B.J. Penn is no flash in the pan. He’s one of the most respected and successful fighters in UFC history and has been for a decade. Penn is one of two men to win UFC titles in two different weight classes. His skill set is multi-faceted-he’s a legitimate jiu jitsu world champion and has developed his striking game to the point that fellow fighters call him the best boxer in the sport.
And Georges St. Pierre just beat him senseless.
St. Pierre pounded, slammed, and kicked him until his friends and family decided he couldn’t take any more. He sent Penn to the hospital. If Penn was a hall-of-famer, one of the most talented men to ever step foot in the Octagon, what does that make GSP?
Simply put, he’s the G.O.A.T. The greatest of all time.
I can hear the outcry already. After all, St. Pierre is just 27 years old and has been fighting for only seven years. How can he be the best fighter of all time? What about the Gracies, Rickson and Royce, the men who introduced Gracie Jiu Jitsu to the world?
What about the Shamrocks, Frank and Ken, champions in both America and Japan?
And what about the Russian wrecking machine Fedor Emelianenko, a fighter without a real blemish on his record?
All of them are great fighters, among the very best we’ve seen in a cage or ring in the last 15 years. However, none of them are Georges St. Pierre.
If you were constructing the perfect fighter, wouldn’t he look an awful lot like Georges St. Pierre? You’d want exceptional athleticism, the kind of natural ability that would allow a man to out wrestle opponents who had practiced wrestling their whole lives and beat a top striker to the punch. You’d want the kind of work ethic that drives a champion to continue to improve. You’d need a supple mind, one capable of out planning and out thinking his foes in both the training room and in the cage. And more than anything else, you need a competitor, someone who will fight back from adversity and continue striving, not just for victory, but for excellence.
St. Pierre is more than an athlete and much more than a physical specimen. He’s driven, not just to win, but to be the very best. His challenge isn’t an individual opponent, it’s within himself. His credentials are impeccable. He’s beaten every top fighter in the world in his weight class. Twice he’s destroyed the previous consensus best at 170, farm boy Matt Hughes. He’s beaten every challenger the UFC has put in front of him: wrestling stalwarts like teammates Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch, jiu jitsu wizards like Matt Serra, and all-around talents like Sean Sherk and Karo Pariysan.
None of his competitors for the coveted G.O.A.T. honors has a resume like this. The Gracies and Ken Shamrock were invaluable in creating the MMA revolution, but never beat any truly great fighters. Fedor is the best heavyweight MMA has ever seen, but that division has never been among the strongest in the sport. Frank Shamrock comes closest to measuring up to GSP at his height, but Frank was like a proto-GSP. He had the resume, the athleticism and the will to win, but Frank never developed the complete package of skills Georges has.
Most importantly, when GSP has faced adversity, he has come back stronger than ever. A loss to Hughes was avenged, not once, but twice. A flash knockout at the hands of Serra was definitively answered by taking Serra down and manhandling him. Even losing a single round was unacceptable. It had to be avenged. And it was. Just ask B.J. Penn.