I’m announcing my retirement from the UFC and mixed martial arts competition. I intend to keep training and practicing martial arts for as long as I live, but now is the time that I chose to end my career as a professional MMA athlete. Read my official statement in the images. pic.twitter.com/uMP0LE5XeF— Georges St-Pierre (@GeorgesStPierre) February 21, 2019
The era of Georges St. Pierre has officially come to a close.
Starting the press conference purely in French, St. Pierre (26-2) went on to apologize for having to do this in multiple languages, and then translated his remarks into English for the audience.
He opened, saying, “It takes a lot of discipline to retire on top. It was a long process on 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. It takes discipline, and in combat sports that’s how you should retire -- on top.”
St. Pierre thanked UFC staff and dignitaries including UFC President Dana White; former company officials like Lorenzo Fertitta; and friends and teammates Renzo Gracie and his coach Firas Zahabi, among many others. He also thanked his various managers and advisers throughout his career, remarking that, “They’re more than advisers, they’re friends.”
He then went on to voice his appreciation for those that inspired him to persevere in MMA as a fighter and as an ambassador of the sport: “When I was young the reason why I started doing mixed martial arts was because I watched Royce Gracie growing up when he won the first UFC. At that particular moment I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do. It’s weird, it’s like I had a vision; and I wanted to say thank you to Royce Gracie to have inspired me.” He also thanked hockey all-time great Wayne Gretzky for being an incredible athlete and role model, claiming he modeled his career after Gretzky. “Everything starts with a dream. I was able to have a dream because of these guys.”
After he concluded his opening remarks, the floor was opened up to media, who began by asking about his potential fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov. He replied “We tried to organize the fight with Khabib, I know Khabib want it and I want it, but the UFC had other plan[s]. To the point where I am in my career, for me it’s more taking one fight at a time instead of being there for several fights, and the way the business works … if they promote someone, they want to keep him somewhere … it’s like an investment.”
Firmly in a different state of mind than earlier in his career, his approach to fighting changed drastically, which led to the official decision announced today. St. Pierre unabashedly admitted, “I don’t have the same motivation I used to … I used to want to go there and beat everybody, I don’t care who and when, I want to destroy everybody. I don’t have the same anger -- the same hunger -- anymore. Even though physically I’m on top of my game, the hunger is not the same.”
He was quick to praise potential opponent Nurmagomedov, wishing Nurmagomedov the best of luck and proclaiming that he thinks Khabib is the “best fighter.” Following up, he was asked about his reaction when he received a message from Nurmagomedov asking to wait until November for one final fight. He responded, “For a fighter where I am right now in my career, the most exciting thing was also the scariest thing to do, is to fight an opponent who seems invincible. And Khabib is that guy right now, that’s why we wanted to fight him.
“It’s a fight that could elevate my legacy, and I knew he wanted to fight me and this message excited me but unfortunately it takes two fighters and the organization for that fight to happen,” he added.
When asked about the proudest moment of his career, instead of pointing at a particular win, or his comeback at a higher weight class to take the middleweight belt from Michael Bisping, he had this to say: “The moment I’m the most proud of my career is when I got dropped, in the fight game, it’s when I got dropped by the head kick by Carlos Condit and I fall down and I was able to stand up … It shows I had the guts to come back from an obstacle and I was able to overcome it.”
Discussing his retirement as a whole, and his thoughts on moving on, he related to the crowd that only a few potential opponents would have intrigued him enough to face in the cage. He stressed the importance of staying motivated, but was quick to state that he was satisfied with his career as a whole and that this was the right time to retire.
St. Pierre maintained that he owes his life to martial arts, as he described that they gave him purpose and kept him on the right track: “Martial arts taught me confidence, you know people sometimes they link martial arts to violence and a lot of bad stuff, but for me martial arts saved my life…If it would not be for martial arts, I don’t know where I would have been … it saved me.”
Wearing a wry grin, he remarked that the end of his fighting career did not mean the end of his life, nor that he would be moving on from the sport in any other capacity beyond professional competition. “I’m always gonna be training, for me it’s just an ‘au revoir,’ it’s just a goodbye, I’m not dead, I’m always gonna be training, I see a lot of athletes they become fat … it ain’t gonna happen with me.”
For now, though, St. Pierre beamed that he was ready to finally enjoy retirement. Planning on taking a trip to “someplace exotic,” he appeared genuinely relieved that he no longer had to be concerned about the sport and those involved. “I’m out of the grid, that’s good news, I don’t ever care about the other guys, I don’t want them to call me out because I’m out.”
While he may no longer compete, he stressed that he would not lose a major part of his life, saying “Fighting, it’s what I love to do in my life, but this is not my life. It’s just a little part of what I do that goes away … for me it’s a very happy day.”
As is customary for some MMA retirements, an announcement may not truly spell the end of a fighter’s career. One merely needs to look back a few years in St. Pierre’s career, where after defeating Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in 2013, he vacated his title and announced he would be taking an “indefinite hiatus,” only to come back about four years later. St. Pierre did not rule out that he would never again return to MMA and the UFC in particular if they gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He likened a potential return opportunity to something one would see in a movie, bringing a retired fighter back out for one last appearance.
Although he last competed over 15 months ago when he became one of a small class of fighters to win belts in two divisions, he was confident that he was leaving the sport at the right time. “Especially in full contact sports like fighting -- MMA, boxing -- athletes should not be told to retire, they should take their retirement when they’re on top,” he said.
St. Pierre retires with a storied 17-year career spanning 15 years with the UFC from 2004 to 2019. He ends his career riding a 13-fight win streak in the Octagon, tied with Max Holloway and Demetrious Johnson for the third-longest win streak in the history of the organization. Only Jon Jones (14) and Anderson Silva (16) held longer win streaks in their careers. A record-holder in several other categories as well, St. Pierre retires as one of the greatest fighters in MMA history.