In the short history of MMA there have been many great fighters and draws. None, though, have ever been as popular and dominant in the cage as Georges St. Pierre. Hailing from Canada, he quickly became an international star because of his friendly, charming personality and his great fighting technique. Dominating the top 170 pound fighters in the world was the norm for St Pierre; today his career record stands at an impressive 25-2. At his peak, St. Pierre’s wrestling was so good he rarely lost a round to anyone, ever. Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, Josh Koscheck, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, Jon Fitch, and Johnny Hendricks are just a few of the guys St. Pierre defeated during his illustrious career. Not only was St. Pierre an incredible fighter, he was also beloved by most MMA fans. Financially speaking, he was a huge drawing card for the UFC and earned millions during his lengthy tenure as their Welterweight Champion.
When thinking of the MMA version of Mt. Rushmore, it would be a travesty to not include St. Pierre. He was the combination of great athlete and giant drawing card that comes around once or twice in a generation.
St. Pierre’s most recent fight took place almost two years ago, on November 16, 2013. On that night, he successfully defended his welterweight title, in a controversial decision, over Johnny Hendricks. The fight was very competitive and it looked to many that St. Pierre had lost a step. His explosiveness and speed seemed to have been hampered by an ACL surgery on his right knee back in 2011, but he was still competitive at the highest levels of the sport. At the time, a rematch with the feisty contender Hendricks would have made perfect sense.
Instead, after the Hendricks fight, St. Pierre announced that he was going to take a break from the Octagon. He was worn out from the grind of training and promoting fights. He claimed to have personal issues that needed addressing. In addition, he publicly criticized the UFC’s performance enhancing drug policy and wanted to see the sport cleaned up. He also had millions of dollars sitting in the bank collecting interest. He really did not need to fight anymore. He had plenty of reasons to step away from the cage at the age of 32.
Very few fighters retire as champion in their early 30’s though. The fame, money, and glory are simply too enticing to walk away from. Everyone eventually comes back. Michael Jordan, Floyd Mayweather, Michael Phelps, Brett Favre, Mario Lemieux, Pele, Deion Sanders, Bjorn Borg, and Lance Armstrong were all at the pinnacle of their sports, retired, then returned for another shot at glory.
Dana White knows these stories well and clearly expected the same thing with St. Pierre. For months, during his sabbatical, White claimed St. Pierre was taking a break, but would eventually fight in the UFC again. During this sabbatical, though, St. Pierre tore his other ACL, requiring surgery and rehab. This delayed his potential comeback even longer and surely made St. Pierre question a return to fighting even more so.
On October 17, 2014, St. Pierre was cleared to begin training again, but no fight had been announced or really even rumored for St. Pierre in the months that followed. At a press conference, in January 2015, White commented that he had offered St. Pierre a fight in his hometown of Montreal at UFC 186, but St. Pierre had declined. White, though, still appeared optimistic about an eventual St. Pierre comeback.
Then, last week, at a UFC 193 press event in Sydney, Australia, White was asked if Georges St. Pierre would ever return to the UFC. White’s canned response had changed and was surprising.
Responding to the fan, White said, “He’s (St. Pierre) made a lot of money, he’s accomplished a lot of things, and I don’t see him ever coming back, no.”
In the fight game, promoters and fighters say many things they don’t truly mean, but White was pretty emphatic here. He does not think St. Pierre will ever fight again.
This should have been bigger news, but most writers and fans probably don’t believe it. After all, promoters say a lot of things that aren’t true. In most instances, the lure of big money and bright lights are too much for anyone to resist. GSP retires. Sure.
St. Pierre, however, is a different breed. He was great with the media, fans, and in the Octagon. No one has had his drawing power, likeability factor, and success in the cage. He has nothing left to prove and seems happy being retired. At the age of 34, with money to burn, two reconstructed knees, no arrests, no drug test failures, and an incredible legacy in the cage, why would St. Pierre want to risk any of that?
The benefits of a return clearly do not outweigh the drawbacks. In St. Pierre’s mind, there is nothing to gain by coming back. He has really done it all.
Maybe, in the last few weeks, White finally thought these same things and had the epiphany that St. Pierre’s career may really be over.