In the world of Mixed Martial Arts there are few better than George St. Pierre. In almost any pound for pound list he is either one or two following just Anderson Silva. GSP is the welterweight champion currently, on a nine fight winning streak and hasn’t truly been in any amount of trouble inside the octagon in years. He is also MMA’s first true mainstream star, scoring sponsorships from both Gatorade and Under Armour. He was the Canadian athlete of the year in both 2008 and 2009. He is one of the greatest in the world and my favourite fighter. Then why am I so disappointed with him?
I along with several other DSP writers attended UFC 129 in Toronto at the Rogers Centre where the main event was George St. Pierre defending his belt against Jake Shields. It really was an amazing event with over 52,000 people filling the stadium. Almost every fight had one highlight or another invoking drunken high fives and gasps from the audience. Mark Hominick, who is also Canadian, came out to ‘I’m coming home’ from Diddy Dirty Money. Hominick was a heavy underdog facing a young destroyer named Jose Aldo. For four rounds he took almost all the punishment creating a huge grapefruit size mouse on his head. But that didn’t stop the feisty Canadian who in the fifth round took it to Aldo and after all the punishment won the final round. When the decision was announced it was a forgone conclusion that Aldo had won but the crowd cheered loudly because of Hominick’s gutsy performance. Between the gutsiness of Hominick, the spectacular knockout by Lyoto Machida and the graciousness of Randy Couture, the crowd was feeling great. There was a great buzz in the stadium going into the main event. The previous fights were spectacular but everyone was there to see one man, George St. Pierre.
GSP’s previous fights have been suffocating one-sided affairs. George used his cardio and wrestling to make some of the best fighters in the world look silly. During his nine match winning streak, six have gone to decision. I would say ‘wow, his opponents were tough.’ True MMA fans have started making the case over the last couple of years that GSP’s fights are boring, stale and the worst parts of MMA. I would usually scoff at those people because he is my favourite fighter and also the best in the world. They don’t know what they are talking about. As I sat in my seat at UFC 129 completely silent I could hear those words ringing in my head. I wasn’t the only one who was silent. All the momentum that had been created during the last ten fights had been lost as GSP blindly threw wild haymakers missing his target. After the fight I found out that he had been poked in the eye and couldn’t see from that eye. That does give him some kind of pass for the poor performance but after the fight during the in ring interview GSP apologized to his fans. This wasn’t his first time apologizing to his fans for his performance. He is the best in the world and he is apologizing to his fans. After the fight, the analysts were praising GSP’s opponent, Jake Shields, saying how he showed so much more than they thought. I’m tired of telling people how great George is. I want to show them the video of him fighting and they would understand without me having to say anything. I realized I was making excuses for who I thought was the best in the world. The best in the world shouldn’t need excuses or apologies, his performance should speak for itself.
There has been a well known rumour that a super fight between Anderson Silva and GSP, the two best fighters in the world fighting for a belt and the ranking of #1 fighter in the world, is in the works. It has also been rumoured that it will be GSP’s next fight after UFC 129. As all my friends sat in silence as the legendary UFC 129 was finishing we were contemplating what had just happened. My once ferocious pride for GSP had subdued as my friend Bobby was speaking to no one when he said ‘He is going to get killed by Silva.’ I usually would have made excuses and pointed out why GSP is a better wrestler and detailed the winning strategy he will take but instead I sat there nodding.
How can someone be the best in the world, win all the time yet his fan base can be disappointed? MMA is funny like that. It straddles a thin line between entertainment and sport. People want to see their favourite fighters win but win decisively with a KO, TKO or submission. George hasn’t done that recently and why should he take the chance? He knows he is good enough to grind out a decision every time and going for a finish involves some kind of risk. His fans are spoiled because winning isn’t good enough anymore. They want their favourites to have a killer instinct and go for a finish. In a sport where a young man from Saint-Isidore Quebec has cleared every hurdle put in front of him he has one last large one. What does he want his legacy to be?