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Georges St-Pierre: Should the UFC’s Greatest Welterweight of All Time Return to the Octagon?

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COMMENTARY | On Friday, December 13, 2013, former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre announced his intentions of embarking on an indefinite hiatus from mixed martial arts, citing "personal reasons." With the hiatus comes the relinquishing of his championship title. Therefore, the division's No. 1 and No. 3 contenders, Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler, will battle for the vacant title on March 15, 2014 at UFC 171.

As for St-Pierre, his six-year reign atop the welterweight division has made him one the most popular fighters of this era. He has reached unfathomable heights and has little else to accomplish within his weight class. With St-Pierre's refusal to move up in weight and face more challenging opponents, retirement appears to be the 32-year-old's only logical option.

Nothing Left to Accomplish

When St-Pierre retires from MMA altogether, he will, without doubt, become a member of the UFC Hall of Fame. Some of the long-reigning champion's accomplishments include, but are not limited to:

*UFC welterweight champion for more than six years (including two title reigns)

*Most successful title defenses in UFC welterweight history (9)

*Most wins in UFC history (19)

*Winner of the only champion vs. champion matchup in UFC history

St-Pierre has served as a pioneer in the UFC for just under nine years and has put together a greatly respectable 25-2 record. His high-profile list of victims includes: Johny Hendrick, Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit, Jake Shields, B.J. Penn, and former champion and UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes (2xs).

St-Pierre was consistently calculating and technical in his approach to fighting. He frustrated and outpointed many of his opponents on his way to securing an astounding 95 percent win rate. Undoubtedly, St-Pierre will be remembered as one of the greatest UFC champions of all time, irrespective of whether or not he returns to the Octagon.

Same Weight Class, Same St-Pierre

St-Pierre had dominated the welterweight division for six years as champion during his last title reign. He had apparently cleaned out his division to the point that rumors began to circulate regarding his involvement in a super fight between him and the then-middleweight champion, Anderson Silva.

However, St-Pierre never expressed a great interest in fighting outside his weight class. He even, although hypothetically, stated that he'd fight Silva for an astronomical $50 million, ensuring the non-materialization of the champion vs. champion matchup, and the maintenance of his reign over his own weight class.

Unlike multi-division champions Penn and Randy Couture, St-Pierre was content on becoming the most dominant champion of just one. The French-Canadian has already accomplished the latter objective. Therefore, if strengthening his legacy by venturing to a higher weight class and becoming champion of two divisions is outside the realm of possibilities, then perhaps a permanent hiatus is logically sound.

No Place to Go but Down

St-Pierre has made a career out of inflicting damage on his opponent while sustaining little in return. His superior wrestling stifled many of his foes, taking most down at will. St-Pierre has historically been able to control his opponents on the ground, securing a great many of his victories in this fashion.

However, being on top of a division for multiple years has the tendency to take its toll on a fighter. Upon returning from a 19-month layoff in late 2012 due to a knee injury, St-Pierre was hurt in two of his last three bouts. During his championship fight against Condit at UFC 154, he was rocked with a leg kick to the head in the third round. Condit attempted to finish St-Pierre, to no avail.

In yet another high-octane title bout, at UFC 167, St-Pierre was hurt in the second round by a barrage of power punches, courtesy of his opponent, Hendricks. St-Pierre weathered the storm and went on to win a controversial, split-decision matchup that revealed an interesting statistic.

According to Deadspin.com editor Tim Marchman (h/t mixedmartialarts.com), since securing his first championship title in 2006, approximately half the strikes that St-Pierre has taken have come in his last three fights.

In an interview on the Opie & Anthony Show, UFC commentator Joe Rogan stated:

"I think Georges should retire…

I think he's taken too many shots. An interesting statistic is that Georges has taken more punches and kicks in the last three fights than [in] any of his fights-ever. In fact, 50 percent of the shots that he's taken in his entire career were in the last three fights. I think he should get out."

After each of his last three fights, it was evidently clear, from St-Pierre's battered face alone, that he had sustained more damage in those bouts than in any other.

Retiring as Champion

All in all, in the world of mixed martial arts, it is rare for a fighter to retire as champion. Given that the 32-year-old has nothing left to accomplish within his particular weight class, accompanied by his second reign as welterweight champion for six years, and his inevitable induction into the UFC Hall of Fame, there is little to no sensible reason for St-Pierre to ever return to the Octagon.

Clinton Bullock has been a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner for many years. He has studied mixed martial arts for 12 years and has been published in Yahoo News, Bleacher Report, Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper, and Next Step Magazine. Follow him on MMAUnchained.net, Facebook & Twitter @clintonbullock.
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