On November 4th, at UFC 217, Canadian former UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre fought for the first time in four years, his first time at middleweight, and dethroned UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping by choking him to sleep in the third round. GSP says he’s better than ever.
A “better” GSP is a scary thought, because when he left the UFC after his victory over Jonny Hendricks at UFC 167 in November 2013, Georges St. Pierre had been the champ of the UFC welterweight division for the better part of the decade, and had only two losses in his professional career spanning back to 2002, both of which were avenged in rematches. GSPs’ incredible record and spectacular return has prompted plenty of talk of GSP being the greatest fighter of all time, even from other professional fighters. Always-humble GSP has said that his recent popular promotion as the greatest fighter ever is “an illusion” since “[I] can be the best one day, but tomorrow [I’m] not”, but the expectations that arise from this banter have harmed GSP before. In a CBC interview in 2014, he revealed that OCD, inflated by expectations to win, taxed his health and personal life for the last decade. Further, in a recent interview on The MMA Hour, GSP said that he can’t stand the pressure of fights, and it showed in the past. In his immediate post-fight interview at UFC 167, GSP almost avoided saying anything about leaving that might disappoint his fans, even though he was visibly fatigued from stress, until his interviewer pressured him to speak and he blurted that he was leaving. The leave helped. GSP says he’s refreshed and healthy, and he looked good fighting Bisping.
GSPs’ ability to win fights is evidently outstanding, so by being “better”, he’s referring to the way in which he wins. After becoming the undisputed UFC welterweight champion in April 2008 at UFC 83, all but one of GSP’s title defence until his leave were decision victories, where judges scored each fighter at the end of the fight. By contrast, the majority of GSP’s victories prior to UFC 83 were either submission victories from trapping the opponent in a painful hold, or technical knockout victories by landing too many fast, hard, strikes that weren’t avoided. Naturally, many UFC fans found watching welterweight champ GSP boring because he’d win by decision as opposed to by submission, knockout, or technical knockout. This was most evident at UFC 167 when GSP was announced as the winner and boos rained down on him.
Despite leaving the UFC to boos, hearing the crowd chant “G-S-P” in his return fight at UFC 217 wasn’t surprising. He wasn’t trying to get a decision victory. He finished Bisping, a tough middleweight. He is better than ever, and a bigger legend than ever. It’s unclear if GSP will fight next at middleweight or welterweight, but he’s done enough to be considered the greatest fighter ever. Trudeau said it best on Twitter: “Félicitations Georges! Like you never left. You’ve made us proud once again.”