GSP on UFC involvement: 'Why step back in? But why not step back in? We only live once!'
Canadian MMA legend and UFC Hall of Fame nominee Georges St-Pierre has already had one successful return to the sport.
After stepping away following a welterweight title defence victory over Johny Hendricks in 2013, St-Pierre returned four years later to capture the middleweight title from Micheal Bisping, before once again calling time on his career.
With his interest only on fights that will further his already impressive legacy, would the prospect of fighting undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov be enough to get him back into the Octagon? St-Pierre tells TSN that he’s not completely sure one way or the other.
"Why step back in? But why not step back in? We only live once, so that’s the question that I’m facing now,” St-Pierre told TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter. “If I have an opportunity to do it and all the stars are aligned and I don’t do it, because I’ve still got it now, I’m still in my best years. Will I regret when I reach 50 years old? Will I tell myself, ‘I wish I would’ve done that’ and I didn’t do it? Was it an opportunity of a lifetime to fight a guy that’s undefeated, that’s never been beat and I could’ve been the first. I don’t know.”
When St-Pierre officially announced his retirement in 2019, one of the things he mentioned was the UFC’s reluctance to book a fight with Nurmagomedov. The 39-year-old says that at one point he was ready to fully invest himself in the matchup, but both time and the pandemic have changed his way of thinking.
"It’s almost already been three years, we tried to make the fight with Khabib. I wanted to go all in, I was ready for it, I was all in,” said St-Pierre. “Now things have changed, three years have gone by, COVID and all that, I’ve kinda let go of the idea of coming back to fight. I would need to put myself back into a different warrior mode, because when I fight, my brain doesn’t function the same way as when I’m in my normal life.”
The former two-division champion does say that the Warrior mode takes over when he’s in the gym putting in work, but when he’s done, he feels a contentment that makes him question whether he would ever contest a competitive fight again.
"Sometimes I feel like, now it’s COVID, the situation is different, but when I train, I still get it, I’m very confident. If you ask me during training or right before training, ‘hey would you like to fight again?’ I would be like, ‘yeah, let’s do it, I’m down,’” said St-Pierre. “Then after I go home and everything, the adrenalin comes down and you ask me, I’m like, “I don’t know,” I’m not sure about it, I’m good where I am, I’m comfortable and satisfied. Satisfaction for an athlete is the death, you’re done, you’re finished when you’re satisfied. In order to come back, I’m in a mental state where I’m not sure, the stars would need to be aligned perfectly.”
If the legendary fight were to take place, one of the things that wouldn’t be on the line is Nurmagomedov’s belt. GSP has no interest in getting down to the lightweight limit and instead believes that a catchweight contest would be more equitable for both competitors.
"I haven’t cut weight for a long time, If I go down to 155, my performance will be compromised,” said St-Pierre. “I know Khabib is about the same size as me. He’s maybe bigger than me when he’s off-season. I never go up to 200. I’m at 185. That’s turned to his advantage. If we cut more weight, he’s able to bounce back more than I am. He’s used to it. I’ve never been a big fan of cutting weight. Even when I was a welterweight, I was 185. Most guys now are much bigger than 185.
“That’s one of the principles of the Art of War, know the terrain. I’ve never fought at 155, he knows, I believe, to make it fair, we need to fight in a place we’ve never been. Both of us. That would have to be a condition to me coming back if it happens.”
St-Pierre is now open about the reasons why he walked away from the sport in 2013, though they were things he didn’t want to admit publicly were going on behind the scenes. He feels as though his return would have been sooner if he had stopped fighting when he originally planned.
"I was pretty burned out and I was ashamed to admit it at the time because to me is was a shame,” said St-Pierre. “I was wealthy, I was healthy and I was doing the job that I wanted to do. I had so much pressure for so long and personal problems on top of that, for me, it was too much of a shame to admit that I was in some kind of depression. I’m sure if I had taken my hiatus after the Nick Diaz fight, I would have come back earlier. My mental state was not right at the time.”
When he did relinquish the welterweight belt after his victory at UFC 167, he was offered a very interesting fight by the UFC. However, even a fight against another legend was not enough to drag him back to the Octagon at that time.
"Right after I left, I just wanted to leave the sport I was tried. I think Dana White called me to fight Anderson Silva a few weeks after, but it was not the time,” said St-Pierre. “I wasn’t going to fight anybody, even if you gave me a crazy good purse, I wasn’t going to fight anybody. I was not mentally sound to fight and I just wanted to get away and take care of my problems. I was able to live a different life and do different things that I didn’t have the time to do during the time that I was busy fighting. The break that I took allowed me to come back stronger and I’m very glad I did it, I just wish I had done it sooner so I could’ve come back earlier.”