Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson lead UFC Hall of Fame inductees

LAS VEGAS -- Georges St-Pierre is the greatest UFC welterweight champion of all time, one of the best fighters in MMA history, a two-division titleholder and avenged the only two losses of his storied career.

There was only really one thing left for him to do, and that happened Thursday night when he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Park MGM.

St-Pierre joined former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman, UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner and the first fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson as inductees.

"It's the highest honor I can get, to be recognized by everybody as a Hall of Famer," St-Pierre told ESPN before the ceremony. "I mean, it's a dream come true."

St-Pierre (26-2) is one of the most revered names in the sport of mixed martial arts. The Quebec native defended the welterweight title a record nine times over two reigns, the latter spanning five years. He never actually lost the title in the cage. In 2013, he took a hiatus and vacated the title, only to return in 2017 and beat Michael Bisping to win the UFC middleweight title, an incredible feat, given he was moving up in weight after a four-year absence.

"I always had major critics in my career that I never fought in a heavier weight class," St-Pierre said. "That's why when I came back, I wanted to address that and do something different. And I'm very glad everything went well. I'm just very fortunate to have a great team around myself."

The most memorable moment of St-Pierre's spectacular career came in 2008, he said. In his first UFC fight in his home country of Canada, he knocked out Matt Serra -- the man who stunningly knocked him out a year earlier -- to regain the undisputed welterweight belt. The event, UFC 83, took place in front of more than 20,000 people in Montreal, not far from where St-Pierre grew up.

"The sport back in the day was not accepted as a legit sport as much as hockey [in Canada]," St-Pierre said. "But after that night, everything changed."

St-Pierre, 40, was integral to the UFC's expansion into Canada, according to UFC president Dana White.

"Obviously, the timing was everything," White said Thursday at the UFC 266 prefight news conference. "We were heading into Canada and getting sanctioned in all the different provinces there. And he became a huge star for us, broke tons of records. And that whole time period of Georges St-Pierre and opening Canada was a very massive part of the history of the sport and a very fun time for me, my staff and obviously the fans. He's one of the greatest human beings on the planet. Very happy for him and proud to induct him into the Hall of Fame."

Jones said he was surprised when he was told his fight with Gustafsson, an absolute classic at UFC 165 on Sept. 21, 2013 in Toronto, would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It is regarded as perhaps the best title fight in UFC history and the moment where fans saw the dominant Jones, arguably the best ever, fight back from adversity.

"It was one of my best moments in my whole career," Jones told ESPN on Thursday. "I actually draw back to that fight all the time 'til this day when I'm needing to dig deep and work hard. I try to remember those moments."

Randleman, who died in 2016 at age 44, was a former UFC heavyweight champion and known for some iconic moments in Japan's Pride organization, including a win over Mirko Cro Cop and an amazing suplex of Fedor Emelianenko. He was inducted Thursday by fellow former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman, his longtime friend and teammate going back to their wrestling days at Ohio State.

Ratner was the point man in getting the MMA legalized and regulated in more than 20 states in the United States and many countries. The former Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) executive director, who regulated some of the biggest bouts in wrestling history, was hired by the UFC in 2006. After nearly eight years of lobbying and almost 30 trips to Albany, Ratner and the UFC were finally about to get MMA legalized in New York in 2016. The UFC made its debut there in November 2016 for UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden, headlined by Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title.

"I think the big moment for me was, at the Garden when Conor was fighting Eddie and the excitement, the crowd and energy," Ratner told ESPN. "That was a special night."

Also in Thursday's ceremony, UFC lightweight contender Dustin Poirier was honored with the Forrest Griffin community award for his work with the Good Fight Foundation.