Greatness is never given its proper appreciation until it becomes a sepia-colored photograph discovered in a dilapidated chest in a dusky attic. In the moment, greatness is often treated like the ex-girlfriend that you regret letting get away: her positive attributes taken for granted, her flaws overmagnified. It's not until later -- after years of sifting through mediocrity -- that you understand what you've been missing.
Given his current career trajectory, Georges St. Pierre will likely go down as the greatest fighter of his generation. He's won the UFC welterweight title twice and defended that belt five times (in addition to defeating Matt Hughes for an interim title in 2007) prior to his 30th birthday. He hasn't lost a round in over three years. He's defeated every man he's ever faced, and he has reached those accomplishments having faced a level of competition that few, if any, can match.
Yet, like children, MMA fans are never satisfied by GSP's genius. The talking points following St. Pierre's fights predictably revolve around his inability to finish opponents or his propensity to follow a "safe" gameplan or some other nonsense. Nevermind his reduction of an elite fighter into a flaccid, impotent mess.
At one time or another, I've been as guilty as anyone in taking St. Pierre's abilities for granted. In fact, my interest in UFC 129 had been lukewarm from the start, partly because of my rabid desire to see St. Pierre challenge Anderson Silva and partly because of my belief that a fight with Jake Shields will look like a repeat of GSP's beatings over Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn, and Josh Kosheck.
Then I watched this:
While Jake Shields is still trying to complement his grappling with competent kickboxing, Georges St. Pierre is expanding his training horizons. Georges receives a lot of flak for his cliched interviews, but I find something romantic about his desire to improve every day as a martial artist. His dedication to such a single-minded focus is something that I can find a lot of inspiration in.
MMA fans love to talk about that 16-year-old kid who's learning "mixed martial arts" instead of an amalgamation of wrestling and boxing and Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu. As Yoda said of Luke Skywalker, "All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind onwhere he was." Georges St. Pierre is here right now. Enjoy it.