‘Khabib is world’s best pound-for-pound fighter’ – Georges St-Pierre to RT Sport (VIDEO)
Canadian MMA legend Georges St-Pierre, who recently visited Moscow, shared his thoughts with RT Sport on a range of areas, including Khabib Nurmagomedov, Fedor Emelianenko’s comeback, his own plans, work with the MMA Athletes Association, and weight cutting issues.
One of the best UFC welterweight fighters of all time, St-Pierre talked to RT Sport last Friday in the Russian capital, where he came to support his friend and training partner Yukinori Akazawa in his debut for Russian MMA promotion ACB. He spoke more about Akazawa and his impressions of Moscow in the first part of interview, published on Saturday.
Now, a few days later, we present the second part of the story.
RT: Throughout your career, you’ve never fought a Russian fighter, but when you think of a Russian fighter, what name comes to mind first?
GSP: I think actually one of the best pound-for-pound in the world, maybe the best pound-for-pound in the world, is Khabib Nurmagomedov. I always said it. For me, he’s probably the best pound-for-pound. Unfortunately, I believe people don’t give him enough credit. Maybe because he’s not American, he’s not someone who talks a lot of trash like Conor McGregor, he’s someone who’s very respectful, he doesn’t make a lot of noise by talking. But the same thing, like I said before about me, is that the resume speaks by itself. You know, the guy’s undefeated, he beat everybody. I’m just sad that the fight with Ferguson didn’t happen, because it would have been an amazing fight.
RT: So talking about that canceled fight and the weight cut. In one of your interviews you said one day somebody’s going to die from the weight cut. Do you think that it’s a big problem, and what do you think is the solution?
GSP: I’m going to tell you what I think. I believe the fact that they put the weigh-in in the morning instead of at 4pm, it gives more time for the guy to recuperate from the weight cut. So because they have more time to recuperate from the weight cut, they’re going to try to cut more weight. And by trying to cut more weight, it’s more damaging for the body and one day something bad is going to happen. I don’t want to announce bad news, I hope it won’t happen and I wish well to everyone, but I think it’s a bad thing. I think the way it should be done in mixed martial arts, is a weigh-in maybe something like a month before the fight. Like in boxing, boxing’s an older sport, it’s been around for a longer time, I mean in recent years at a professional level. I think maybe do the weigh-in like a month before, (then) a day before. And the day of the weigh-in, you don’t allow a certain percentage more than the weight. Like that it would be better. People would fight more at their own weight. I’ve never been a fan of cutting a lot of weight, that’s why I’m not a big welterweight, and that’s one of the reasons before I never moved up in a weight class because already in my weight class I wasn’t a big guy. The guys that I’ve fought, sometimes they’re 15-20lbs heavier than I am. That’s one of the reasons I’ve never fought at middleweight before. But I think it’s bad. I think the decision of making the weigh-in in the morning is bad.
RT: Talking of Nurmagomedov, Khabib also said on many occasions that you're his idol. Do you think there’s a chance you’ll fight one day, since you’re switching weight classes?
GSP: Look, I really like Khabib. It would be crazy. I don't know what's going to happen, like I said. There is Conor, there is Ferguson, there is Khabib at 155. Like I said, I don't know that is what I’m going to plan to do. If I beat Bisping, I might stay at 185. Or I might go challenge a guy at 170. It depends. The way my body is made I couldn't make 155. It would be a tough cut. Because I walk around at 188 – 188lbs when I wake up in the morning. I think Khabib is about the same size as me. Maybe heavier than me. A lot of 155ers are bigger than me. But it would be a tough cut. And I’m not a big fan of cutting weight. But it depends on who's there at the right moment. Maybe it could be done, but I don't know.
RT: Khabib might step up in weight class if he wins the lightweight belt. Would you want to fight him at welterweight?
GSP: It all depends. Everyone has different goals. It has to be win, win, win situation – one opponent, another opponent and the organization. If the organization is going to win because that is a fight that they can make money with it, and fans want to see it. If one guy wants to do it because he has something to gain by fighting the other guy. And same thing for the other guy. It has to be win, win, win situation. That's why this business is very complicated. Because sometimes it's a win, win, lose situation. So it has to be win, win, win situation for everybody to make everybody happy. That’s what makes great fights.
RT: It’s surprising that you mentioned Khabib first, not Fedor Emelianenko. People usually mention Fedor first.
GSP: Fedor of course he’s the most popular. He’s a heavyweight, I think he’s the best heavyweight of all time. I think in the heavyweight, I’m not talking about right now, but I think of all time it’s probably Fedor Emelianenko. Probably one of the best pound-for-pound, and actually probably the two best pound-for-pound in the world are probably Fedor and Khabib. But pound-for-pound is something that doesn’t exist in the way that there’s an illusion of, ‘Oh, who’s the strongest man in the world?’ But it doesn’t exist. Being the strongest man in the world doesn’t exist. You can never be the strongest man in the world because there is someone, somewhere who can beat you. Stylistically, or one day you’re going to have a bad day and one guy’s going to have a good day, and you’re going to make a mistake. It’s the same thing over and over and over. We see it happen in hockey, for example, the best team doesn’t always win the game, they lose sometimes to a team not as good, because the night of the game the other team plays better. It’s the same thing in fighting, it’s not always the best fighter that wins, it’s the one who performs the best on the night of the fight. People ask me, ‘What’s the best quality of a champion?’ The best quality of a champion is someone who is good when it matters, a champion performs when it counts. The champion is not only the champion in the gym, he’s not maybe the best guy in the gym, he’s not the best guy every day. But when it’s the time to perform, he’s the best. He’s the one that can deliver. That’s why a lot of people, sometimes they’re very good in the gym, but when it comes to fight time, they’re overwhelmed by the pressure, by the crowd, by the anticipation, the excitement. And it’s very hard. It makes a big difference on a lot of people.
RT: Fedor is also making a comeback. What’s your opinion about that?
GSP: I wish him the best. I’ll cheer for him. But I like to see athletes retire when they are on top. I hope Fedor has a lot of good fights to come. But from my part, when I’m going to feel that I’m not as good as I used to be, one or two loses, I’ll retire. Because I have no desire of becoming a punching bag for the newcomers. I want to compete when I'm at my best. This is the business. This isn’t a game. You can say, ‘I play football, hockey or baseball.’ But you cannot say, ‘I play fighting.’ This isn’t a game. This is a fighting sport and you can die out there. So for that reason on the day when I feel I’m not as sharp as I used to be, I’m not going up or I’m plateauing – I’ll retire. On the day when I have a sign of weakness or on the day one of my trainers will say, 'Georges, I think it's time.' It's hard because when you are a popular fighter everybody gains from you. Everybody takes out of you. So by you fighting, they always have money to gain, they gain popularity. You carry a lot of people on your shoulders. But I believe that in my circle, in my entourage, I have people that are very honest, they are with me for the right reason, and they’re going to tell me the truth. They can say to me, ‘Georges, I think you passed your prime, it's time for you to hang the gloves.’ It might be my next fight. But I might have few more fights. We'll see. I’m 35, I’ll be 36 soon. I feel like I’m in my prime right now. How long is it going to last – I don't know. But like I said, I have no desire to hang out for too long in the game and become a punching bag for the newcomers. This is the game where you get in, do the maximum of what you can do, and you get out when it's time. Because otherwise, if you get out too late, you'll see some guys and what has happened to them. It's like, ‘Oh my God.’ And I don't want to become like that. I wish Fedor the best. I hope he's got a lot of good things ahead of him. Because he’s an amazing athlete. But I’d be hurt if he retired too late, because he’s my favorite heavyweight fighter.
RT: But you’re relatively young still. We see fighters competing at 40.
GSP: Everybody is different in the fighting game. Some guys have longevity bigger than others. It depends on a lot of factors – how you train, your genetics, have you used drugs in your career. There a lot of athletes who used drugs, it shortens the window of their career. I never used drugs in my life. I think I trained mostly intelligent. I've not trained or beat my body too much. I feel better than ever, healthier than ever, stronger than ever. There is one thing though – let's say I go out with my friends to a party one night – it will take me more time to recover from that. That's the one thing I used to be better at, that is recovery. But it's normal with age, you know. Even though I feel stronger, more powerful, faster, I need more recovery. But it compensates because I’m smarter than I was before.
RT: What was your main motivation for the comeback?
GSP: I want to make history. I’ve come back for something big. If I do something, I do it for myself first, then I do it for the fans. And I want to do something that has never been done before. I want to make great fights. But I also want to fight the highest guys.
RT: One more thing we should talk about is the MMA Athletes Association that you became a part of not that long ago. Could you tell us more about that?
GSP: Yes, the idea is to help a lot of the fighters. A lot of mixed martial arts fighters unfortunately are going to end up at the end of their career broke, physically broken, mentally with injuries, and they have no resources. So all that was based to come and help fighters, it was made for fighters. I didn’t do that to create trouble with UFC. I think the association can help the UFC to elevate itself. I think if they both work with each other, it could elevate each other. You have it in every major sport – hockey, baseball. MMA wants to be a major sport, they should have an association for that. The problem is a lot of other associations all compete about who’s right, who’s wrong. In order for that to work, they need to be all together.
RT: Have you had any success so far? How many fighters have signed up?
GSP: A lot of people. And a lot of people want to remain quiet because they are afraid of the UFC, they are afraid to put their name public, but there’s a lot of people. And I understood that. I think the bigger fighters should come public first, like I did, but I know a lot of fighters that are not that big, I’m talking about the leverage they have, they’re afraid, and that’s normal. They don’t want to have trouble. It’s OK, they give their name and they’re afraid, but it’s OK.
RT: So was the UFC the first goal? Because the MMA AA mentioned that the UFC spends 10 percent of its income to pay fighters and all the rest goes to cover other things.
GSP: Yeah, it’s different than other sports. In other sports it’s roughly 50-50. With UFC it’s 10 percent. It used to be like that in hockey, for example, and baseball and other sports. Over time it became more 50-50. It’s just a question of time, I believe, before it gets adjusted to the right level.
RT: Are you looking to work just with the UFC, or are you looking to work with different organizations around the world?
GSP: There’s a lot of fighters coming to us, to talk. Tim Kennedy is the one who is traveling a lot to talk to guys. A lot of guys want to remain private, but there’s a lot of guys, more and more every time. One day it’s going to come together and make something happen. But in order for that to work, the other associations need to match all in one.