As a nine-time UFC champion, for years Hughes held the distinction of having defended his belt more than any other title-holder in the promotion’s history.
Hughes fought St-Pierre for the first time in Oct. 2004 and submitted him with an armbar in the first round. It was the first loss of St-Pierre’s career.
Following the defeat, St-Pierre won his next six fights in a row, winning two by knockout and two by submission. This earned him a shot at Hughes’ title and in Nov. 2006 St-Pierre knocked Hughes out in the second round to become champion.
One year later they fought again and St-Pierre submitted Hughes in the second round. And aside from one small hiccup, St-Pierre has continued to defeat every opponent since then, including another win over Hughes (2nd round TKO).
But Hughes has noticed a change in St-Pierre over the years and voiced his concern in a recent blog post on Matt-Hughes.com:
“As for the GSP/Shields fight, I really believed GSP was going to tear Shields up. The fight didn’t go like I thought it would at all. Let me tell everybody now, I like GSP, he’s a good guy and he’s somebody I wouldn’t mind sitting next to on a plane ride or at a supper table. So don’t think that I’m talking out of bitterness for the two losses, I’m speaking through experienced eyes that have been in these situations. GSP actually looked worse in this fight than I’ve ever seen him before. I really feel like Georges fights not to lose, he just doesn’t fight to win anymore. I like Georges, I like watching him fight, I wish there was some way I could help him to get that hunger back inside of him. Georges has the potential of being so much better than what we’ve seen recently. If Jake had won one more round he would have won the fight, based on how the judges scored it. So an interesting fight and a little disappointing at being the last fight of the night.”
If anyone has the credentials to criticize St-Pierre, it is Hughes. He has defeated St-Pierre and been defeated by St-Pierre — and not one of the three fights went to a decision.
Just a quick glance at St-Pierre’s record will reveal a bottleneck of decisions in recent years. Hughes is by no means the first person to be critical of St-Pierre in this regard, but he is the most qualified.
Hughes successfully defended his UFC welterweight title seven times — only one of those did he win by decision (Sherk).
St-Pierre has successfully defended his UFC welterweight title six times — four of his wins came via decision.
Career record for Hughes is 45-8 — 10 wins via decision.
Career record for St-Pierre is 22-2 — 9 wins via decision.
Thoughts for discussion:
As a UFC champion and Canada’s number one athlete, the amount of money that must be on the line for St-Pierre to remain champion would probably blow most of our minds. With endorsements, it may be more than triple what Hughes was making.
From that perspective it would seem winning no matter what the cost is most important. However, as a fighter in the UFC, you have a boss and you have fans, and without either of them there are no endorsements, there is no money, and neither of them want a boring “safety first” champion.
It is also important to keep in mind GSP was injured early in the fight with Shields. It is impossible to know how the fight would have played out had he not suffered the eye injury, but there were very few people who called St-Pierre’s last fight in December against Josh Koscheck boring. Although, it did end in a decision.