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Why Georges St-Pierre Should Stay Retired — For Everyone’s Sake


(Photo via Getty)

By Trent Reinsmith

Earlier this week, a report surfaced out of Montreal that former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was spotted in a restaurant with UFC president Dana White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta. At this point, no one is saying what the meeting was about. Maybe it was just one rich dude and two wealthy dudes sitting down for a lunch of Venison Haunch and Saucisson or Suckling Pig Rack and Flank (offered on the restaurant’s lunch menu at $36 and $42 respectively), or maybe it was a meeting to gauge St-Pierre’s interest in a return to the Octagon.

My sincere hope, for both the UFC and St-Pierre is that it was the former, not the latter. However, if the conversation was about a St-Pierre return to the UFC, I would advise both sides to stop right now because it will not help either in the long run.

Let’s start with why St-Pierre — in the immortal words of Burgess Meredith as Mickey in Rocky — should, “Down, down, stay down.”

When St-Pierre decided to step away from the UFC after defeating Johny Hendricks in November 2013 he was one of the most popular fighters in the UFC. Well, at least until the moment that he told Joe Rogan he was stepping away from the sport for a bit. Once UFC president Dana White heard those words, White went into full meltdown mode.

In the post-fight press conference, White said of St-Pierre, “You owe it to the fans, you owe it to that belt, you owe it to this company, and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity to fight again, unless you’re gonna retire…There’s no ‘Hey listen I’m gonna go on a cruise and be gone for two years.’”

It was an impassioned speech; too bad none of it happened to be true. St-Pierre, a man that made the UFC millions of dollars didn’t (and doesn’t) owe anyone anything. White’s public reaction to his cash cow walking away was ugly, nasty and served as a reminder of how quickly he is willing to throw a fighter under the bus, even if that fighter is recognized as one of the greatest combatants ever to set foot in the Octagon.

More recently, White further downplayed St-Pierre’s contributions to the UFC’s coffers. In a moment of hyperbole that no one was buying (except for maybe White and the man he was talking about), White made the audacious and wholly untrue claim that Conor McGregor was bigger than both Georges St-Pierre and Brock Lesnar.  That’s right, White is claiming that a man who has headlined exactly zero UFC PPV’s and fought on exactly two UFC main cards is bigger than the two biggest PPV draws in the history of the UFC.

When St-Pierre was sitting down with White and Fertitta and looking into their smiling faces, I hope he remembered both of these incidents because they serve to point out the fact that St-Pierre is nothing more than a commodity to the UFC, a commodity it needs to boost its sagging PPV buy rate.

Another related reason that St-Pierre should stay out of the game is his legacy. He left the sport as one of the top five (or better) fighters of all time. If he comes back and loses, not only will his legacy be tarnished, but it’s entirely feasible that the UFC would use that loss to further step on what St-Pierre has contributed to the promotion. The UFC machine would undoubtedly use a victory over St-Pierre as the launching point of a media campaign for whatever fighter defeated the mid-30’s version of St-Pierre.

Plus, St-Pierre doesn’t need to fight. He’s made his millions; he’s appearing in movies, he has sponsorship deals. He’s doing exactly what (almost) every professional fighter dreams of doing: making money without getting punched in the head by the likes of Johny Hendricks or Nick Diaz.

Barring any late onset Michael Jordanitis (defined as the need to always be in the spotlight no matter how much one’s skills have deteriorated), St-Pierre should quietly allow his time away to morph into full retirement.

Now onto the UFC.

It’s understandable that the promotion would want St-Pierre to return to the fold, after all, when he walked away the average number of PPV buys for a St-Pierre headlined card hovered in the 700,000 range.

You want to know how many UFC PPV’s have come close to that number since St-Pierre announced his break? That number is one, and that event (which eclipsed the one million PPV sales mark) was headlined by the rematch between former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman at UFC 168. In fact, in 2014, only one PPV event has broken the 500,000 buy barrier (UFC 175).

Yes, a St-Pierre return would boost the UFC’s bottom line, but it will only do so temporarily. The man is 33-years old now, and even if he does return, how long will he fight for the UFC? Not long, because if you know anything about St-Pierre, you know he’s not going to step into the Octagon as a “remember when he was great?” type of athlete. So, while the promotion would get a temporary reprieve from its PPV buys being in the doldrums, when St-Pierre steps away for good they will most likely be right back where they are today.

Instead of hoping for a St-Pierre return, the UFC should take this time to try and build on their current roster. They need to push Chris Weidman, Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, Jose Aldo, and the rest of the UFC title holders. They need to get those fighters the mainstream coverage that will help bring in PPV buys and Fight Pass subscriptions from the casually interested fans. They need to look to the future, not the past. And if that means going all in on someone like Conor McGregor, yes, do that too, but do it with some decorum if possible.

The UFC will surely see a boost to its PPV buys in January when Anderson Silva returns to the Octagon to face Nick Diaz at UFC 183, but again, that also qualifies as looking into the past, as both of those fighters are proven commodities with limited time left in the game.

Sports teams enter rebuilding phases all the time. Now is the time for the UFC to do the same, and Georges, next time you meet with the UFC, at least let them take you to a multi-course dinner.

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