Five of the six fighters who competed for title belts at UFC 217 spoke to the media after their bouts at Madison Square Garden last Saturday night. Georges St-Pierre was absent, and now we know why.
The newly crowned UFC middleweight champion was immediately transported to a local hospital due to a neck injury suffered in his fight with Michael Bisping.
St-Pierre told Ariel Helwani on “The MMA Hour” on Thursday that he believes it occurred on his first takedown attempt of Bisping early in the fight. Bisping elbowed him while in the air in the back of the head and hit “a little bone attached to the spinal cord.”
“After the fight I couldn’t even tie my shoes,” St-Pierre says. “My neck couldn’t even move. I had incredible swelling in the muscle of the back of my neck. During the fight when I was on the ground, it was very hard for me to posture up and strike.
“When you watch the fight and that particular thing, it looked pretty insignificant. But it wasn’t insignificant when I received the shot. It hurt me very bad. It wasn’t the force of the blow, but the precision of it.”
St-Pierre, universally known as one of the sport’s best ever, returned to the Octagon on Nov. 4 for the first time in nearly four years. He defeated Bisping in impressive fashion, submitting the former middleweight champion by a rear-naked choke in the third round.
Due to St-Pierre’s stature, many fighters have expressed interest in fighting him. UFC president Dana White said his next opponent will be Robert Whittaker, an Australian who is currently the interim champion. It is written in St-Pierre’s contract that he must face Whittaker, though the organization may go a different direction.
St-Pierre could go back to welterweight, where he was a longtime champion, and face current titleholder Tyron Woodley. Though more unlikely, another option is to drop a weight class and take on Conor McGregor for a fight that could break pay-per-view records. Or he could simply step away from fighting altogether and retire.
The Québec, Canada, native said he’s taking vacation to “somewhere exotic” and then will decide his future in the coming weeks.
“There are a lot of different things that can change. MMA is a sport that changes all the time,” St-Pierre said. “I have no desire to hold down the title and freeze the division. Dana is the boss. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”