Why Georges St-Pierre is the greatest mixed martial artist of all time
By Josh Werle, Staff Writer
The debate on which athlete should be considered the “greatest of all time” is always a hotly contested topic amongst fans. Every sport has its legends and every fan has had a different experience, leading to a never-ending conversation regardless of the sport in question. In the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), this debate may never be settled, but there are always a few names who are continuously mentioned throughout the years. Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson, Anderson Silva, and of course, the newly minted Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Famer, Georges “Rush” St-Pierre.
On Sept. 24, 2021, St-Pierre was placed into the Modern-era wing of the UFC’s Hall of Fame and was the first Canadian athlete to be inducted. Let’s take a look back at the career of St-Pierre and the accomplishments that led him to receive his Hall of Fame accolade.
The early years
MMA is an intriguing sport for many reasons, but the one that stands out the most is the impact a difference in stylistic matchups can have on a fight. Some athletes are good wrestlers, but may lack in the striking department. Others may be world-renowned kickboxers, but are unable to secure a submission victory. It is very rare to find an athlete who is a complete mixed martial arts fighter; someone who is capable of finishing the fight wherever it may go.
St-Pierre was one of those rare fighters who was proficient in every aspect of MMA, which allowed him to have an extremely quick rise in the UFC. He secured a UFC title shot after only seven professional bouts, having gotten knockouts, submissions and judges’ decisions under his belt.
Any MMA fan would have Matt Hughes as part of the perennial top five Welterweight competitors of all time. Defeating him in only his eighth professional fight, and his third fight in the UFC, was a task that even St-Pierre couldn’t complete. The two competed for the vacant Welterweight championship at UFC 50 where St-Pierre lost via submission in the last possible second of the first round.
Although losing a championship bout is never desirable, St-Pierre was able to use defeat as motivation to once again climb to the top of the Welterweight ranks. He rattled off five-straight wins after his setback to Hughes, defeating legends like Sean Sherk and B.J. Penn. This streak resulted in a second chance at the Welterweight championship and a rematch against Hughes. This time it was St-Pierre who got the finish over Hughes, defeating him via technical knockout in the second round and cementing himself as one of the top Welterweights in the world.
At this stage, he was seemingly unstoppable, as the only loss he had suffered was now avenged. St-Pierre was primed and ready to reign as Welterweight champion for the foreseeable future, but there was one more bump in the road before he could reach that point.
Outlook on fighting
St-Pierre is always the first to admit that he didn’t actually like to fight. He loved to train, win and make the kind of money that allows you to live the professional athlete lifestyle. Fighting inside the cage was always a way for him to do and have these things. St-Pierre was always very nervous for his fights, as one would expect. The one time he wasn’t as nervous was the one time he lost via technical knockout.
Matt Serra was coming off a victory on the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter TV show, which netted him a title shot against St-Pierre at UFC 69. At this point though, it was clear that St-Pierre was leaps and bounds above his competition, as he was listed as a 7-1 favorite over his opponent. Unfortunately, St-Pierre didn’t take Serra as seriously as he should have, saying in an interview with MMA Junkie that, “I train in the fear that my opponent trained harder than me, and I go through a lot of mental struggle to overcome that adversity. I didn’t feel like when I fought Matt Serra I went through that.”
After losing his Welterweight title in what is commonly referred to as one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, St-Pierre was forced to go back to the drawing board again. Serra would be his final defeat in MMA. But after beating a rival in Josh Koshchek, and Hughes for a second time, St-Pierre would go on to defeat Serra and recapture his Welterweight championship.
Reign at the top
After battling back and avenging his loss to Serra, St-Pierre was once again the Welterweight champion of the world. What followed his second championship victory was a reign that would cement him as one of the greatest of all time, regardless of weight class. After defeating Serra for the Welterweight championship, St-Pierre would go on to successfully defend his championship nine consecutive times, scoring submissions, knockouts and wins on the judges’ scorecards.
St-Pierre was a dominant force. He defeated some of the greatest Welterweights in the history of the sport with relative ease. It wasn’t until he met title challenger Johnny Hendricks that he actually faced some form of adversity. The two met at UFC 167 in a matchup that would end up being St-Pierre’s final fight at Welterweight. After a gruelling five-round battle, St-Pierre managed to defeat Hendricks via split decision, leaving the MMA community divided over the result. St-Pierre would take a four-year hiatus from the sport before eventually returning to the UFC in 2017, with a surprising change in weight class. He moved up to the Middleweight division to challenge former champion Michael Bisping. St-Pierre defeated Bisping via submission in the third round, becoming the Middleweight champion of the world.
St-Pierre is one of only seven UFC athletes to win a title in multiple weight divisions, further cementing himself as one of the greats. Although he has been linked to matchups against superstars like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, it is evident that St-Pierre has officially retired.
I believe that St-Pierre’s legacy has now been cemented and he is worthy of being called the greatest of all time. The only two losses he suffered were avenged, he defended his championship in dominant fashion and won a title in a second weight class. St-Pierre’s recent Hall of Fame induction only serves as a reminder that he was a one-of-a-kind mixed martial artist.