One of the all-time greats has officially retired.
Former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre announced his retirement Thursday at a press conference at Bell Centre in Montreal.
“It takes a lot of discipline to become and stay champion. It also takes a lot of discipline to stop while still feeling that you’re in the best physical and mental shape of your life but I’ve always planned to leave the sport when I’m at the top and in good health,” St-Pierre said in a statement. “I want to thank my family, my fans, my coaches, trainers and training partners, my sponsors and my agents for their indefectible support during all these years.
“I will forever be grateful for the work of Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, as well as Dana White and all UFC employees for giving me the opportunity to showcase my skills before the world, from UFC 46 to UFC 217. I also want to thank each of my opponents. All of them are incredible athletes who brought out the best in me. I retire from competition with great pride at having had a positive impact on my sport. I intend to keep training and practicing martial arts for as long as I live and I look forward to watching the new generation of champions carry our sport into the future.”
The news comes 15 months after St-Pierre’s last fight in the main event of UFC 217, where he returned from a four-year hiatus to defeat Michael Bisping and capture a 185-pound title. Shortly after, St-Pierre would vacate that belt citing a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis that was related to his bulking up to compete at middleweight. Recently, St-Pierre said he was fully recovered, but unsure of his fighting future.
At Thursday’s press conference, St-Pierre wanted to make it clear that this would be the end for his fighting career and went on to thank his friends, family, coaches, fans, and influences.
“When I was young, the reason why I started doing mixed martial arts is because I watched Royce Gracie growing up when he won the first UFC,” St-Pierre said. “At that particular moment, I knew exactly that’s what I wanted to do. It’s weird, it’s like I had a vision. So I want to say thank you to Royce Gracie for inspiring me. Also thank you to (kickboxer) Jean-Yves Theriault for inspiring me, not only as an athlete, as a good role model.
“And thank you to Wayne Gretzky. He’s probably the best athlete all sports combined, his records will probably never be broken. Not only is he an incredible athlete, for me he’s an incredible role model and through my career I always tried to mold myself like Wayne Gretzky.”
St-Pierre, 37, made his pro debut on Jan. 25, 2002, defeating Ivan Menjivar by first-round TKO at a show in Montreal. He would go on to win his first seven bouts to earn the right to challenge Matt Hughes for the UFC welterweight championship at UFC 50, but lose by first-round submission. The two would rematch at UFC 65 and St-Pierre would pick up a second-round TKO victory to capture his first UFC title.
After a stunning upset at the hands of Matt Serra in his first defense at UFC 69, St-Pierre would win their rematch one year later and successfully defend the title nine times, a UFC welterweight record. Over the course of his UFC career, St-Pierre went 26-2 with wins over top names like Hughes (twice), B.J. Penn (twice), Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, Carlos Condit, Josh Koscheck (twice), Jon Fitch, and Sean Sherk.
According to St-Pierre, it was the Condit fight that produced the most memorable moment of his career, though not for the reasons that one might assume.
“The moment I’m the most proud of in my career is when I got dropped in the fight game,” St-Pierre said. “When I got dropped with the head kick by Carlos Condit and I fall down and I was able to stand up. It sounds weird, people think it would be about a victory or a knockout. For me, it’s when I got dropped by a head kick and I survived.
“That’s the most proud thing in my career, because it shows that I have the guts to come back from an obstacle and I was able to overcome it.”
St-Pierre took a break from the sport following a close split decision win over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 on Nov. 16, 2013 and even as the years passed, he refused to call it an outright retirement. In November 2017, he returned to action to beat Bisping, making him the fourth (of six now) fighter in UFC history to win championships in two divisions.
In regards to UFC president Dana White, with whom St-Pierre has had the occasional philosophical disagreement, St-Pierre said they were friends and on good terms and that White complimented him for retiring at the right time.
“Georges has cemented his legacy as one of the pound-for-pound greatest fighters ever,” White said in a statement. “He beat all the top guys during his welterweight title reign and even went up a weight class to win the middleweight championship. He spent years as one of the biggest names in MMA and remains one of the best ambassadors for the sport.
“He put Canada on the MMA map.”
Despite rumors that St-Pierre was angling for a fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov before deciding to retire, and the UFC lightweight champion’s own request to fight “GSP” this Noevember, St-Pierre sounded content to call it a day.
“There’s no tears,” St-Pierre said. “I’m very happy to do it. It takes a lot of discipline to retire on top, it was a long process in my mind, but it’s time to do it. Only a few people have done it and I always said that I want to retire on my own and not be told to retire. So it takes discipline in combat sport and full contact sports, that’s how you should retire. You should retire on top.”