Georges St-Pierre returned from a four-year layoff and peered through the river of blood that flowed down his face to choke out Michael Bisping and win the middleweight championship at UFC 217 on Saturday night.
"I took this fight to challenge myself and I am honoured to be champion once again," he said.
St-Pierre's win in the main event made it 3 for 3 for the championship challengers at Madison Square Garden in what was easily UFC's card of the year. T.J. Dillashaw won the bantamweight championship and Rose Namajunas won the strawweight title on the pay-per-view card.
UFC 217 goes on the short list of one of the promotion's great cards — and a promotion at a crossroads got a vintage performance from an MMA legend in St-Pierre and a breakthrough outing from Namajunas that stamped her as the face of the women's division.
The 36-year-old St-Pierre had been the UFC's 170-pound champion for nearly six years, winning 12 straight fights with nine consecutive title defences when he walked away. St-Pierre cited the need for a mental breather before he wanted to train and fight again.
Against the trash-talking Bisping, St-Pierre fought like he had only four months off, not four years. The Canadian fighter had takedowns in each of the first two rounds as the packed MSG crowd roared for the fan favourite.
St-Pierre's forehead got busted open and his face turned into a crimson mask. He smothered Bisping in blood as they wrestled on the ground and stood up looking as if they had just left the set of a horror film.
St-Pierre (26-2) shook it off and slapped a rear naked choke at 4:32 of the third to snuff out Bisping and win his 13th straight UFC fight.
"I don't have words in my mouth right now," GSP said, wiping blood from his face.
St-Pierre was one of the UFC's biggest stars and pay-per-view draws during his long reign atop the 170-pound division, but the Canadian star walked away in November 2013. He's back — and ready for yet another title defence.