Former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre fully believes that he could be ready to fight in 2019, but as much as he thinks his health will be in order, he seems to believe retirement is looking like more of an option than ever.
St-Pierre returned from a near-four-year hiatus last year to take the middleweight belt from Michael Bisping, increasing the value of his legacy to its highest level ever. That is exactly the type of fight that St-Pierre has said again and again that motivates him. But becoming a two-division UFC champion came at a dramatic cost to his health.
St-Pierre developed a condition called ulcerative colitis, which he believes stems largely from the way he tried to increase his weight to prepare for Bisping, combined with the pressures of the fight game. It's a condition that he says will never go away, but one which he is learning to manage and believes could be under control enough for him to fight again as soon as early 2019.
The only problem with that is he doesn't seem to think that the type of legacy fight that would motivate him to return again is going to be put on the table.
Who is the prime target on St-Pierre's legacy radar? Khabib Nurmagomedov.
"Khabib is the one I would say is the most in terms of legacy," St-Pierre said in a Monday interview with ESPN.
Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley is a name that is often mentioned as a potential opponent for GSP, who used to lord over the division, but he doesn't feel the legacy factor is there. He's been there, done that in the 170-pound division.
"He's a great fighter, Tyron Woodley, (but) if you ask who has got the best legacy right now in the fight game, I think Khabib is way ahead of everybody because he's undefeated, he beat Conor McGregor, he's got the fame... that's what the fight game is about. It's a stock market, who has got the highest stock?" said St-Pierre.
"I have always said that the thing that excites me the most is when I could be the first to do something. When something cannot be done and people doubt me. He’s a great champion, and in terms of legacy, I can’t think of a better fighter right now who has a better legacy than Khabib."
Although there are a few factors that muddy Nurmagomedov's immediate future – he is facing potential Nevada State Athletic Commission sanctions for his UFC 229 post-fight brawl after defeating McGregor – the chief stumbling block for St-Pierre is that he doesn't think the UFC will want him to immediately challenge for the belt in the division.
"I don't think the UFC would want me to fight for the title at 155 because they don't want me to run off into the sunset again with the title, if that happened. I don't think (the UFC will offer it)."
St-Pierre, 37, has made it through his career relatively unscathed as far as health concerns of an ongoing nature. He has the colitis to deal with, but believes it is manageable. If there is nothing on the table that he feels truly adds value to his legacy, he might just walk off into the sunset for good.
St-Pierre has never uttered the words retirement. Even when he was absent for nearly four years, he never indicated that he was done. He insists that when he makes his decision, 100-percent, he will utter those words.
Unfortunately, he said in the interview with ESPN that he's as likely to say "I retire" in 2019 as he is to say "I'm coming back to the Octagon."
"Right now, (my health) is going very well. And if everything goes well, I could (fight) in 2019. I think I could do it in early 2019 if everything goes well," St-Pierre said, but later added that the motivation often swoons the other direction.
"The more time passes, the more I'm like, eck. I see a lot of stuff. It's a lot of drama in the sport and sometimes I'm thinking would I really want to go back into that? It's like the motivation goes down.
"The competitor inside of me wants me to return sometimes. I want to return sometimes as a competitor, but I need to listen to the logic as well. It needs to be worth it."
The question now is: will Dana White and Company make it worth it for St-Pierre to return? Or do they even want to?