At the height of his popularity, Georges St-Pierre was the biggest draw on the UFC roster as he routinely packed arenas with huge attendance numbers, while also producing consistent pay-per-view sales ahead of any other fighter at the time.
Four years later, St-Pierre returns to a much different UFC, where fighters like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey are the biggest stars. Both of them had just made their Octagon debuts earlier in the same year that St-Pierre took a sabbatical from the sport.
Now, UFC color commentator Joe Rogan has raised concerns over the ticket sales for UFC 217, which he had heard weren't doing all that great just two weeks out from the event.
“Bisping versus GSP, now I'm hearing that's not selling well,” Rogan said on his podcast over the weekend. “Like at Madison Square Garden. That's unfortunate.”
(Video courtesy of PowerfulJRE)
There are certainly more tickets available for this card than the UFC's debut at Madison Square Garden last year, which sold out in a hurry with McGregor headlining the event in a lightweight title fight against Eddie Alvarez.
McGregor's rise to stardom is part of the reason why Rogan wonders if St-Pierre is still the draw in 2017 that he was four years ago when he was the reigning welterweight champion.
Times change and St-Pierre's fan base may not be as rabid as they once were to follow him wherever he fights, especially when the casual audience has turned its attention toward McGregor. Much like McGregor's Irish fans, Canadian GSP fans were widely known to travel anywhere to watch their native son.
“Here's the thing though, if you really stop and think about it, that was four years ago the last time he fought Johny Hendricks,” Rogan said. “The people that are into the UFC now, they're post Ronda Rousey and post Conor McGregor, like the causal fans.
“The hardcore fans like you and I, we're going to watch that fight for sure. Okay, I'm going to see what Bisping looks like fighting a guy like Georges St-Pierre, who's smaller than him, a guy who's taken four years off. Bisping's got this opportunity to make a (expletive) load of money and then how's Georges going to look? Haven't seen him in four years.”
While Rogan isn't sure what to expect out of the live gate, he still believes St-Pierre's return will generate solid sales on pay-per-view, but he isn't predicting monstrous numbers there either.
“Don't you think Georges St-Pierre's at least going to do half-a-million pay-per-view buys, maybe more?” Rogan asked. “I'd like to think he's going to do half-a-million, maybe more.”
If UFC 217 does around 500,000 buys, that would make it the second biggest card of 2017 behind only UFC 214 headlined by Jon Jones against Daniel Cormier. Still, if St-Pierre only produces 500,000 pay-per-view buys that would be his lowest selling card since 2007 when he lost to Matt Serra at a card that reportedly produced around 400,000 buys.
Here's a current look at the available tickets according to Ticketmaster's online purchasing system.