Georges St-Pierre knows all about the difficulties of struggling with your own success.
During his legendary run with the UFC that saw him capture world titles in two weight classes and successfully defend the UFC welterweight title a record nine times, “GSP” reached unprecedented levels of fame and fortune while constantly being threatened by a pack of hungry challengers. He ended his fighting career on a 13-fight win streak, but there were many bumps in the road and he credits his team with pushing him past his limits to keep him on top.
Speaking to ESPN, St-Pierre was asked about Conor McGregor, one of the few fighters to surpass him in terms of mainstream recognition and financial success, and whether McGregor’s affluence has negatively affected his performances. The former two-division champion has fought just three times and won once in MMA since winning the lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016.
St-Pierre thinks McGregor has to make a dramatic change in his training habits if he hopes to return to championship form.
“When I made my first million, of course my life has changed,” St-Pierre said. “I had more security and I didn’t feel that I was fighting for the same reason that I was in the beginning in terms of security. When I was poor in the beginning, I was on the edge. I knew if I lost I would have been dead and my life would be a mess. When you get money, these things change.
“However, to keep performing, you need to get out of your comfort zone. You cannot stay in your comfort zone during a training camp because you’re trying to recreate the same element that you will face for a fight. When you’re gonna fight, you won’t be in your comfort zone, so it is imperative that Conor, if you want to get back on the road of success, he needs to get out of his comfort zone. He needs not to be the boss of his training camp. He needs his coaches to tell him now you’re gonna spar this guy, you’re gonna go there, do this. Even if it doesn’t please him, he needs to go through that. Because if you stay in your comfort zone, the only thing that can happen is you will go down. You need to do that.”
McGregor’s most recent loss saw him fall in a rematch to past featherweight rival Dustin Poirier. After a competitive first-round, Poirier took over in the second and finished McGregor with strikes. It was the first time McGregor had lost an MMA bout by knockout.
St-Pierre was watching that fight closely as a commentator for Canadian network RDS’ French-language broadcast and he acknowledged that McGregor’s emphasis on boxing may have contributed to his downfall. One of the reasons McGregor’s UFC resume has been so light in recent years was his pursuit of a megabucks boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. that eventually went down in 2017, with McGregor losing by TKO in the 10th round.
Coach John Kavanagh has said that McGregor’s team will focus more on an “MMA mentality” in a third Poirier bout.
“It could have been a factor why he lost that fight,” St-Pierre said. “I know he talks about how he got hurt with that calf kick. When you’re in a boxing stance, very often your leg or your stance is wider and a lot of your weight is put on the lead leg, which makes you very vulnerable for those leg kicks. That could have been a big factor.”
But whatever reasons McGregor might have for under-performing, St-Pierre stresses the importance of giving credit to Poirier as much as anything. He sees Poirier and light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz—who successfully defended his title against middleweight champion Israel Adesanya at UFC 259—as examples of two elite fighters who aren’t necessarily getting the credit they deserve for defeating their more heavily-hyped opponents.
“We talk about Conor, but let’s talk about also Dustin Poirier,” St-Pierre said. “Poirier did amazing, let’s not take away the performance of Dustin Poirier, it was amazing. He deserved the win. Sometimes we have the tendency when someone is so dominant to only talk about how he didn’t look the same. We see that very often, also with Israel Adesanya and Blachowicz.
“Blachowicz in that fight, same thing, he surprised me. He showed how good he was. I was not expecting to see, I didn’t know how good he was, same thing with Dustin Poirier, I didn’t know how good he was.”