One of the most popular discussions among MMA fans is who truly qualifies as the greatest fighter of all time. Despite the fact that mixed martial arts is quite young compared to other combat and stick-and-ball sports, the GOAT debate never fails to inspire some strong opinions. Is it Jon Jones? Khabib Nurmagomedov? Fedor Emelianenko? Or someone else?
One guy whose name gets brought up in a lot of these conversations is former two-division champion Georges St-Pierre. The longtime welterweight king returned from a four-year layoff in 2017 to capture the middleweight title from Michael Bisping, cementing his GOAT potential. But if you ask the man himself, he doesn’t make the cut.
In an interview on UFC.com GSP lays out his argument for who the greatest of all time is, and in typical St-Pierre fashion, his answer is analytical and makes a lot of sense. He makes the point that it’s a very subjective argument, and any number of fighters could be called the GOAT for particular reasons. But there’s one man he thinks stands slightly above the rest.
“What does being the best of all time mean?” St-Pierre said. “If it’s to compare every athlete who competed at their time and who was the most dominant at their time, who had the most achievements, for me it’s Royce Gracie. If you talk about who’s the strongest guy, if you would put everybody in the cage, who would come out alive, I think it would maybe be Fedor Emelianenko in his prime. If you talk about the more flamboyant guy, the one who did some crazy stuff that you only see in movies and stuff like that, I would say maybe a guy like Anderson Silva or Vitor Belfort. If you say the more well-rounded guy, I would say maybe Demetrious Johnson. If you ask about who’s the guy who faced the most adversity, maybe Jon Jones. But whoever you name, it’s a subjective thing, it’s an opinion.”
GSP understands the hyper-evolution of the sport, and believes that the true GOAT might have not even been born yet. But he reiterated that Gracie set the tone in a manner than no one since has been able to achieve:
“The further we go into the future, the better the guys will be,” St-Pierre said “There will always be new up and comers that are better that will beat the records of the previous ones. But I think we should never forget who was the first one to pave the way. There were no weight classes, they were fighting three times a night and there were headbutts and crazy things that you could do back then. That’s why, for me, Royce Gracie is the number one for me. He’s my favorite fighter, and the GOAT for me is Royce Gracie.”