There’s been an ever-increasing buzz so far this year that welterweight superstar Georges St. Pierre could be on the verge of a comeback in 2016.
The rumor mill went into overdrive when St. Pierre attended UFC 196 last month to watch Conor McGregor fight Nate Diaz, while those close to the 34-year-old, such as long-time coach Firas Zahabi and training partner Rory MacDonald, have occasionally dropped hints that he is targeting a return.
The latest fuel to the fire comes from the man himself, with St. Pierre telling RDS.ca that he has been speaking to the UFC about a possible return, though they are still in negotiations and nothing has been decided yet.
Is it really such a good idea for the former welterweight kingpin to step back into the Octagon though?
In this article we’ll argue that there are five major reasons why this legendary fighter should cast aside any thought of returning, and instead should make his retirement official and hang up his gloves for good.
1. He Has Nothing Left To Prove
Too many fighters fail to adhere to the old adage, ‘Quit while you’re ahead,’ but Georges St. Pierre bowed out of the sport at the perfect moment – while he was still at the top.
By the time GSP announced that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence in late 2013, he was coming off a remarkable 12-fight winning streak, had just notched up his ninth successful defense of his welterweight title, and was No.1 on the sport’s pound-for-pound list.
At that stage, the reality was that St. Pierre had nothing left to prove, and nothing has changed in the years since. Even if he never fought again he would still be considered one of the all-time greats, and is financially secure enough that he never needs to fight again.
All too often we witness legends of the sport fight on to the bitter end, racking up a string of tough losses in the twilight years of their careers that threatens to tarnish their legacy, until they are eventually beaten into retirement.
GSP is perfectly poised to avoid that indignity and retain a level of immortality in the sport, so he’d be wise to resist the urge to strap his gloves on.
2. His Heart Isn’t In It Anymore
It’s been almost two-and-half years since St. Pierre last fought in the Octagon, and yet he still doesn’t appear to have definitively made up his mind whether he wants to return or not.
That’s not a good sign, and suggests his heart just isn’t in the fight game anymore.
Late last year, famed boxing coach Freddie Roach revealed that GSP was considering going into a six-week fight camp with him to see whether he still had the desire to compete.
In some ways that’s the kind of sensible, methodical approach we’ve come to expect from St. Pierre, but it also rings alarm bells that after so long out of the Octagon, the former champion is still trying to discover whether or not he has the hunger and motivation to step back into the fight game again.
Fighting, especially at the highest level, is not something to be taken lightly, so if he’s not 100% committed mentally as well as physically, it would be wise not to put his reputation and well-being at risk.
3. There Were Warning Signs He Was Starting To Fade
On paper, GSP was just as dominant at the end of his time in the UFC as he ever had been with a string of victories to his name, but a little closer look reveals the cracks were beginning to show.
His last fight with Hendricks was the clearest example of this, with St. Pierre only just managing to scrape past him by split decision while taking a great deal of punishment and having been rocked on at least two occasions.
A couple of fights prior to that, Carlos Condit had also given the dominant champion a big scare when he wobbled him with a head kick.
Given that GSP had ran through a string of top contenders prior to that with barely a scratch on him, these moments were a big cause for concern and suggested that perhaps it may was only a matter of time before the division caught up to him and his long unbeaten run came to an end.
The theory that St. Pierre was starting to lose a step at that stage in his career is bolstered by the fact that he had spent over a year out on the sidelines before the Condit fight following knee surgery for a torn right ACL.
Barely six months into his hiatus from the sport, in 2014, he also suffered a torn left ACL, which required surgery and a lengthy spell of rehab.
As far as we know he’s made a successful recovery from that, but add that in with the fact that he’s been on the sidelines for two-and-a-half years and is now in his mid-30’s, it doesn’t inspire confidence that he’d be able to come back at his best in the present day.
4. He Has Other Opportunities Outside Of Fighting
Unlike most other fighters, GSP is in the enviable position of never having to fight again, as he’s already earned a fortune fighting for the UFC, and he’s also managed to branch out into both television and movies during his time away from the sport.
On the big-screen, St. Pierre has already been featured as a baddie in the blockbuster movie hit, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, and has upcoming roles in films with Jean-Claude Van Damme in ‘Kickboxer: Vengeance’ and Steven Segal in ‘Killing Salazar.’
Meanwhile, GSP will also reveal his passion for dinosaurs as the host of a new two-part documentary series, ‘The Boneyard’ which airs on the History Channel later this month.
We’ve seen other stars in the past that have been lured away from the sport by the entertainment industry – most notably Gina Carano – and it’s hard to argue with the appeal of not having to get punched in the face for a living.
5. The Welterweight Division Is More Entertaining Without Him
GSP has always been a big draw for the UFC, but let’s be honest; in the later stages of his career that was largely thanks to his star power rather than the level of entertainment he was offering up in the Octagon.
With each fight that St. Pierre won, his fame grew and the pressure to continue winning would increase, and that influenced his fighting style as he began to take less risks and rely more on his trusty jab, swift takedowns, and stifling ground game.
That led to his last seven fights all being won by decision – a stark contrast to earlier in his UFC career when he had finished no less than eight of his 13 wins by either strikes or submission.
When GSP went off on hiatus, the welterweight division suddenly burst to life, and we’ve been treated to some of the most thrilling title fights in recent memory since, with Robbie Lawler rising to the forefront and delivering instant classic encounters with Hendricks, MacDonald, and Condit along the way.
It’s been refreshing to have a welterweight champion in Lawler who’s not a lock to win every fight he’s in and is still willing to throw caution to the wind and try to finish his opponents rather than just settle for winning on points.
While there would be an initial burst of excitement if GSP did return – and let’s be honest, it would be great from a pure sporting perspective – it may well also kill off the excitement we’ve seen at the top end of the 170-pound division over the past few years.