MMA / gsp

Georges St Pierre announces retirement. Was he the GOAT?
Last week Mixed Martial Arts legend Georges St Pierre announced his retirement from competitive fighting. This prompting to take a brief look at his impact on the sport and where he stands in the ranking amongst the all-time greats. Changed the Game I first started watching the UFC in 2001. It was a time when Tito Ortiz was the poster boy. It was also a time when fighters were (by-and-large) specialists in one discipline. Yes, Royce Gracie made it a prerequisite that every fighter understood Jiu-Jitsu. However most fighters had there core skillset, usually grappling or striking. Then came Georges St Pierre. A freakishly strong welterweight that was a high-level grappler, adept at Jiu-Jitsu. Yet had a range of dynamic striking and spinning attacks. Even before he became champion, it was clear that GSP (or at least his fight style) was the future of the sport. He was the birth of the 'modern' fighter that we see today. ‘GSP’ was every bit an athlete as he was a martial artist. He incorporated gymnastics and movement drills into his training regime but he more than just looked the part. Georges was a ferocious fighter with an unbending will to win inside the Octagon, yet a gentleman who was the personification of what it meant to be a martial artist outside of it. His way Most of all, GSP had the ability to dictate a fight on his own terms. If he was fighting a wrestler, Georges had the grappling to keep it standing. If he was fighting a striker, Georges had the stand up to get in and take them down. His only defeats were against Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. Both defeats he went on to avenge. GSP fought at a time when the best competed against the best in their division. His reign was epitomized by defences against genuine number one contenders. Nowadays it is a novelty for Champions to defend their belts. Interim Titles in the UFC are being given out like confetti as a consequence. It is not unusual for two or three fighters to lay claim to being the best in the division. Nor for top contenders to have never fought each other. GSP was Champion who defended his title. Always against the one guy that most would agree was next in line for a shot. And he bested them all. Hiatus In 2013 we thought we saw the last of St Pierre when he decided to take a break from the sport. It later emerged that he was taking a stand against the lack of drug testing in MMA. However, it was clear to many that GSP was still training and his reluctance to officially retire suggested it was a matter of when not if he returned to the Octagon. Sure enough, GSP returned in 2017, this time skipping the cue and fighting for the Middleweight title against Michael Bisping. In a performance that highlighted GSPs ability to adapt and find a path to victory, Georges choked out Bisping to become a two-weight UFC champion. Exclamation point It was a great high to leave the sport. Which he has now officially done. Very few professional athletes get to go out on their own terms at an elite level. The fact that there are still a couple of 'what ifs'... (what if he fought Khabib? What if he fought Anderson in the well overdue Superfight) suggests he got out at the right time. Many greats tarnish their legacies by taking one fight too many... that turns to two, three, four defeats on their resume against fighters that wouldn't have stood a chance against them in their prime. That fate should not befall Georges. He carefully crafted a path, in and out of the Octagon, that means he doesn't have to fight again. Where he ranks? For me, there are three men that can have a legitimate claim at being the GOAT in MMA. Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and GSP. Doping violations and defeats in the tail-end of his career have taken the gloss off of Anderson's achievements. Jon Jones looked every bit a bigger, better version of GSP, however doping violations and controversy outside the Octagon have halted Jones trajectory. So for me, if you're looking for a fighter with a storybook legacy. A cerebral fighter inside Octagon. A role model martial artist outside it. Then Georges St Pierre is it. As things stand it is hard to argue against him being the greatest martial artist of all time. If this is the end for GSP, he couldn't have picked a better time.