Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy or sign-up through one of those links, you won’t pay a penny more but we’ll get a small commission that helps me in running this blog. Read the Disclosure page.
Mixed martial arts legend George St-Pierre knows why Khabib Nurmagomedov is still the reigning UFC lightweight champion, despite announcing his retirement five months ago. Georges St-Pierre himself walked away from the UFC twice.
In an interview with ESPN, Saint-Pierre talked about why Dana White and the UFC do not want to let go of Khabib “Eagle” Nurmagomedov.
“From a business standpoint, for sure the UFC does not like one of their athletes to leave on their own terms, especially when they are champions,” St-Pierre said. “They like to keep the ball rolling in the organization and that’s one of the things they were angry at me [about], I’ve done this two times. But I think they attach too much importance into that. If you look at boxing, the way they promote the sport, it would be for example, ‘Mayweather vs. Canelo,’ and then after you know what they’re fighting for.
“But in UFC, the way they promote it is ‘UFC 259,’ that’s the UFC, they promote the UFC, then you have the two guys. So it’s just a different way they promote the sport. I think the promotion should be more centered on the athlete than the promotion because there’s all kinds of titles. The title is just a meaning. Even if you’re champion, doesn’t mean that people think that you are the best in the world if you are champion. You can be champion, but you haven’t fought the best guy. People are not stupid. People know that.”
Georges Saint-Pierre is known to have retired in November 2013 after a narrow decision win over Johny Hendricks for his ninth successful UFC welterweight title defense in a row. At the time, Georges explained that he was simply burned out and needed time to rest and recuperate. He gave up his title and no longer competed for four years.
When he returned to UFC 217 middleweight title, he won another UFC title by defeating Michael Bisping. Saint-Pierre also relinquished the title shortly thereafter, claiming that a bout of ulcerative colitis (associated with his rise to 185 pounds) made it impossible for him to defend himself. He officially announced his retirement in February 2019.
Despite a good relationship with Dana White, Georges Saint-Pierre’s career choices have led to tensions between them in the past. They even argued over who was to blame for the failure of a potential superfight between Saint-Pierre and Nurmagomedov.
Saint-Pierre understands what game the UFC is playing, and he likes how Khabib Nurmagomedov reacted.
“For that reason I believe they want to keep Khabib in because they feel like Khabib is undefeated,” Georges St-Pierre said. “He has probably the most dominant career ever. I don’t even know if he lost a round—He might have lost a round but he dominate all his opponents.
“They don’t want him to leave on his terms, they want a guy to beat him, then after they gonna be like, ‘Okay, now you can leave.’ But Khabib is smart, I think he’s very smart, he left on top, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
In a recent interview, the president of the UFC, Dana White, announced that in the near future the organization does not plan to declare the lightweight title vacant, expressing confidence that Russian fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov will resume his career as soon as a clear contender for the championship belt appears in the division.