Georges St. Pierre is one of the greatest fighters in the brief history of mixed martial arts. He'd established himself as the sport's biggest draw before he decided to step away from the cage and vacate his title following a split decision win over Johny Hendricks last year at UFC 167.
In the time since announcing his hiatus in the cage following the fight, St. Pierre has cited issues with performance enhancing drugs in the sport and the UFC's lack of support in helping his efforts to "clean up the sport" as contributing factors in his decision.
I was given the opportunity to interview St. Pierre after being contacted by NOS energy drink. A schedule snafu rendered a phone interview by deadline impossible, so we settled on doing it by e-mail where St. Pierre gave some thoughts on his return, the "super fight" with Anderson Silva that never happened, fighters "unionizing" and more.
Bloody Elbow: NOS was great in helping facilitate this interview. You're currently working with NOS on a video series where you answer fan questions every couple weeks. Does any question from the series to date stand out as one you found especially interesting?
Georges St. Pierre: I have been partners with NOS for about three years now, and it’s been great. We’ve been through a lot, including two ACL surgeries and several big championship fights. The brand is all about living life to the fullest, which is what I try to do as well. NOS and I are doing a Facebook video series called "Resurrection." Each week we give fans a topic to ask me questions about and I choose one to answer. A few weeks ago, someone asked me about overcoming fear and taking control in the octagon. I told him that you never overcome fear and you’re never in control. Control is an illusion—a fight can turn so quickly that you’re never really in control.
That’s why I’m always scared when I fight. But that fear is what keeps me more alert and more focused. It’s good to have fear. It’s a pretty cool video series, and I encourage fans to go to the NOS Energy Drink Facebook page and ask me their questions.
BE: A few questions of a somewhat "what if?" nature up top. First of all, for years the most discussed bout in mixed martial arts was GSP against Anderson Silva. There were obviously legitimate reasons for that fight not happening at the time, but with you currently out of MMA and Anderson seemingly in the final stages of his career, do you look back on the situation now and wish that the fight had happened? What do you feel was the primary reason that it never worked out?
GSP: That difference in weight at the time of stepping into the octagon is a significant issue, and we were always very busy in our respective divisions for many years. So it seems like there was never that perfect timing to make it happen.
BE: In talking to some executives from Showtime and Strikeforce in the past, it was suggested that there would have been a pretty massive deal on the table had you been a free agent during the promotion's time as an independent entity. Given your rare status as a major draw, do you have any regrets that you never had the opportunity to test out the market as a free agent? There were mentions of things that more closely mirror boxer contracts with networks than the standard MMA deals, meaning millions of dollars in guarantees and 50% PPV revenue cuts. Does that sting a little? Or do you feel that your value was always maximized during your time with the UFC?
GSP: I cannot change the past and the context in which I fought in professional MMA. I feel that I made the most of it, and I also do feel bad for some of the other fighters who have made the same sacrifices as myself for many years and still ended up with not much in their pockets.
BE: You've obviously been vocal about performance enhancing drugs in the UFC. Another Tristar guy, Mark Bocek, recently retired and cited not wanting to compete against guys who are on PEDs any longer, so the situation is impacting some other fighters and their willingness to continue to compete. Obviously the VADA thing fell through from the Hendricks side in your last fight, but it seemed like you were wanting to push toward a place where your fights were as heavily tested as you could get them. Were you to return to the UFC, would you consider some sort of condition that you would only compete with expanded testing for you and your opponent through an organization like VADA or USADA?
GSP: I will never fight again in MMA without my opponent and myself being thoroughly tested for the most advanced PEDs by a credible independent anti-doping organization like VADA or USADA under the strictest standards of the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) Code.
BE: What are your thoughts on Vitor Belfort being granted a title shot despite a failed drug test pushing him out of the originally planned title shot?
GSP: I like Vitor as a person and training partner. Everyone knows my stance on PEDs but I’m not going to comment on who deserves a title shot or not. If he’s eligible for a title shot under a certain set of rules and he gets it, then I’m happy for him.
BE: Your name invariably comes up whenever other fighters are asked about the idea of creating a fighter association (or union). It seems like the common statement is "it would take someone like GSP leading the charge." Is there any pressure knowing that you're viewed in that kind of role by people who haven't attained your level of success? And, is there any way you could see yourself embracing that sort of role in any future effort to organize, given that it could give the leverage needed to accomplish the kind of goals you had set for "cleaning up the sport?"
GSP: I’m not aware of any professional athlete union that did not improve the working conditions and increase the paychecks of its members. I believe it will come someday in MMA, not because things are bad right now but because it’s just part of the normal evolution of all major sports. I’m not a "politician" and people know that I’m not a confrontational person or someone who likes to be in front, so it would be hard for me to lead that kind of initiative. But I will never be against something that is good for the fighters.
BE: Last questions. What do you view as the most positive trend in the UFC and MMA as a whole? And, conversely, what do you view as the most negative trend?
GSP: Positive: The talent and skills of new fighters coming into the sport is simply amazing.
Negative: The use of PEDs in the sport. A true martial artist must respect his opponent and fight clean.