Wanna be the best? Beat the best
As recently as one year ago, I believed it was a horrible idea. A nightmare of a fight, stylistically, for St. Pierre. One that would prove nothing except a big guy beats a smaller guy.
But my opinion has changed. I still believe it's a difficult fight for St. Pierre, and he'd accept huge risk to his career, both financially and competitively. But if he wishes to go down as perhaps the greatest mixed martial artist ever, as he obviously does, I think moving up in weight is a risk he should take.
Clearly, and with no disrespect to any of his recent opponents, St. Pierre is not being challenged as a welterweight. He's been so impressive that shutout decisions have become expected, boring affairs. He's casually looked at his corner for advice while holding an opponent down (see the Dan Hardy fight). He's dominated a guy despite suffering a painful groin injury mid-fight (check out the Thiago Alves bout). Last weekend, he beat Jake Shields handily, with the use of only one eye from the third round on.
It's reached a level we can confidently say no welterweight is beating St. Pierre right now. Names like Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit and perhaps new welterweight Nate Marquardt might excite others, but not me. There's no reason, at this point, to think St. Pierre won't beat them all.
Which is why it's time to step up and be challenged.
I won't argue that his chances of defeating Silva, who is not only a middleweight but an enormous one at that, seem low. I will counter, though, the same was said about Manny Pacquiao when he stepped up to fight Oscar De La Hoya in 2008. The circumstances are different regarding the matchups, but Pacquiao finished De La Hoya's career in that fight, taking a big step toward his current spot as pound-for-pound king.
No question that mixed martial arts is different than boxing. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe St. Pierre defends the title 10 more times and goes down as the GOAT. But if he does it the same way against massive underdogs, the accomplishment won't seem as impressive.
The greatest athletes of all time in any sport went through adversity, or at least had a notable rivalry in which they had to rise to the occasion. I want to see St. Pierre go in search of that. And think about it for just a moment what if he pulls it off?
Your legacy is at welterweight
Here we go again. After every win UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre registers, the "he ought to move up and fight Anderson" chorus kicks into high voice.
Well, it's time to put that tired song to rest. St. Pierre isn't moving to 185 to fight Anderson Silva -- or anyone else, for that matter. A move to middleweight makes no sense career-wise, health-wise or legacy-wise.
St. Pierre is a natural welterweight. To compete at middleweight with any chance of being reasonably successful, he'd have to completely alter his body. And once St. Pierre does that, there is no turning back.
Whenever talk of moving to 185 pounds arises, thoughts of what happened to boxer Roy Jones Jr. enter into St. Pierre's thoughts. As Jones' body naturally grew, he moved up to win world titles at middleweight (160 pounds), super middleweight (168) and light heavyweight (175).
But Jones got greedy and decided to try his hand at heavyweight. He altered his body by adding 17 pounds of muscle, about the same total St. Pierre must gain to become an MMA middleweight.
Jones won the WBA heavyweight title from John Ruiz -- then promptly moved back to light heavyweight -- but was never the same. His reflexes were dulled, and he began getting hit by punches that in the past wouldn't have come close to touching him. Jones began getting KO'd regularly.
A lot of the luster came off Jones' once-sparkling image. He's still fighting at age 42 in an effort to get some of it back.
"For me, it's a good example because Roy Jones was known as one of the best of all time before he started losing," St. Pierre said recently. "It makes me think twice sometimes [about changing] weight; it's not really going up that hurts you, sometimes it's to go [back] down."
St. Pierre constantly speaks of his legacy; it's very important to him. That legacy, however, will be determined by what he does at welterweight -- not middleweight.
Some may say that a win over Silva will enhance St. Pierre's legacy. That's hogwash; it won't. Matt Hughes is often referred to as the greatest welterweight in mixed martial arts history. Other than a catch-weight bout at 175 pounds against a past-his-prime Royce Gracie in May 2006, Hughes has only fought at 170 and it hasn't harmed his legacy one bit.
St. Pierre will rightfully stay put and surpass Hughes as the greatest welterweight in MMA history. And he doesn't have to mess with his body to do it.
'GROSS POINT BLANK'
Play Podcast Josh Gross discusses the upcoming fight between Carlos Condit and Matt Brown on December 14th and chats with Shannon Knapp about Women's MMA, and much more.
Play Podcast Josh Gross discusses UFC 167, George St. Pierre defending his welterweight championship with a split decision against Johny Hendricks and much more.
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Play Podcast Josh Gross recaps UFC 165 with Franklin McNeil. Plus, Glover Teixeira talks Jones vs Gustafsson and how he would stack up against Jones given the opportunity.