UFC 50: The Catalyst for Georges St-Pierre’s Greatness
By James Lee
Fifteen years ago on this day, Georges St-Pierre suffered his first professional loss and one that changed the landscape of his career and mixed martial arts forever.
With the Canadian undefeated and seemingly invincible, he met Matt Hughes in Atlantic City at UFC 50.
What followed was the first of two losses during the entirety of his career, with his American counterpart gasping a first-round armbar submission.
However, despite the loss, that defeat and a subsequent disappointment at the hands of Matt Serra a couple of years later shaped him to become the greatest.
It made him composed, obsessive and controlled. The three things that ensured his legacy.
St-Pierre would go on to avenge both his professional losses to Hughes and Serra and end his career with a record of twenty-six wins and two losses, alongside nine UFC welterweight title defences.
He got his revenge over Hughes on two occasions, to cement himself as the more
skilled fighter, as a technical knockout finish at UFC 65 was followed up by a submission win at UFC 79.
Ultimately, the single element 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 has not gotten back, proving he was undeniably better than anybody he fought.
The best fighters must overcome adversity and St-Pierre defeating those he had previously lost to exemplified 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 their first fight, he came back to beat Frazier twice to showcase his superior skill.
Fans credit overcoming adversity because it shows somebody defying competitiveness.
Without that competitive nature, few would care. His obsessive state is ultimately what overcame that adversity and played a pivotal 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 made sure he was destined to win and trained as if there was no other option.
It is said that great fighters are fearless, but the greatest fighters are fearful.
GSP realised after two losses that his ‘Rush’ style would not sustain his ideal career. Recklessness guarantees failure eventually and his eventual behaviour was a sign of intelligence and respect to the craft.
Regardless, his UFC 158 fight with Nick Diaz was the one that possibly cemented his legacy as the greatest. The overcoming of injuries, adversity and controversy whilst being unable to escape the emotive tone of Nick Diaz was testing. Most break. St-Pierre instead acknowledged them and became a better fighter because of it.
St-Pierre won the mental battle in the end with his wrestling frustrating the helpless Diaz in one of the most dominant championship performances in UFC history.
Similarly, his domination over BJ Penn, at UFC 94, cannot go unnoticed, especially after their close initial outing.
That ability to adapt to any situation and continually grow was key in his hike and stay at the top.
GSP mastered every aspect of the sport and continually grew 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 185 lbs belt proved he could still compete on the highest level and rectified the years of conversation regarding his middleweight hesitancy.
Despite still operating on a world-class level, the Canadian decided to retire and keep his legacy untarnished. He decided he was content with his career, and rightfully so.
Although his consistent domination against elite opposition will forever define him, the adversity he overcame is superior to all.
Some would argue, perhaps, not the most exciting fighter, but somebody who will forever have a notable role in the sport’s history as it continues to develop.
For me, Georges St-Pierre is the undeniable greatest.