One of the greatest ever to do the mixed martial arts thing — many would say the greatest — officially called it a career this week. After that, pretty much everything else that happened in the sport is just details. So let’s talk about the retirement of former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre in the latest edition of Fightweets.
Favorite GSP memory?
@chjobin: As a Montrealer, I’m proud of GSP in his retirement announce. What is, in your opinion, the best and the worst memory you have of him as a mixed martial artist?
You may have noticed that Georges St-Pierre’s retirement, announced on Thursday in Montreal, brought out waves of sentimentality from people not usually prone to such displays. I’m talking about fight reporters, writers, and editors who have been at this awhile, those who by this stage of the game tend toward the jaded and skeptical.
The people from my generation, who figured out you could make MMA writing and reporting a living right around the time the UFC first started taking off, all started off as fans of the sport. And while I can’t definitely speak for everyone, I know, personally, that few people exemplified everything that attracted me to the sport in the first place like this kid from Quebec.
This was back during the day when there was this feeling we — from fans to fighters to media and even promoters — were all in this together, a misunderstood subculture who felt compelled to defend the sport whenever the mainstream (and particularly the miserable old closed-minded wretches in the old-school sports media) struggled to accept mixed martial arts as a valid sport.
I was still a straight-up fan when I started writing about MMA part-time for FOX Sports while working as a general desk editor in 2006. GSP was in the most memorable matchup of the first card for which I was cageside, UFC 58 in Las Vegas. I’ve been up close for hundreds of memorable moments over the past 13 years and few match the intensity of St-Pierre’s first meeting with B.J. Penn, the tension cutting through the Mandalay Bay Events Center like a knife as the judge’s scores were read, with a vehement split reaction from the audience as GSP got the nod.
And there were the little touches, too. Like the fact St-Pierre would show up at press conferences in a suit and tie while the rest of the fighters tended to be all bro’d out in horrific Affliction and Tapout gear, upping the ante of fighter professionalism. Or the realization that St-Pierre had become a tremendous star in Canada, paving the way one for the sport’s all-time most memorable nights, when he defeated Matt Serra in his hometown of Montreal at UFC 83 in the first-ever Canadian UFC show. That this era crested with St-Pierre headlining in front of 55,724 fans for the first show in Toronto at UFC 129 after years of Ontario’s commissioner obstinately stonewalling the sport is only fitting.
And even St-Pierre’s absence helped push the ball forward. The UFC lost their two big money makers, GSP and Anderson Silva, on back-to-back PPVs at the end of 2013. Not only was UFC president Dana White’s obnoxious behavior at the infamous UFC 167 post-fight press conference following St-Pierre’s controversial split decision win over Johny Hendricks a turning point in which much a distinct portion of the base started becoming less blindly loyal to White; but St-Pierre bringing drug issues to the forefront by walking away helped push the issue front and center during the heart of the TRT era, even if it took some time to finally implement change in the form of comprehensive testing.
Then St-Pierre returned to a changed world in the WME era after several years off and won the middleweight title against Michael Bisping at Madison Square Garden at UFC 217, a one-night reconnection to the things that drew us to the sport in the first place.
So, can I pick just one most memorable moment? That’s tough. Being cageside for the first Penn fight is one. The first UFC welterweight title victory in Sacramento over Hughes was a thrilling moment. It’s hard to explain to people who weren’t watching at the time what an aura of invincibility Hughes, winner of 19 of his previous 20 fights, had at the time. Watching him go down to a head kick and then elbowed into oblivious was an astounding moment. There was the bludgeoning of Jon Fitch, the rematch with B.J. Penn, the Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit fights, I could go on and on ...
... but if I have to pick one, I’m going to go with a day I spent with St-Pierre in the summer of 2010. He was in Los Angeles for a week training at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym in Hollywood, and I tagged along as he perfected the jab that basically ruined Josh Koscheck’s career a few months later. The first thing I noticed was his humility: At the height of his powers, he insisted on carrying his own bags, driving his own rental car, getting in line at Wild Card and doing heavy bag drills with the lowest-ranked boxers in the gym. But later, over lunch, we talked about the Dan Hardy fight, in which he dominated but came up short in multiple submission attempts en route to a unanimous decision — and his mood turned dark. No matter how I tried to phrase it — “hey, you beat him 50-44, you kicked his ass” — all he saw was his failure to submit Hardy. He stayed in a bad mood until we returned to the gym and he got his energy out sparring, after which he was his polite and chipper self again.
That told me something about what drove St-Pierre in a way no Countdown, no media scrum, no chat with his coaches ever could.
I don’t think we’ll ever see another fighter like Georges St-Pierre. He was the right guy, with the right skills and ideals, who came along at the precise moment MMA was making its big rise. He had an entire nation behind him. He stuck to his beliefs. He got out while he was still one of the sport’s best. Others might get aspects of GSP’s path down, but the whole package? That’s a tough confluence of factors to replicate.
That’s my take. With a nod to the fact that GSP’s list of memorable moments is so long that if I put all of them in a poll, it would scroll down the page forever, and thus I had to leave a few out, what’s yours?
What’s your favorite Georges St-Pierre moment?
This poll is closed
"I am not impressed by your performance"
First welterweight title win at UFC 65
Second title win at first Montreal show
Headlining UFC 129 in Toronto
Rematch win over Josh Koscheck
Buildup to and win over Nick Diaz
Victory over Carlos Condit
Middleweight title win over Michael Bisping
Getting back at Dana?
@SigepWesleyG: Is GSP retirement for real or is it a business move to stick it to Dana?
Nah. That’s not how GSP operates. St-Pierre doesn’t need the money, and he’s been consistent in both his words and actions regarding only wanting to take on challenges which interest him. They tried to make the Khabib Nurmagomedov matchup and it didn’t happen. And that said, I don’t blame the UFC for being gun shy on making that fight happen. The middleweight division took a long time to sort out after St-Pierre beat Bisping at UFC 217 and then relinquished the belt about a month later. On paper, sure, GSP-Khabib is a hell of a fight, but it also would only ultimately serve to further delay the sport’s most talent-rich division at a time it really doesn’t need another holdup at the top.
Other than that, really, what else is left for GSP? He’s already won two weight class titles. There’s no point going back down old paths at this stage of the game.
GSP did, of course, say this late during Thursday’s press conference: “If ever something happened or Dana called me back and there’s something interesting, we’ll see. Like a movie scenario, oh he’s coming back. We’ll see. But right now I’m not thinking about it. I’m out.”
Props for him for saying that, but if, say, we finally get GSP vs. Silva in, say, 2023, don’t say he didn’t leave the door open.
Sooo ... what next at lightweight?
@SigepWesleyG: So the rumor is Max vs Tony for the interim Lightweight title........ just how bad is @DustinPoirier getting screwed in this situation?? I love Max but Dustin comes before him & especially wth his record at lightweight & his winning streak. Agree??
@The3rdCory: what happened to Tony Ferguson getting a title shot?
@MacPherson9999: What happens to the featherweight title if the rumors are true and Max goes up to lightweight to face the Ferg?
Welp, all these questions came in over the past few days, and I had my snappy answer set, then went out for a beer or two Friday night, took a minute to glance at Twitter, saw that featherweight champion Holloway will fight Poirier for the interim lightweight belt at UFC 236, and ...
First things first: “The champion from another division vs. a fighter who isn’t a number one contender for an interim belt” might be the greatest thing the UFC Fight Randomizer ever spit out.
On paper, of course, it’s a great fight. And a rematch of Poirier’s first-round submission of Holloway in the latter’s UFC debut at UFC 143 (Holloway going 3-3 in his first six UFC fights seems a billion years ago, no?). Just on its own, no doubt this will be one hell of a fun fight.
But this doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and there’s zero doubt the person most deserving to be fighting for a lightweight title of some sort is Tony Ferguson, he of 11 consecutive victories, and of the fact White claims Ferguson passed up the fight (rule of thumb: When Dana gets his news out through one of his preferred avenues and claims something without us hearing from the person being spoken about, take it with a large grain of salt). Then Ferguson, for his part, cryptically tweeted “I can make 145.”
That’s where things stand as of 9:35 pm PT Friday night. Maybe things will have changed again by the time you read this. In the meantime, I’m going to resume drinking beer until this starts to make sense.