Georges St-Pierre still knows how to analyze and break down the best fighters in the world, even in retirement.
The former two-division UFC champion held court at a fan Q&A on Friday ahead of UFC Paris, where he was asked how he’d stack up against three of the most successful fighters of this generation: Current welterweight champion Leon Edwards, former welterweight champion and top-ranked Pound-for-Pound fighter Kamaru Usman, and lightweight great Khabib Nurmagomedov.
In his response, St-Pierre described what each star’s greatest attribute is.
“It’s hard because they all have great qualities,” St-Pierre said. “They’re all very different. Leon would have given me a lot of trouble because he’s very smart. It would have been like a chess game. It would have been a hard puzzle to solve because it would be a very technical fight.
“Kamaru is very physical, he’s very athletic, he’s a beast. He’s strong, he hits very hard, he’s a great wrestler. It would be very tough physically, very demanding.
“Khabib is a legend in terms of his knowledge, his experience. He’s got so many tools in his bag. It would be a fight that I wouldn’t know how it would’ve turned out. I don’t know. It’s not the best fighter that wins the fight, it’s the fighter that fights the best the night of the fight, so to beat them I would have needed to be the best man of the night of the fight and be very, very well prepared.”
St-Pierre and Nurmagomedov had openly talked about fighting one another in the past, with St-Pierre widely regarded as one of the greatest champions in MMA history and Nurmagomedov earning his own spot in GOAT discussions with a run as UFC lightweight champion and a spotless 29-0 pro record. These days, both appear to be enjoying retirement rather than chasing comeback fights.
On the topic of Edwards’ incredible comeback kick knockout win over Usman at UFC 278, St-Pierre offered more praise for the current champion.
“I think he won the first round and he showcased in the first round incredible skills to put Kamaru Usman on his back, mount him, take his back,” St-Pierre said. “He showcased incredible skills right there. He was losing because he was losing after the second, third, and fourth round, and he was on his way to losing the fifth round. But I think what makes Leon Edwards so good, it’s his fighting IQ.
“He is also so good at neutralizing his opponent’s strengths. He’s very good at shutting down his opponent’s strengths and bringing the fight where he is comfortable, to make his opponent fight outside of his comfort zone, and I think that’s why Leon Edwards is so good.”
During his legendary run with the UFC from 2004-2017, St-Pierre also had a reputation for neutralizing his opponents’ strengths, whether it was forcing wrestling specialists like Matt Hughes, Jon Fitch, and Josh Koscheck to stand with him, or using his own elite wrestling to stifle dangerous finishers like B.J. Penn, Nick Diaz, and Carlos Condit, among many other memorable victories.
St-Pierre was no stranger to rematches either, with Hughes, Koscheck, Penn, and Matt Serra all stepping into the octagon with “GSP” more than once. In his rematches against the only two men to defeat him, Hughes and Serra, St-Pierre was dominant, so he has some perspective on how a rematch between Edwards and Usman might go.
“That’s what makes the beauty of the sport sort of — I mean, if you’re on the side of the winner, of course, because everything can happen,” St-Pierre said. “It would be boring if you always know who would win. … That night, Kamaru was winning the fight, but he made a crucial mistake that is unforgettable at this level. He zigged when he should have zagged and credit to Leon Edwards, he did a beautiful setup, that was amazing, and he won the world title. Now they’re going to have a rematch hopefully and we’ll see.
“But things change, you never fight the same fighter twice. You can fight the same name twice, but you never fight the same fighter twice. Every fight leaves a scar. It could be for the best or for the worst and after a loss very often we see fighters, that a loss can affect their confidence, and confidence is very important for a fighter because you can have all the skills in the world but if you don’t have confidence it’s like someone who has a lot of money in his bank account but no way of accessing it. For the magic to happen, you need the skills and the confidence. So we’ll see how mentally strong Kamaru Usman is and if he comes back and wins the title, I think he’ll add up to his legacy even more. It’s going to be a hell of a fight, a hell of a challenge.”