We always wondered how Georges St. Pierre’s title reign would end. Most assumed it would come at the end of someone else’s fist, like every other champion of note, and that GSP would go out on his shield like many fighters have. He didn’t, choosing to walk away while he still held the belt.
We’ve opted to take a look back at the career of GSP and his retirement, en masse.
Scott Sawitz: GSP owes nothing to no one in MMA. Not to the fans, not to Johny Hendricks, not to the UFC and certainly not Dana White. While I wouldn’t be surprised if he walked away from the sport permanently … part of me holds out hope he returns after a while, refreshed and ready to fight again.
Luke Cho-Yee: All things considered I believe it’s the correct decision. As he said during the announcement ‘he has reached the top of the mountain’ so there is only one direction left to go and in recent fights his dominance of the welterweight division has showed clear signs of waning. The intensity and focus he brings to training camps allied with the pressure of holding the title for so long has clearly begun to reduce his passion to compete and regardless of whether it’s a hiatus or a permanent leave of absence he has proven himself to one of the greatest and classiest mixed martial artists of all time.
Daniel Sohn: There are two threads to this storyline. First, of course, is Georges St. Pierre’s legacy, where he will go from here, what he’s meant for the sport of MMA – the whole shebang. And second, what happens to the welterweight division now? The answer is: everything and anything. It’s like a WWE match where they would hang the belt above the ring and the guy would have to climb a ladder to go get it. The UFC welterweight title is up for grabs.
Before anything else, can all the talk about GSP owing anyone anything. The only thing he’s legally obligated to do is fulfill the terms of his contract with the UFC, which is currently “frozen” according to the UFC. He doesn’t owe Johny Hendricks anything, he doesn’t owe the UFC or the fans anything either. He did what every fighter is supposed to do: go out there and do your best to win fights. According to the UFC, his contract will be “frozen” until he returns, if he ever does. But I can’t picture the UFC making things ugly if GSP decides to hang em up for good.
As for the rest of the welterweight division, well, this is what every fighter in contention has been waiting for. The dominant champion is gone, so throw out all of the logic before because it doesn’t matter now. Hendricks meets Lawler for the vacant title and anything goes from there. Bring on Carlos Condit, Matt Brown, Nick Diaz, Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald, anyone and everyone who wants to fight for the title but could/would not because GSP was the champion. It’s going to be an absolute frenzy and we might see the title change hands like it did for the light heavyweights until a new all-world fighter comes along.
We are seeing a natural transition in MMA. We are witnessing big moments in MMA lore and history. Much like any other sport, the dominant performers of the time will have their peak and must naturally fade as others more capable begin to shine and take over. The Chicago Bulls ruled the 90’s in pro basketball, then the Lakers and Spurs took over until the Miami Heat now reside at the top. Soon they will fade as well. Georges St. Pierre was, and still could be, one of the champions (both literally and figuratively) of MMA, who helped a great deal to carry the sport to where it is today. But his era is fading, to make room for guys who are just as hungry as he was before he became champion. Fighters like GSP and Anderson Silva, who have dominated for so long, are now in doubt as to how much they really want to (and can) keep fighting. Meanwhile, younger fighters like Jon Jones and Anthony Pettis are just starting their reigns and looking to make their marks in history. It’s an inevitable transition, one that many are sad to see, but GSP is making the wise choice here by leaving now, right around his peak, by his own free will, rather than later when the situation dictates it to him. No fighter should be fighting when their heart isn’t 100% in it.
There is no replacing GSP, but there will be many fighters up to the task of creating their own legacies and carrying their own fanbase. MMA is losing a fighter who has been right up there with death and taxes in terms of consistency. When GSP fights, people watch, and when GSP fights, GSP wins. He did it in style and with class, and really set the bar for all young professional athletes, not just fighters. He makes for a great role model and someday we’ll see a future champion who will cite Georges St. Pierre as one of his heroes, much like GSP speaks about Royce Gracie. Coming from a fan of MMA, I personally salute the body of work that GSP has put together and am thankful we had the chance to witness such excellence. MMA fans are losing one of their golden boys, but that means other people, like the young fighters GSP wants to help train, will be gaining something. Whatever he does, as a fan of the sport and what he’s done for it, I wish him only the best.
Tags: Georges St. Pierre, Mixed Martial Arts