November 16, 2013 Georges “Rush” St. Pierre, battered and bruised, was awarded a controversial split decision victory again Johny Hendricks. Afterwards, standing in the center of the octagon being showered by boos, “GSP” announced that he would be taking a break from MMA. We said goodbye to a legend that night. A legend who walked away as the king of the Welterweight division.
Fans seem quick to forget just how dominant this man was during his reign. Nineteen wins inside the famous octagon. Nine successful title defenses against many of the best fighters in the world. This accumulated to a total of 2,204 days as UFC Champion. He defeated the likes of Matt Hughes, Nick Diaz, Thiago Alves, Carlos Condit just to name a few.
Looking back at St. Pierre’s reign he was often labeled as a “boring” champion. A champion that liked to “play it safe”. I must admit, I was of that belief for a good period of time. I remember watching “GSP” in absolute awe of his physical and technical talents. His debut against Karo Parisyan, following that up with a destruction against Jay Hieron. This led to his first title opportunity against fellow legend Matt Hughes. St. Pierre would lose that fight via armbar with just one second left in the first round. I admired St. Pierre’s resiliency coming back from defeat. He would dismantle the likes of Frank Trigg and Sean Sherk among five straight victories to earn his rematch with Hughes. This time St. Pierre would not be denied. He finished Hughes via second-round TKO, landing a beautiful left head kick and follow up punches. This is was a dream come true for Georges St. Pierre. A goal all fans expected the magnificent fighter from Montreal to obtain.
Disaster would strike in St. Pierres first title defense. At UFC 69 he was upended by Matt Serra in what many believe to be the biggest upset in MMA history. Serra, fresh off his TUF 4: The comeback season victory, earned himself a title shot. Most people did not give Serra much of a chance in this fight. The odds reflected this; Serra was around a +700 underdog while the come back on “GSP” was -1100. Serra made the best of this opportunity, rocking “GSP” towards the end of the first round and never letting off the gas, finishing St. Pierre via strikes to become the UFC Welterweight champion. Again, utter heartbreak for Georges.
UFC 69, April 7th, 2007, would be the last time we would see “GSP” taste defeat. He racked up victories over Josh Koscheck and his “nemesis” Matt Hughes in a trilogy bout at UFC 79; An event cleverly named “Nemesis”. This set up the resilient St. Pierre for a showdown with Matt Serra at UFC 83 for the Welterweight title. St. Pierre dominated Serra, finishing him by TKO in the second round via knee strikes to the body. This fight launched St. Pierre’s legendary title run.
Looking back at “GSP’s” title run after he retired, I switched my stance on him. Instead of finding his dominance “boring” I began to feel myself in awe of his work, just as I had when watching him coming up through the ranks. He faced bonafide killers. The sports top strikers, grapplers, wrestlers, St. Pierre faced them all. He made just about every one of them look completely average. I attribute this not only to St. Pierre’s talent but also his fight IQ and “MMA brain”. Georges would outstrike the grapplers and he would out grapple the strikers flawlessly. It took “GSP” retiring for me to truly appreciate this about him. To truly appreciate the professional that he was.