Stu Cowan: Stress played role in Georges St-Pierre’s retirement

«Most of the people that love me, they wanted me to quit a long time ago,» 37-year-old UFC superstar says.

Georges St-Pierre’s decision to retire from mixed martial arts was good news for his father.

“I’ve been asked if it’s going to create some feeling of loneliness or something. I said no,” St-Pierre said during a news conference at the Bell Centre Thursday to announce his retirement after winning three championship belts in UFC and posting a 26-2 record. “A lot of fighters, they come here, they start crying and everything. Fighting, it’s what I love to do in my life, but this is not my life. My life is who I am with my friends, with my family outside of this. It’s just a little part of me that goes away. It’s OK, I’m going to fill it up with other things.

Georges St-Pierre was honoured before the start of the Montreal Canadiens-Philadelphia Flyers NHL game at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Feb. 21, 2019. Dave Sidaway / Dave Sidaway / Montreal Gazette

“For me, today is a very happy day,” the 37-year-old added. “Most of the people that love me, they wanted me to quit a long time ago. They’re like: ‘Georges, you’re crazy. What else do you have to prove? Why are you doing this?’ Especially my dad. My dad has been bugging me for years to take my retirement. ‘You have all the money. What’s left?’ I did it because I thought I wanted to do more and more. But I know now he’s watching me and he’s very happy and it’s going to take away a lot of stress on him.”

During an interview at the Montreal Wrestling Club a couple of weeks after his last fight — when he beat Michael Bisping on Nov. 4, 2017, at Madison Square Garden to win the UFC middleweight title — St-Pierre talked about his father, Roland.

“My favourite thing to do is to take my dad to a very high-end restaurant like Queue de Cheval that is very expensive,” St-Pierre said. “When he sees his steak, his eyes go: ‘Oh my God!’ When he sees the bill at the end — I pay the bill — and he goes: ‘My god! $50 for a steak … are you crazy? Are you eating like this every week?’ I’m like: ‘Every day!’ (huge laugh). And he almost has a heart attack every time. This is my fun thing to do … to thank my family and let the people I love live the life. So my fun is not to do it for me, it’s to do it for the people I love … to see their expressions, their eyes.

“He has a very simple life,” St-Pierre added about his father. “He’s happy the way he is. But I want to make him enjoy a little bit more. I gave him a sports car … he gets bored. He always worked … that’s what he does, he likes to work. He’s crazy. He used to work in floor recovery. Now he’s retired, but he still works all the time … like 50 hours, 60 hours a week. He never stops. I think if he stops he’s going to get sick, so it’s better he keep going like this, I guess.”

Georges St-Pierre’s father, Roland, sits down to watch his son at his St-Isidore home, awaiting Georges’ Ultimate fight in Las Vegas on Feb. 23, 2006. Tyrel Featherstone / TheGazette

St-Pierre got sick before his final fight and that played a role in his decision to retire.

“My last fight with Michael Bisping, I was diagnosed for ulcer colitis,” St-Pierre said. “One of the reasons I’m taking my retirement is the damage done to me is not much about getting hit in the head. We think that’s what it should be … to get hit in the head for most cases. For me, when I’m in fight camp — because I’m so proud, psychologically I’m different than normal people. Everything needs to be perfect. I’m so methodical in how I prepare and so intense into it, it takes a lot out of me. It takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of stress, creates a lot of anxiety. And stress and anxiety for me is probably what caused the problem I had. Over time, it’s not good. It builds up inside you and it’s a lot of stress and stress is known now to be the main cause of different diseases … it could be cancer, it could be very bad diseases. Now, for me taking my retirement, it’s a relief of stress. So I don’t have any stress anymore.

“What we do it’s a sport, but it’s not a game,” St-Pierre added. “You play football, you play baseball, you play hockey … you play golf. You don’t play fighting. And especially in full-contact sports like fighting, MMA, boxing, athletes should not be told to retire. They should take their retirement when they’re on top. That’s the way to do it and it should be the only way to do it. So if a lot of young guys in MMA hear what I’m saying, don’t wait until someone tells you to retire. Retire on your own when you’re on top. That’s the only way to do it. That’s how it should be done for your health.”

St-Pierre’s father would agree.

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