The UFC that Georges St-Pierre returns to in 2017 isn’t the same place he left in 2013. The complexity of mixed martial arts as a sport, combining numerous fighting disciplines into one cohesive competition, evolves constantly.
Now that St-Pierre is officially making his comeback, questions swirl as he attempts to re-establish himself as a force in today’s UFC universe, at the elite level he previously achieved.
Can St-Pierre compete with the top fighters of today at 35 years old? Will he have any rust after four years away?
One question that has been answered: his opponent. UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping will welcome GSP back to the Octagon later this year in what instantly becomes the biggest fight of 2017.
If St-Pierre wins, he’ll become only the fourth fighter to capture titles in multiple weight classes.
RELATED: St-Pierre set to return vs. Bisping | Today's UFC Minute: details & commentary on GSP's return
In his prime, GSP was a treacherous matchup for any welterweight that stood across from him on fight night. His combination of top-level speed, power and wrestling made him almost unbeatable as a champion.
Toward the end of his magical run – 12 wins in a row (including nine welterweight title defenses) – St-Pierre’s dominance began to subside. Some believe he lost his final fight against Johny Hendricks despite getting the nod on a split decision.
St-Pierre is a founding father of MMA. He is always in the argument when it comes to greatest ever, and his accomplishments will forever stand up to any single fighter’s resume.
#GSP on coming back to the #UFC - "The @georgesstpierre now would beat the old @georgesstpierre.." #teamhayabusa #hayabusa #mma #gspisback #teamgsp
A post shared by Hayabusa (@hayabusacombat) on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:38am PST
Maybe St-Pierre’s competitive fire dimmed four years ago, but it’s back with a vengeance and the former champ is determined to face the best once again.
“I think for me it’s the time to come back now. I just finished a training camp that I did to see if I could come back to the world class level. And I feel at the best shape of my life,” GSP recently told Hayabusa Combat. “I feel the Georges St-Pierre now would beat the Georges St-Pierre that was the greatest of the time that he used to compete.”
Comparing different athletes from different eras and ranking them based on what he or she did in their given time is a favorite pastime for sports fans. Michael Jordan or LeBron James; Joe Montana or Tom Brady; Muhammad Ali or Floyd Mayweather?
Related: St-Pierre set to return to Octagon | Watch UFC Minute: Breaking down GSP’s return | Reinvigorated St-Pierre wants to prove he's still the best
The return of St-Pierre allows for the debate to play out inside the Octagon. The true definition of a “super fight” would apply if GSP and Conor McGregor ever collided. The options are limitless.
When St-Pierre makes the walk it’s always must-see TV. Recharged and reinvigorated, he may be ready to show the world the best version of “Rush” who has ever competed.
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on twitter at @MattParrinoUFC