Georges St-Pierre: Is the UFC's Welterweight Champ the World's Best Athlete?

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Georges St-Pierre: Is the UFC's Welterweight Champ the World's Best Athlete?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cat-like agility, brute strength and the uncanny knack for formulating and executing intricate game plans are just a few superlatives used routinely when describing Georges St-Pierre.

Maximizing his rare blend of athleticism, strength and intellect, St-Pierre has ruled the UFC's welterweight division like a diabolical tyrant since ripping the belt from nemesis Matt Serra at UFC 83 in 2008.

Former lightweight and featherweight title challenger and current UFC analyst Kenny Florian summed up St-Pierre's extraordinary gifts on an extended preview for UFC 158 by saying:

Georges St-Pierre is one of the best athletes you will see in all of sports. Georges is an excellent striker. He's excellent on the ground. His ability to control his opponents and nullify everything that they want to do is better than anyone out there. I think that's really what makes Georges St-Pierre unique. He shuts you down.

But where does "GSP" stand in comparison to fellow super-athletes like Usain Bolt, LeBron James and Lionel Messi

Moreover, should upper-echelon MMA fighters—all of whom must master multiple disciplines to thrive—generally be held in higher regard than other athletes at the zenith of their respective sports?

Roughly 10 years ago, any pundit would have scoffed at the notion of comparing the athletic prowess of guys like Randy Couture or Tim Sylvia to mainstream superstars like Michael Phelps or Tiger Woods.

Even MMA's top-tier fighters were portrayed as proverbial circus acts until guys the ilk of St-Pierre, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones began stealing the show.

Once a sport that perpetually pitted one-dimensional athletes against one another, the UFC currently employs some of the world's most well-rounded competitors, with GSP topping the list.

Is Georges St-Pierre the world's best athlete?

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To quantify his athleticism, ESPN's Sport Science invited St-Pierre to its studios before his title fight with Jake Shields at UFC 129 in 2011.

St-Pierre delivered a punch that amazingly produced 2,859 pounds of force. He then unleashed a kick that generated an even more astounding 3,377 pounds of force.

For a more accurate measure of St-Pierre's punching power, just compare his numbers to those of either former light heavyweight champ Quinton Jackson (1,800 pounds of force) or heavyweight kingpin Cain Velasquez (2,230).

GSP also made the kick of former light heavyweight champ Mauricio Rua (2,749) look far less venomous.

"Rush" recorded equally impressive numbers in terms of speed, executing his patent blast double-leg takedown in just 1.17 seconds.

Besides becoming proficient in all facets of MMA, St-Pierre has also wisely taken up gymnastics in an attempt to optimize his athleticism. Rush has trained religiously in the sport for nearly four years under renowned trainer Patrick Beauchamp at the Club IMCO Gymnastique in Montreal, becoming more limber, explosive and graceful in the process.

In the pre-fight press conference for UFC 129, GSP elaborated on the benefits of integrating gymnastics into his training regimen.

Nobody can reproduce the movement of gymnastic guys, but gymnastic guys can reproduce the movement of everyone. They're the most athletic athlete(s) in the world. And I'm doing gymnastics also to keep my body healthy (and) to change my routine, and I love gymnastics, as well.

GSP credited Tristar Gym head trainer Firas Zahabi for persuading him to incorporate gymnastics into his routine. 

Zahabi, who became GSP's trainer following his loss to Serra at UFC 69, has guided St-Pierre to 10 straight wins, nine of which came in title fights.

Before Zahabi's tutelage, St-Pierre simply didn't have the leverage or the clout to make an argument for world's best athlete. But roughly six years of training under Zahabi's watch has turned St-Pierre into a bona fide superstar, akin to Bolt, James and Messi.

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