B/R Exclusive: Georges St-Pierre on Khabib, Favorite Fighters and New Ventures
Ask any fight fan to name the best fighter of all time, and there's a good chance they'll tell you it's Georges St-Pierre (26-2).
The Canadian MMA legend ruled over the UFC welterweight division from 2008 to 2013, vanquishing nine would-be usurpers in that time: Jon Fitch, BJ Penn, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz and Johny Hendricks. All of the above were at the pinnacle of their fighting lives when they challenged him, but none succeeded.
As if St-Pierre's welterweight title reign wasn't enough to cement his place in the combat sports pantheon, he later emerged from a four-year retirement to wrest the UFC middleweight title from Michael Bisping and become one of just a few two-division champions in the promotion's history.
While St-Pierre's fighting days are now over, his stardom is proving to be as sturdy as his legacy. Now 40 years old, he remains one of the most popular and influential figures in the fight game.
B/R recently caught up with the Canadian icon to get his thoughts on the current MMA landscape and to learn what he's been up to since he hung up his gloves.
The Khabib Nurmagomedov Super-Fight
In the months leading up to St-Pierre's retirement, there was widespread talk about his fighting former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov—an undefeated juggernaut who looked downright unbeatable by the time his career concluded. The fight, which likely would have been the last hurrah for both men, would have clocked in as one of the biggest—maybe even the biggest—in UFC history.
Unfortunately, this dream matchup ultimately fizzled out before it could be realized.
Now settled into his retirement, St-Pierre is still disappointed he couldn't end his illustrious career with such a massive and significant fight, but he does see a silver lining.
"I believe if you make that fight 10 times, it could be 10 different outcomes—but we're never going to see it unfortunately," St-Pierre told Bleacher Report. "Timing was an issue with the UFC.
"It's unfortunate, but it could be seen as a positive that both of us finished our careers with a great legacy, and nothing has been tainted [by a loss]—so it's good."
GSP's Favorite Fighters to Watch
Despite his retirement from MMA, St-Pierre still follows the sport closely.
There are a number of fighters he enjoys watching, such as reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and welterweight champ Kamaru Usman—a man some fans believe could ultimately rival St-Pierre's greatness in the weight class.
"I think Usman, right now, is the best pound-for-pound," St-Pierre said of his successor. "In terms of performance, I think he's one of the best right now and he's an active competitor.
"I like to watch Adesanya as well, Francis Ngannou, Ciryl Gane," he added. "I like [Alexander] Volkanovski—all of the champions."
St-Pierre has also taken a shining to Mexico's Brandon Moreno, who recently captured the UFC flyweight strap with a dazzling submission win over Deiveson Figueiredo.
"If we're talking about who's the greatest, I think Moreno is pretty amazing," he said. "The way he beat Figueiredo, that was amazing. It was an amazing performance—as good as it gets."
Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor 3
Like most fight fans, St-Pierre will be tuned in for the upcoming UFC 264 card, which goes down July 10 in Las Vegas. The card is stacked from top to bottom, but the real attraction is undoubtedly the main event, which will pit lightweight contenders Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor against each other in a tie-breaking trilogy fight.
McGregor won the pair's first fight, back in 2014, by first-round knockout. Poirier then evened the score with a second-round knockout win at UFC 257 earlier this year.
Heading into the pair's rubber match, St-Pierre is backing McGregor to come out on top.
"If you look at Conor, he seems very good with rematches," he said. "He's very good at adjusting himself. Perhaps he tried to finish his opponent a little bit too early [in the second fight]. He tried to push on the gas a little too much—and he came very close. It was very similar fight to when he lost to Nate Diaz.
"I think he will make the adjustments and he'll come back stronger from it."
Life After Fighting
Many fighters have a difficult time retiring from competition. Time and time again, we've seen fighters retire, only to mount comebacks down the road—often with disastrous results.
St-Pierre, however, had no difficulty riding off into the sunset because he never enjoyed fighting to begin with.
"It's not hard at all," he said of the transition. "I never enjoyed [fighting]—not even a second. I did it because I wanted the freedom, the money, the access to things that most people don't have. I used fighting to get that. The goal was to become champion, but my goal was never to keep fighting.
"I'm glad I did it, because it allowed me to obtain what I wanted to have, but it wasn't hard at all to turn it off," he continued. "I'm still a competitor, I'm still training, and I'm still involved in the sport. I'm really enjoying it now. The fun part of my life is happening now. There's no stress.
"I mean, there's still stress, but there's no life-threatening stress," he added with a laugh.
Part of what makes retirement difficult for some fighters is that they don't have any other options. In St-Pierre's case, that couldn't be further from reality.
The Canadian legend has deftly transitioned into a number of compelling ventures, including a burgeoning acting career. He's already landed several high-profile roles, most recently in Marvel's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
"I always liked acting," St-Pierre said. "I did some gigs in the past, but I was too busy focusing on competing as a mixed martial artist, so I was not as well-prepared. Now, it's been more than two years that I've been doing acting classes full-time, and English classes as well. So I'm making sure that my skills are improving. I want to deliver good performances for the fans, for the camera, and also for myself, because it's something I really enjoy doing, and something I'm looking to do more of.
"There's a lot of similarity between acting and preparing for a fight," he continued. "I believe I was acting all my life. Before every fight I was terrified, extremely nervous, but when you see me walking to the ring, I look confident, happy to be there, and excited, which is completely not true. I was acting my whole career.
"Also in fighting you rehearse and repeat different scenarios that might occur in the fight. You repeat them maybe hundreds, thousands of times, and when the fight stars, you realize your opponent is never as good as you thought he was and he's never as bad as you thought he was. It's the same thing in acting. You can rehearse a scene as much as you want, but when you get on set, the background might be different. The reaction of the actor with whom you're playing might be different. So I realized that the best athletes in mixed martial arts and the best actors have something in common: They are very good at adapting. You need to be like Bruce Lee says: Be like water."
Acting isn't the only thing keeping St-Pierre busy in his post-fighting life. He also recently inked a partnership with full-contact karate promotion, Karate Combat. The partnership will see him serve as a "Season Sensei"—a role that entails analysis and insight on the fights and fighters themselves.
For St-Pierre, a lifelong karate practitioner, it was a match made in heaven.
"Karate is a huge thing for me," he said. "I started in Kyokushin karate. I was very young. It started as self-defense. Self-defense became a passion, passion became a business, and it led me to transition into mixed martial arts—so of course karate is my base, it's my foundation."
Based on his background in karate, St-Pierre was excited when he learned about Karate Combat—and even more thrilled to join the promotion.
"I was very happy because karate tends to be very divided," he said. "I think karate will be stronger if it's united, and that's what Karate Combat does: they unite all styles of karate and they try to blend them, with special rules, so that every style can compete. It's also the only organization where karate athletes can compete professionally, so I'm very happy about that."
"Karate is a very effective form of combat," he added. "It's made for self-defense in the street. At its base, karate is not really a sport, it's made for survival in the street. Of course, we have to create rules, because we don't want anybody to die in competition, but it's a very dynamic, very real, efficient sport."
Season 3 of Karate Combat debuts on Thursday, July 1 at 10:00 p.m. ET on CBS Sports and will air in the same time slot for 12 weeks.