The GOAT. The greatest of all time.
The first was Fedor Emelianenko. Then it was Anderson Silva, but Chris Weidman sent him tumbling from the top.
It was Jon Jones and would have likely stayed that way for a long time, except for his inability avoid screwing things up.
And now we've pretty much settled on Demetrious Johnson, though doubters still exist due to the strength of the 5'3" fighter's competition (and because of that weird thing where males look down upon other males who are small in stature).
Those names are the four most often mentioned. You know who you never hear about? Georges St-Pierre. Not anymore, at least. St-Pierre used to be "in the mix" back in the day, before he decided to go on hiatus and UFC President Dana White started burying him as a guy who "didn't want to fight" every chance he got.
Before UFC 217, St-Pierre was decreasingly mentioned as the greatest welterweight in history, which is somewhat mind-boggling and most certainly insulting.
And now, after he defeated Michael Bisping at UFC 217 by third-round submission Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, St-Pierre isn't just the new middleweight champion. He's back in the mix. He's a contender for greatest of all time. A possible GOAT. And he's the fourth fighter in UFC history to capture a championship in two weight classes.
St-Pierre returned after a four-year layoff to fight in the UFC 217 main event. He moved up a weight class, appearing mostly like a more muscular version of the guy we remember from back in the day. He was slower, of course, which is a thing that happens when you're carrying around more muscle and when you're four years older.
And maybe he looked a little rusty, too, in the beginning of the fight. It was kind of like he needed a little WD-40 to get the creaks out. The lubricant came in the form of a knockdown when St-Pierre closed out the first round by putting Bisping on the canvas with a combo that started with his patented Superman jab, the same jab we watched him use to great effect in capturing and carrying the welterweight title.
The second round went more in Bisping's favor, as the champion darted and weaved, and tagged St-Pierre with great strikes. Bisping even got up from under a visibly tiring St-Pierre after a takedown, which is a thing that never used to happen to St-Pierre.
It made you feel like maybe St-Pierre was running out of gas, or maybe he'd run out of time altogether. His corner forgot to give him back his mouthpiece before the third round, which would normally qualify as the weirdest thing to happen in that one-minute space except for the fact Bisping's cup had somehow broken and so his corner was forced to MacGyver his underwear into holding the cup in place.
The third round started, and Bisping looked good—just kept on right where he left off—then suddenly he was on his back again and fighting to stay conscious as St-Pierre tried to make him unconscious.
And Bisping, ever the tough guy, lasted through the ground-and-pound, but he wasn't able to react when St-Pierre quickly moved to his back and sunk in one of those rear-naked chokes that makes your throat hurt even though you're watching at home. Bisping, because he is who he is, refused to tap out and opted to have his own lights turned out, his eyes slowly closing as he watched the final glimmer of light and his improbable championship reign slip away.
Georges St-Pierre. Middleweight champion.
St-Pierre joined Randy Couture, BJ Penn and Conor McGregor as a multi-division champion. He has more in common with Couture than the others, of course; Couture returned from a layoff after losing his UFC light heavyweight title to Chuck Liddell in 2006 by moving up to heavyweight and spanking Tim Sylvia around the Octagon to capture the heavyweight title. But Couture's layoff was only a little over a year long, not four years, and Couture's overall legacy is mixed at best.
St-Pierre's legacy? It's not mixed. He's the greatest welterweight in history. He hasn't lost a fight in 10 years. He's only lost twice in 15 years. And if those things weren't enough to give him a claim to being the greatest, he's now done what many consider to be the ultimate sign of a true all-time great: gone up in weight, faced a bigger man, put him down and taken his title.
Maybe he's not the greatest in your eyes. Maybe you think Johnson or Jones or Silva or Emelianenko have the edge. That's fine. The thing about the GOAT debate is that it'll never go away. We'll never have a consensus.
But here's one thing for certain: If you overlook St-Pierre at this point, maybe you're watching the wrong sport.