Georges “Rush” St-Pierre has broken a lot of ground in his historic mixed martial arts career. His clinically precise techniques and polite persona completely changed the face of the UFC just as it was beginning to gain mainstream attention and quickly solidified him as one of the greatest of all time both in and out of the cage. He became a top pound-for-pound fighter and a multi-division champ. He even fought Captain America in The Winter Soldier.
And now GSP is about to take on another challenge that strikingly few combat sports heroes have done before him: going out on top.
In an emotional press conference at the Bell Centre in Montreal — the very arena where he defeated Matt Serra to avenge the most devastating loss of his career and reclaim the unified UFC Welterweight Championship — St-Pierre announced his retirement from MMA on February 21.
“I’m here to announce my retirement. It’s hard to retire when you’re in a combat sport. I always said it’s better to do it yourself than be told to do it. You should retire on top,” he said.
“There are no tears,” GSP promised. “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.”
Who is Georges St-Pierre?
Born on May 19, 1981 in Saint-Isidore, Quebec, Canada, Georges St-Pierre was a naturally athletic child who participated in hockey, skating, and other sports. He was relentlessly bullied at school, though. When he was seven, he began taking Kyokushin Karate lessons to help him defend himself. “I changed myself from the inside out and that’s how I overcame bullying,” he said of the experience during his retirement press conference. “I don’t see it as, ‘Oh, it’s way too hard.’ I see it as a challenge and it gets me excited. Martial arts taught me confidence. It saved my life. I would not have been able to channel all that negativity when I was younger without it.”
The rest is history that sounds like it came straight from a particularly inspiring martial arts film. GSP excelled at Karate and quickly became a black belt. When his instructor died, a then 16-year-old St-Pierre added Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and boxing to his training. Five years later, he turned pro as an MMA fighter.
GSP is a three-time UFC Welterweight Champion, and a UFC Middleweight Champion. He is only the fourth multi-division champ in the promotion’s history. St-Pierre also holds multiple fighter and athlete of the year honors from outlets like Sherdog, Blackbelt Magazine, Rogers Sportsnet and Sports Illustrated. He retires with a 26-2 professional record in MMA.
What is Georges St-Pierre’s legacy?
GSP will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, with his glowing list of accomplishments, his almost unparalleled athleticism, and his incredible mind for the game. Beyond that, though, he is also one of the most inspirational fighters we have ever seen in the sport, and perhaps its greatest role model. We here at the AWMA blog have often written about how much we admire the way that this thoughtful, mild-mannered fighter brings martial arts values like respect and honor to a sport that can sometimes rely a bit too heavily on trash talk and grudge matches to attract more interest.
Even in his retirement announcement, GSP remained humble and thankful, taking time to acknowledge his coaches, the fighters he’s worked with, and athletes who have inspired him like Royce Gracie and Wayne Gretzky.
He went on to describe the difference between enjoying martial arts competition and wanting to fight: “I don’t like fighting. The day of the fight was always the worst for me. I hated it. It’s hard to explain and not a lot of people can understand it. I liked the competition, but I don’t like to fight.”
His reflections on the proudest moment of his career were also a true inspiration for martial artists of all ages. “The moment I’m most proud of in my career was when I got dropped by a head kick from Carlos Condit and I was able to stand up. It shows I had the heart and guts to come back from an obstacle. I was able to overcome it.”
What’s next for Georges St-Pierre?
St-Pierre has not entirely ruled out a return to MMA in the future. But the circumstances would have to be right for him. In the meantime, he plans to continue training and enjoying life. “Some athletes when they retire, they get fat and out of shape. It’s not going to happen to me.”