When Triller officials were looking for an opponent to throw against Oscar De La Hoya for the boxing legend’s Sept. 11 comeback to the ring, Vitor Belfort wasn’t their first choice.
Instead, that honor went to Georges St-Pierre.
St-Pierre opened up about the experience Wednesday on The MMA Hour, explaining that he was contacted to do a 170-pound “novelty fight” against De La Hoya with either 12- or 14-ounce gloves. The bout would’ve been for eight two-minute rounds, St-Pierre said, and a large part of the proceeds would’ve been donated to charity.
And St-Pierre? He was all aboard.
“I thought it would be a fun thing to do,” St-Pierre told host Ariel Helwani. “My career to prove that I’m the strongest man in the world in the sport of mixed martial arts is done. I’m 40 years old. But to do something different, something that could be fun and very motivating for me, and plus on top of that a lot of money would’ve been given to charity, against a legend in the sport like Oscar De La Hoya, I think I would’ve done it.
“Not because I believe I’m a better boxer than Oscar De La Hoya was when he was in his prime, but I do now believe he probably has more mileage than I do. I’m in great shape, I’m younger, I used to compete at a heavier weight class. I think it would be a fair fight that the fans would’ve wanted to watch.”
Despite St-Pierre’s excitement for the opportunity, there was still one major hurdle still standing in his way: His contract with the UFC.
A former two-division UFC champion, St-Pierre retired from mixed martial arts in 2017 following his middleweight title win over Michael Bisping at UFC 217, but his contract with the promotion remains active to this day. UFC officials have granted permission to other former UFC fighters like Ben Askren and Chad Mendes in recent months to do high-profile excursions in non-MMA bouts, however St-Pierre said UFC president Dana White was against the idea of letting him do the same — even after St-Pierre brought in a familiar third party.
“I even called [former UFC owner] Lorenzo [Fertitta] to try to convince Dana,” St-Pierre said. “Lorenzo liked the idea, but Dana did not want it. I knew he hates Oscar but I said to him, ‘Listen, I’m going to make Oscar look bad because I’m in great shape. I’ve been staying in great shape the whole time and I’m going to do a full boxing training camp with Freddie Roach and his world champions there, so I’ll be very well prepared.’
“At first he says to me that the reason why he did not want it is because he thought that Oscar would basically destroy me in a boxing match. And I had some good arguments — I told him that I believe Oscar has more mileage than I do, he’s no longer in his prime, I stayed busy the whole time, I’m still in great shape, I’m going to be very well prepared and I’m taking this fight very seriously. If I do it, because it’s my name — my image is attached to it — I will do it 100 percent. And I told Dana, I said, ‘If there’s one MMA fighter that go to boxing and look good in this situation, it would be me.’
“And at first he refused,” St-Pierre continued. “Then he thought about it but he came back with the argument that, oh, no, it’s not because he thinks Oscar is going to win; he thinks it’s because he doesn’t like the fact that Triller takes me and makes money off my back while I’m still under contract with UFC. So what Dana says — listen to this — then he came back and he asked me if I wanted to fight Khabib [Nurmagomedov]. And I told Dana, I said, ‘That’s very strange. Why didn’t you want to do the fight when we asked you a few years ago? Why is it now?’ He said, ‘Yeah, because Khabib was not retired and he was not the same guy that he was. Now it all makes sense.’ So I didn’t want to, but I was curious to see what would’ve happened, so I said to him, ‘I’m going to think about it,’ and I waited.
“Turns out that, shortly after, I saw in the media people saying that, oh, now Khabib, he doesn’t want to fight me because I asked for the fight with Khabib. I never asked for the fight with Khabib. It’s Dana White that probably went to Khabib and (manager) Ali Abdelaziz and told them that Georges wants to fight Khabib. We asked a long time ago, but I didn’t ask again. I didn’t beg for that fight again. We’re both retired and I’m good.”
St-Pierre said there was a time a few years ago that he would’ve leapt at the opportunity to fight Nurmagomedov — and Nurmagomedov likely would’ve done the same — but that time had passed for both men. He said he never agreed to White’s counter-proposal and would’ve turned it down, but found it interesting to see how the narrative unspooled from there.
“Dana White had a lot of heat for not letting me fight from the media, so he asked me to fight Khabib because he was expecting a negative answer from me,” St-Pierre said. “So he would’ve had a good argument, a good reason, saying to the media, ‘Georges refused to fight for us, so I’m not going to let him fight for someone else.’ So that was the reason I waited to see what happened, and turns out that I was right, I believe. So Khabib refused, but I didn’t mean that I was going to say yes.
“I caught Dana White’s bluff. That’s what happened,” St-Pierre later added. “Not that it was a bluff, but the main reason why he wanted to do it was because of the heat that he received from the media. And the fact that also maybe he wanted to make extra money, try a home run, because he knew Khabib and I were retired.”
St-Pierre expressed disappointment about the way the entire situation played out. He said it would’ve been a fun opportunity for him to test himself in a new arena against a legendary opponent — St-Pierre heaped praise on De La Hoya as his second-favorite boxer ever — and his participation could’ve helped raise a lot of money for a good charitable cause as well.
“In my last fight with Michael Bisping, I made a lot more money than what I would’ve made for Oscar De La Hoya. But still it would be still a lot of money for an eight-round, two-minute fight,” St-Pierre said. “It’s a lot of money. And it would’ve against the legendary Oscar De La Hoya. So the experience, the money — if I count the pros and cons, it would’ve been worth it.”
Though he missed out on this opportunity, St-Pierre is still optimistic that something could change in the future. He said he’s going to “be free” in a few years once his UFC contract expires, and though his career in mixed martial arts is over, he plans to stay in good shape and could certainly be drawn back to combat sports if the right match comes along.
“Maybe,” St-Pierre said. “I’m cheering for Vitor, Vitor is a friend of mine. But if something happens and maybe Oscar wins, or something happens like that, maybe I’ll get Oscar after. We’ll see. I’m still under contract for, I think, another year or two with UFC. But I’m not going nowhere. If the idea interests me still when I’ll be 41 or 42, maybe I’ll jump back in it.”