“When I saw Royce Gracie in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship, it was like the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts,” he said in 2005. “You can be a karate champion, judo champion, or jiu-jitsu champion, but when you’re the Ultimate Fighting Champion, you’re the champion of everything all mixed together. And when I saw Royce Gracie beat everybody and he was one of the smallest guys in the entire competition, I decided that that was what I wanted to do for a living.”
St-Pierre turned pro in 2002, and after just five fights on the local scene in Quebec, he got the call to fight in the UFC against Karo Parisyan in January of 2004. Two fights later, he was in the Octagon with longtime welterweight champion Matt Hughes. GSP would lose that night to the legend from Hillsboro, Illinois, but he avenged that loss (twice), and over the final 19 fights of his career, he would go 18-1, avenging that other loss to Matt Serra, as well.
It was a remarkable run, highlighted by wins over Hughes, Parisian, Jason Miller, Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk, BJ Penn, Josh Koscheck, Serra, Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, Jake Shields, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, Johny Hendricks and Michael Bisping.
That’s five UFC Hall of Famers. And after regaining his welterweight title in his rematch with Serra in the first UFC event held in Canada in 2008, GSP reigned for over five years in one of the sport’s toughest weight classes.