Georges St-Pierre Exclusive: ‘I Could Be A Champion Again, But There's Only One Way To Find Out…’
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It's been almost three years since Georges St-Pierre last competed in the Octagon, choking Michael Bisping unconscious to win the UFC's middleweight title, but the fervour to see him compete again hasn't waned one bit.
In fact, it's intensified. With the puzzle of reigning UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov still unsolved, fans and pundits would love to see master strategist GSP take on the undefeated Russian.
Days after being inducted into the UFC's Hall of Fame, SPORTbible caught up with the Canadian to see if a scrap with Khabib would lure him out of retirement and more importantly, would he rather be a Jedi Knight or a Sith Lord?
Jorge Masvidal said he wanted to 'resurrect' you and 'break your face'. Are you tempted to come back and fight him?
I heard he wanted to break my face [laughs]. It's not in a personal way, it's as a competitor - he would like to beat me to get what I have in terms of reputation. Jorge Masvidal is a great fighter. I retired not because I can't fight any more, I retired because I don't want to fight any more.
If I decided to fight again, I'm confident I could be a champion again, but there's only one way to find out... But right now I'm good where I am. If I ever come back it needs to be for something very, very special - against a guy who seems invincible, a guy that nobody can beat.
How about Khabib? He ticks all those boxes and if you win, you'd become the first UFC three-weight champion...
For a fighter the most exciting thing to do is often the scariest. Khabib has almost an aura of invincibility now. Fighting him is an opportunity to become a legend.
Before I retired we tried to organise this fight and Khabib wanted it. We tried really hard. Unfortunately, the UFC didn't want it. They had other plans for Khabib.
But never say never. If I ever come back it needs to be on my terms and I'd want to take it one fight at a time. I don't want to be stuck in a contract, where if I win, I would have to compete again and again. I don't want to be that guy that fights three times a year any more. I'm past that time in my life. I'm very happy where I am.
People always speculate about me coming back just because I retired myself from the sport, it's not the sport that retired me. That's the way athletes should get out. Unfortunately most of them don't and they pay the price later on. There's nothing more important than good health. Sport at the highest level takes a toll on your body so you need to be smart about it.
The process is unbearable. The feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing if you will succeed or whether you'll be humiliated, it's terrible. But when you win it's like a drug, it makes the sacrifice worthwhile
What did you think of Justin Gaethje's performance against Tony Ferguson? Does he stand a chance against Khabib?
Gaethje did very well, but Tony Ferguson should have forced the fight to the ground because he's very dangerous there. It's a big part of his game that he did not use. He should have done it because he would have negated Gaethje's striking. Khabib has got a very interesting style. If I was betting my house on that fight, you cannot bet against Khabib. He's undefeated.
How would you approach a fight with Gaethje?
He's a very good fighter, who has improved a lot. He's a very good wrestler, but he likes to stand up and strike. You don't want to stay in front of Justin Gaethje and exchange punch for punch because now you're making the fight like a coin toss. He's very powerful and accurate.
You want to move a lot, use angles, level changes and distance control. That's how I would tell someone how to fight him.
Will Conor McGregor become a UFC champion again? How would you have fared against him?
Conor could be champion again. However, Khabib has got a very good style match-up to beat him. He's like his kryptonite. He's very good at closing the distance and that's Conor's weakness. However, if Gaethje beats Khabib, now you have a different match-up. Conor has more of a chance to beat Gaethje than beat Khabib because of the style.
If I were to fight Conor, I wouldn't trade with him on his range. I'm not going to fight under his terms. I would fight on my terms where I'm the strongest and he's the weakest. I'm very confident I would do well, but you never know until it happens.
Do you like cross-code fights, like Mayweather vs McGregor?
It's very entertaining and we're in the entertainment business. I can tell you this for certain, when Conor McGregor fought Mayweather, Conor took the risk.
I know that Conor lasted much longer in a boxing match against Mayweather than Mayweather would have lasted against Conor in mixed martial arts. As mixed martial art athletes, we can compete in their sport, but they cannot compete in ours. Boxers would not do as well.
You had many great victories during your career, but your final win over Bisping was historic, especially after all the trash talk. How much did you enjoy beating him?
Michael Bisping was an incredible fighter. He's the true model of perseverance. Of course, like a lot of fighters, he likes to make the fight exciting so he said a lot of things about me. I said some stuff about him as well. It makes it more fun for the fans.
After everything was over we shook hands and that was it, but it was one of the proudest times of my career. It was just an incredible honour to go up into a heavier weight class and win the title against a champion like Michael Bisping. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do that.
How much did you enjoy the nature of the finish? Especially as you were often criticised for not finishing fights in spectacular style...
Before taking that fight I had three major criticisms across my career. One is that I never fought in a heavier weight class. Two, was that there was not enough drama in the build-up to my fights because I was always too much of a nice guy to say anything. The third was that I did not finish my opponents.
When your opponent doesn't fight to win, he fights not to lose, it's hard to finish them. When an opponent commits that creates more openings. When Michael Bisping was champion I saw the perfect opportunity because he was a guy that was trash talking a lot and he could make the fight very exciting. I changed the way I was training to make me more opportunistic. So, when I came back I was very happy that I addressed these three major criticisms.
How did you stay so calm in the press conferences when he was trying his very best to get a rise out of you?
It's not the first time that it happened to me. I got bullied at school. I had to fight pretty much every week. I was a victim of intimidation by older and bigger guys, so I'm used to that. This is something that was a negative when I was young but became something positive. It's an experience that made me stronger and it taught me how to deal with mental warfare.
Had you not been bullied, would you have even taken up MMA?
I believe in determinism and causality. I believe choice is an illusion. There is a cause and there is an effect. It's like a domino effect... So, I don't know for sure if I would have been champion or I would have been competing in mixed martial arts if I had not been bullied. It's a hard thing to say.
I think I would have trained in martial arts because I was a big fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme and his movies, but maybe things would not have been the same.
Who would win in a street fight: Tony Ferguson or Khabib?
I've fought many times in the street unfortunately because I was bullied at school. In a street fight the person that hits first has a lot more chance to win or to get the best out of the exchange before you get separated.
The element of surprise is the most important thing in a street fight. But if Tony and Khabib both started fighting at the same time, I believe Khabib would win because he's the better fighter.
Who would feature on your Mount Rushmore of MMA greats?
Royce Gracie for sure. He's the one who inspired me. Bruce Lee because he changed the sport in a philosophical way. In terms of great fighters there's Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, Jon Jones and Henry Cejudo who retired just a few days ago.
He's probably the best ever... he's an Olympic champion, a Golden Glove champion, a two-division UFC champion and he's a clean, clean athlete. He has done it all. Henry Cejudo is maybe the greatest of all time. It's a hell of a debate.
You've had an amazing career. Maybe they'll make a movie about it one day. Who would play you in the lead role?
Jean-Claude Van Damme, 100%. Unfortunately he's a little bit too old right now, but he would be the guy. When I was younger I wanted to be like Van Damme. He speaks French too and we have the same crazy, bad English when we speak.
We got to work together on a fight scene in the movie Kickboxer: Vengeance. It was a fantasy. I also had the opportunity to work with another one of my idols - Steven Seagal - on the movie Cartels. I also got beat up by Captain America in The Winter Soldier. That was a lot of fun. I didn't take acting very seriously at the time because I was busy competing but now it's more serious for me.
I'm working on a very big project now. Unfortunately, contractually I'm not allowed to talk about it. It's been postponed because of the coronavirus, but it will come out very soon. People will be shocked.
Dream movie role: Hero in Jurassic Park or Jedi Knight in Star Wars?
Star Wars would be my number one, but I'd rather be a Sith Lord than a Jedi. I would like to be a Star Wars Old Republic character. That would be fun.
I'm a huge fan of Jurassic Park too, but Jurassic Park... They've kind of done it too much now. They need a new way to make it interesting, to build up a new story because it's the same story.
Georges St-Pierre is an ambassador for leading UK CBD brand Love Hemp. He uses Love Hemp CBD Oil starting from £19.99, available in three different strengths.