MMA: GSP laments Khabib retirement but calls for respect amid family tragedy

South China Morning Post

Posted at Oct 26 2020 06:57 AM

Georges St-Pierre said he would have liked to face Khabib Nurmagomedov "as a competitor" but is very happy for the freshly retired fighter after his "masterful" performance at UFC 254.

Former lightweight champion Khabib (29-0) successfully defended his title against interim champion Justin Gaethje (22-3) in a second-round submission on Fight Island on Sunday - a display that fellow "GOAT" (greatest of all time) contender St-Pierre (26-2) considers the best he has ever seen.

"It was a masterful performance, as close as you can get to a perfect fight against a very, very tough threat in Justin Gaethje," the 39-year-old St-Pierre told ESPN's Ariel Helwani.

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"A lot of people, including myself, thought Justin was the answer to Khabib, maybe the perfect nemesis because of his wrestling and striking pedigree.

"I would not say he did the unthinkable because Khabib is undefeated and is so good, but nobody would think Khabib would do a performance (like that). It seemed too easy for him. It was just amazing."

Former UFC welterweight and middleweight champ St-Pierre, who retired for the second time in 2018, waxed lyrical over Nurmagomedov's stand up, wrestling and transitions to his fight-ending arm triangle choke.

St-Pierre also praised the Russian's ability to overcome the "negative effects" of his father Abdulmanap's death in July from complications caused by contracting Covid-19 and "used it as motivation".

Both Nurmagomedov and St-Pierre had for months expressed interest in a future "super fight", but the Dagestan native's retirement announcement amid difficult family circumstances has put that on hold.

"I was surprised (Khabib retired). I wasn't expecting it at all. I was surprised by his performance too. I know he's incredibly good, I just didn't know how good he was. Now you put him into a different gear. I was surprised he retired because I thought he wanted to do (the fight) and the media said he wanted to (get to) 30-0," St Pierre said.

"Maybe normally I would (call him out) but because of the circumstances I would never dare to do that ... He needs time to mourn his father. I respect Khabib a lot, but this goes beyond sport, into the human side.

"He made a promise (to his mother) and I'm a very big fan to see the way he finished his career. As a competitor, maybe I would have liked to have an agreement to make a fight with him, but as a human being I'm very happy for him.

"I don't know, I mean never say never. I don't want to say anything that will speculate any way that we could make a fight. It's a disrespect according to the terms of the events that have happened in his life. I want him to not think about fighting and spend time with his family and relax and enjoy your retirement. If one day you want to come back and do it, our managers will talk.

"I retired almost two years ago. It's only people who speculate about it. For me, I'm happy where I am. You never say never ... for now it's not and I'm good where I am. The UFC never phoned me or anything.

"I would have considered it but I would not have gone 155 (pounds) because it would have affected my performance. It would be at a catchweight in the middle," added St Pierre.

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