UFC 50: The Catalyst for Georges St-Pierre’s Greatness
By James Lee
Fifteen years ago today, Georges St-Pierre suffered his first professional loss and one that changed the landscape of his career forever. With the Canadian undefeated and seemingly invincible, he met Matt Hughes in Atlantic City at UFC 50.
What followed was the first of the two losses of his career, with Hughes submitting him in the first round via armbar.
The loss and the Matt Serra loss a couple of years later shaped him to become the greatest. It made him composed, obsessive and controlled. The three things that secured his legacy.
St-Pierre would go on to avenge both his professional loss to Hughes and Serra and end his career with a record of twenty-six wins and two losses, alongside nine welterweight title defences.
He got his revenge over Hughes on two occasions, to cement himself as the better fighter. A TKO finish at UFC 65 was followed up by a submission win at UFC 79.
One thing that separates him from the rest in contention for the title of the greatest is the fact he avenged both of his losses on his record in devastating fashion.
He left the sport without a loss he hasn’t gotten back, proving he was undeniably better than anybody he fought.
The best fighters must overcome adversity and St-Pierre beating people he had lost to showed his resilience.
Muhammad Ali is known as the greatest boxer of all time because of his comebacks. After losing to Joe Frazier in a clear unanimous decision in the first fight, he came back to beat Frazier twice to showcase his superior skill.
Fans credit overcoming adversity because it shows somebody defying competitiveness.
His obsessive nature overcame the adversity and played a huge factor in him accumulating successive wins.
It is said he was completely frightened to lose. Even to fight. That is why he trained harder than anyone in the sport. He wouldn’t fight if he wasn’t 100% prepared.
GSP didn’t do chances, he did definites. In his head because of the way he had trained, he was certain to win.
It is said that great fighters are fearless, but the greatest fighters are fearful. Fearful of a loss.
GSP realised after two losses that his ‘Rush’ style wouldn’t sustain his ideal career. Recklessness guarantees failure eventually and his eventual style was a sign of complete intelligence.
His UFC 158 fight with Nick Diaz was the one that cemented his legacy as the greatest.
GSP overcame injuries and controversies. It was a fight where St-Pierre was tested by talk outside the octagon.
There is no escaping feeling emotions when facing Nick Diaz and St-Pierre embraced it. He acknowledged the emotions and that made him a better fighter.
St-Pierre won the mental battle in the end with his wrestling frustrating Diaz who was helpless,in what was one of the most dominant performances over a five round championship fight in history.
Similarly, the domination of BJ Penn at UFC 94 does not go unnoticed, especially after their close first fight.
His ability to adapt to any situation and continually grow was another factor that propelled him to the top of the game.
GSP mastered every aspect of the sport and continually pushed himself to learn at every stage of his career. That is what allowed him to beat the best in the world for over a decade.
His return fight against Michael Bisping at UFC 217 was the perfect end to his career.
Moving up a weight class after a four-year break to claim the middleweight belt proved he could compete on the highest level still as it put him amongst few to hold titles in two separate weight classes in the UFC.
Despite still being world class, he decided to retire earlier this year and make sure his legacy stayed in TACT. GSP was content with what he achieved and he should be. The adversity he overcame proved his grit.
But, the consistent domination he showed against world class opposition will forever define him.
Some would argue, perhaps, not the most exciting fighter, but somebody who will forever have a major spot in the sport’s history going forward.
For me, the undeniable greatest.