When a new fighter is signed to the UFC, one of the first tasks required is to fill out a bio form which is then used by the PR team, production staff, and marketing squad, as well as displayed on UFC.com. One of the questions in the Q&A portion of the form is:
Do you have any heroes?
Most of the answers center on family members. Others cite the men and women of the armed forces, while Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee and Mike Tyson make several appearances. But perhaps the person most mentioned by those on the UFC roster over the years is a young man from Montreal, Quebec, Canada…
Former two-time welterweight champion, former middleweight champion and the person headlining the UFC Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020, Georges St-Pierre.
How many fighters listed GSP as their hero on their bio form? 49.
“I'm surprised, but I feel very honored,” said St-Pierre. “I always wanted to be champion and to be successful in what I do because I love it and it’s what I do best in life. But I also wanted to be known as a role model or someone that changed the sport, so that means a lot to me. I feel very happy to be able to inspire people. For me, it's great because I was inspired myself by Royce Gracie. There were many others, but Royce Gracie was the first one. Then I added Marco Ruas, Ken Shamrock and all those guys. Mark Coleman, Tito Ortiz. They were all UFC fighters that really inspired me. I'm glad that now it's my turn to inspire people, but at the same time, it makes me feel a little bit old.”
GEORGES ST-PIERRE NAMED TO UFC HALL OF FAME
GEORGES ST-PIERRE NAMED TO UFC HALL OF FAME
St-Pierre laughs, at peace with the world and what he did over the course of a storied career that saw him beat a Who’s Who of the welterweight division, dominate the weight class, and then take a four-year hiatus before coming back to beat Michael Bisping for the middleweight crown. It was the perfect cap to a run unlike any other, and while his fellow fighters celebrated him for what he did in the Octagon, they also paid attention to how he carried himself outside of it. GSP was an ambassador of the sport of the highest order, a true gentleman, and he left the game on top, which is a rarity in any sport.
“I wanted to be an example,” said the 39-year-old. “It's sad to see, but a lot of guys, they act bad outside of the cage, and that has an effect, not only on you, but on the sport, and the image of the entire staff of the UFC. I think you have a responsibility when you're a champion to carry that on your shoulders. I'm not a perfect person at all, but I tried to carry myself with a certain code to make sure I don't affect the image of myself and of the sport. When I first came into the sport and started training and competing, the image of it was not as it is now. It was bad and so we had to work very hard to carry ourselves as true, respectable athletes. And I felt that was my responsibility to carry that on my shoulders to try to elevate the sport, and I'm glad that the guys recognized me for that reason, as well.”
It's for all these reasons, both in and out of the Octagon, that St-Pierre was a clear pick for the UFC Hall of Fame, and as the dust has settled on his time as an active fighter, the never-ending debate has kicked up again, with fans and pundits arguing about who the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time is.
It’s impossible to have that debate without St-Pierre in the conversation, and as the years go by, his case gets stronger and stronger.
Take away his impact on the MMA scene in Canada, the way he helped build the sport in the post-TUF era, and how he became a crossover star. Do that, and if you look at his body of work, the names alone speak for themselves: Hughes, Parisian, Miller, Trigg, Sherk, Penn, Koscheck, Serra, Fitch, Alves, Hardy, Shields, Condit, Diaz, Hendricks, Bisping.
If you’re keeping score, that’s five UFC Hall of Famers. Then consider that after regaining the title in his rematch with Serra, GSP reigned for over five years in one of the sport’s toughest weight classes. And he avenged the only two losses on his 26-2 record.
Now that’s a case for the G.O.A.T. But not surprisingly, St-Pierre doesn’t necessarily agree.
“What does being the best of all-time mean?” he asks. “If it's to compare every athlete who competed at their time and who was the most dominant at their time, who had the most achievements, for me it's Royce Gracie. If you talk about who's the strongest guy, if you would put everybody in the cage, who would come out alive, I think it would maybe be Fedor Emelianenko in his prime. If you talk about the more flamboyant guy, the one who did some crazy stuff that you only see in movies and stuff like that, I would say maybe a guy like Anderson Silva or Vitor Belfort. If you say the more well-rounded guy, I would say maybe Demetrious Johnson. If you ask about who's the guy who faced the most adversity, maybe Jon Jones. But whoever you name, it's a subjective thing, it's an opinion.”
And while the legendary Gracie is number one on his personal list, St-Pierre believes that the sport is evolving at such a rapid rate that we may not have even seen the best ever yet.
“There's a lot of guys for different reasons who could be considered a G.O.A.T., and there are pros and cons, but I truly believe it does not exist, because if you talk about who's the best, I think the best has not even been born yet,” he said. “Royce Gracie, as magnificent as he was, he was the number one guy and he achieved things that still today have not been achieved - if you would put him in the cage against the competition today and ask how he would do, he would not do well because the sport has changed. The technology has become better. I remember when I wanted to learn jiu-jitsu, I needed to drive to New York and be in the class to learn an armbar or a choke. Now you can learn it in two minutes watching on the internet by a guy who lives in a different country from you. So the technology makes the performance better. The best example of that is, look at sports where you can measure things. For example, sprinting. Usain Bolt is the fastest man that ever lived that we know of because we have the evidence to prove it. It’s the same thing in all the Olympic sports you can measure. However, you cannot measure fighting because it's one guy against another guy, and there's no instrument of measure that you can have to compare.”
In other words, it’s impossible to compare fighters from UFC I in 1993 to those competing next week on Fight Island. It’s a different sport.
“The further we go into the future, the better the guys will be,” St-Pierre said. “There will always be new up and comers that are better that will beat the records of the previous ones. But I think we should never forget who was the first one to pave the way. There were no weight classes, they were fighting three times a night and there were headbutts and crazy things that you could do back then. That's why, for me, Royce Gracie is the number one for me. He's my favorite fighter, and the G.O.A.T. for me is Royce Gracie.”
Good argument, Georges, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one.
“It's a good argument you made,” he laughs. “But there are other guys that maybe if they would have the opportunity and the timing, they would do it. And it doesn't mean that if you beat a guy that you're always gonna beat him. That only means that you beat him that night in those particular circumstances. Fighting is no different from football or baseball. It's not always the best team that wins the game and it's not always the best fighter that wins the fight. Sometimes things happen in a certain way. It's a question of odds. There are guys that could fight ten times, and nine out of ten times, fighter A will beat fighter B, but that night, B beat the A and we don't understand why, but it happens.”
It may be impossible to pick the greatest of all-time, but when it comes to humility, there is no topping St-Pierre. And as much as he insists that someone else could have done what he did in the right circumstances, that’s like me saying I could play in the NBA if I was a foot taller. I probably could, but would I be able to do it like LeBron James? Not likely. So make no mistake about it, there was only one Georges St-Pierre, and fight fans know it, so much so that they consistently ask if he’s going to come back one more time. As of now, there’s no serious talk of that happening, and when asked if he misses competing in the Octagon, you may be surprised by his answer.
“I never liked to fight, and I'm not lying when I say it,” St-Pierre said. “I never enjoyed my time in the Octagon, never a second. I did it because I loved to win, I loved the benefits of it, and I loved the freedom. Back then, I was young, there was the money, the girls, the fame, the access to things nobody had. It was the freedom, that's why I did it. I never did it because I loved to compete and fight. I hated it to the highest level. It's so stressful that it was unbearable for me. However, I loved the rewards. The greater the risk, the bigger the reward, and that's why I did it, and I was very good at it and I took advantage of it. Now, I miss the rewards, I miss the feeling of winning. But I don't miss the feeling of fighting, not even a second.”
GSP laughs, recalling the days when he and his good friend, former middleweight title challenger David Loiseau, were battling their way up the ranks.
“In my early fights, before the fight I would go to eat with my friend David Loiseau, and I was crying,” he said. “‘This is my last one, I promise, I'm not made for this. I hate this stressful life.’” And he was saying the same thing. Then after the fight, we'd look at each other when we won and were like, 'Yeahhhh, when is the next one? We love it.' (Laughs) How crazy is this? It's a very weird thing and I can't really explain it. I love it, but I hate it at the same time. It's a crazy lifestyle. The outcome could be so negative for your well-being, but the rewards of it are so great. It's a crazy gamble. It's like going all-in every time. I love training, I love the lifestyle, I love everything about it, but the night of the fight, it's very stressful and I don't miss that.”
See, there is only one GSP.