By Hal Estep
Last Thursday, the entire MMA world got the news that legendary welterweight Georges St. Pierre is retiring.
Unlike many of his peers, St. Pierre isn’t going out on his back. He isn’t retiring due to a loss, or believing that the fight game has passed him by. Everyone knows that “GSP” as he’s affectionately known, is still capable of fighting at a high level. He’s retiring in a very commendable way- on his own terms.
Throughout his career, Georges “Rush” St. Pierre handled himself with class and humility. St. Pierre began his career 5-0 before joining the UFC in 2004. It was there that he would rattle off two more wins before getting his first welterweight championship fight against another legendary fighter, Matt Hughes.
The 23-year-old St. Pierre idolized Hughes to this point, and when he faced with his idol at UFC 50, St. he suffered his first defeat.
Instead of dwelling on the loss, St. Pierre worked to come back with a vengeance. Over the next two years, St. Pierre won 5 straight fights, including one against “The Prodigy” BJ Penn, to earn a second shot against Matt Hughes.
To put in perspective the type of class he exemplified, look no further than his trash talk. Today in MMA, fighters trash talk at will, hoping to create the buzz that Conor McGregor has had. They’ll say anything as long as it gets the fan’s attention. St. Pierre did his talking in the octagon, and it showed when he attempted to trash talk Matt Hughes after the main event of UFC 63.
St. Pierre entered the octagon and told Hughes on a live mic that he was glad Hughes won. He then uttered one of the most infamous phrases in UFC trash talk history on the broadcast:
“I am not impressed with your performance,” he told MMAfighting.com
That’s it. That is the worst thing you will ever hear Georges St. Pierre say about another fighter. Even then, it was clear that he was not the type of person to trash talk because of how awkward it came off. Following that exchange, St. Pierre would face Hughes for the welterweight championship at UFC 65. Known for his wrestling, he would surprise fans by defeating Hughes with a head kick TKO. He had finally reached the mountain top and secured the welterweight championship at age 25, while avenging his only loss to that date.
He only held that title for six months, with no defenses before Matt Serra won the Ultimate Fighter and shocked the world. Going into UFC 69, no one on the planet gave Serra a chance to win. St. Pierre was the -1300 betting favorite heading into the fight, and admittedly took Serra lightly. In the first round, Matt Serra would stun St. Pierre with punches before knocking him down and securing the TKO victory, and completing the greatest upset in UFC history to date.
Once again, St. Pierre didn’t dwell on the loss. He got himself back into title contention by defeating Josh Koscheck, before taking on Matt Hughes for a third time for the interim welterweight championship. St. Pierre would beat Hughes in the rubber match, earning the chance to unify the titles against Matt Serra. At UFC 83, in St. Pierre’s hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, St. Pierre got his rematch. And in classic GSP fashion, he would beat Serra on the ground and win via TKO due to knees to the body. St. Pierre won his welterweight back, and this time he wasn’t letting go of it.
St. Pierre held on to the welterweight championship for the next five years, successfully defending the title nen times along the way in the tough welterweight division.
St. Pierre defeated the likes of BJ Penn, Jake Shields, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, and Johny Hendricks during his reign. He also developed a reputation for being a “boring” fighter because he constantly won using his wrestling and winning via decision. This is partially due to Dana White’s disdain for a lack of excitement and due to MMA fans’ tendencies to want to see knockouts. GSP didn’t go into the octagon purely to excite fans. St. Pierre went in to win and knew exactly what he had to do to win.
After defeating Johny Hendricks in a controversial split decision win and taking lots of damage, Georges St. Pierre would take a hiatus from the sport, vacating his welterweight championship. For nearly four years, UFC fans wondered if they had seen the last of him. They wondered if the hiatus was going to become retirement.
In 2017, it was clear that GSP was going to return to the octagon. After hints being thrown by both parties, St. Pierre returned to the UFC to fight the middleweight champion, the brash Michael Bisping. There were doubts about whether St. Pierre could compete against Bisping. He hadn’t fought in 4 years, and he was competing in a weight division that he had never fought in before. The odds seemed to be in Michael Bisping’s favor.
At UFC 217, St. Pierre would show that he hasn’t lost a step. He defeated Bisping via technical submission in the third round after dropping Bisping with a punch. With this victory, St. Pierre joined Randy Couture, BJ Penn, and McGregor as the only multiple division champions in UFC history at the time. Due to a bout with ulcerative colitis, he had to vacate the middleweight championship, but he had already made another mark by winning the title. Fans didn’t know it at the time, but this was the last time we would see St. Pierre in the octagon, barring a return from retirement.
Georges St. Pierre leaves the sport with a lasting legacy. He is the undisputed greatest of all time in the welterweight division. His record of 26-2 is incredible, especially considering he ended up avenging both of his losses. He is arguably the greatest pound for pound fighter in MMA history, and fighters and fans alike around the world have posted their respect to him. There may never be another fighter with as much class, humility, and skill as Georges St. Pierre, and we’re all lucky to have witnessed his legendary career. It is truly the end of an era. Merci Georges.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org