When we toss around phrases like "pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet" or "the all-time greatest mixed martial artist", there is still a sense of uncertainty as to whether we are truly witnessing a fighter who can embody that title. In other professional sports, there isn't much debate. Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan are considered the best to have ever played in their respective sports, and even major team sports like football have a predictable top ten of all-time greats. Those sports, however, have a long, storied history with immense popularity to reference while mixed martial arts has a relatively short lifespan.
Fedor Emelianenko was considered by many to be the greatest mixed martial arts fighter of all-time only a short time ago, and his consummate skillset in combination with his ferocity and survivability lends credence that the argument is a legitimate one. He does not possess a record that would suggest he was constantly battling the world's top fighters in his weight class however. One of the all-time best? Yes, but the all-time best? No.
Georges St. Pierre's dominating performance over Josh Koscheck last night solidified the stance that he is the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time. While there will surely be future stars in the sport who will threaten that claim, it will be difficult for anyone to surpass St. Pierre's accomplishments. Anderson Silva may have the edge when it comes to consecutive defenses, wins inside the Octagon, and length of reign as champion, but I'd argue that St. Pierre's title defenses have been far more impressive due to the strength of the competition he has faced.
Consider the opponents. St. Pierre has defeated two of the best welterweight fighters in the world in Josh Koscheck twice and Jon Fitch once. He's dominated Thiago Alves, Matt Hughes, and B.J. Penn over the course of the last three years. He's defeated every type of skill-set imaginable, whether it be NCAA Division I level wrestlers or wicked Muay Thai strikers. And he's done all of this while only losing twice... ever.
Some still believe that a super fight with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva is a showdown that needs to happen to secure his spot as a legend of the sport, but that's a myth. In reality, St. Pierre has achieved legendary status already, and at only 29 years of age -- St. Pierre still has a number of years to continue his dominance at the top of the division while also branching out to challenge himself at middleweight.
The options that Joe Silva has at his disposal are limited. Fans don't want to see a second installment of Jon Fitch vs. Georges St. Pierre, and Jake Shields is the only fighter in the division with some attractiveness for fans. Unfortunately, he'll need to produce an impressive victory to get his shot, and Carlos Condit may have a better chance at ascending to a contender role over him.
I'd argue that Ben Askren, Bellator's welterweight champion, is the only intriguing fighter out there right now who could push St. Pierre to his limits. Koscheck's ability to stuff St. Pierre and actually put him on his back during last night's bout was an indication that St. Pierre isn't invincible in the wrestling department, and Askren's Olympic-level wrestling has transitioned to the sport seamlessly. That is the only fight left for St. Pierre that interests me in the slightest, with the exception of a showdown with Anderson Silva.
Anderson Silva could sit in the same category after his next few fights, but he also has the advantage of being able to move up to the UFC's light heavyweight division, a division that is scrutinized and celebrated heavily by fans and media alike. The popularity of the division in tandem with a successful run at the UFC light heavyweight title would overcome anything Georges St. Pierre has done, but right now -- Georges St. Pierre is the best fighter the sport has ever produced.