at middleweight after crafting a decorated career as the UFC’s 170-pound champion before vacating the belt following a victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in November 2013.
While St. Pierre drew praise from many corners for his comeback performance, Whittaker wasn’t as impressed.
“To be honest, he looked slower than he’s ever been,” Whittaker recently told news.com.au. “He’s just as crafty. You can see the intelligence is still there. His fight IQ is still there. He obviously hits harder at middleweight. But I hit hard and I hit fast — and much harder and faster than Bisping. And I have much better defense than Bisping. So it looks good.”
Whittaker, who claimed the interim middleweight crown with a decision triumph against Yoel Romero on July 8, grew up admiring the feats of St. Pierre at 170 pounds. During his title reign, “Rush” was regarded, along with longtime middleweight champ Anderson Silva, as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
After St. Pierre’s victory over Bisping, UFC President Dana White indicated that Whittaker would be next for the Tristar Gym standout. Whittaker would be thrilled if such a matchup comes to fruition.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Whittaker said. “I was a massive fan of him when I was younger — and when I was at welterweight as well. Every welterweight in the world aspired to become something like him. If I got the privilege of fighting him? Man, dream come true.”
St. Pierre didn’t get much of a chance to address his future plans on Saturday night, as he was transported to a hospital following UFC 217 and did not appear at the post-fight press conference. When asked about remaining at 185 pounds during his Octagon interview, St. Pierre didn’t exactly make a strong commitment.
“Obviously, this was not my weight class. I took this fight to challenge myself and I am honored to be champion once again,” St. Pierre said. “It is about setting a trap and that is what I did. My respect to Michael Bisping. He hurt me very bad and I had to hide it. There was a time when I was too small to fight at this weight but now I’ve put on muscle mass and I am comfortable here. Thank you everyone; this is a real honor.”
St. Pierre is in a comfortable enough situation where he can dictate fights on his own terms. For Whittaker, if that means an extended layoff for a chance to fight GSP, then so be it.
“I’m happy to wait,” he said. “Fighting a legend like that is worth the time. My wants have to go on the back seat a bit for him. He’s a living legend and in respect I’ll do that. But if he’s going to hang around at middleweight we’ll touch gloves eventually. I’m confident.”
However, if St. Pierre vacates the belt or retires, that would open the door for numerous other contenders at 185 pounds.
“If Georges steps down it makes everyone a potential opponent,” Whittaker said.