Analyzing GSP’s Mount Rushmore Claim

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Former two-division champion Georges St-Pierre opened up on which fighters he would put on his personal “MMA Mount Rushmore” at UFC Paris this weekend.

GSP shared his most recent version during a fan Q&A session before Friday’s ceremonial weigh-ins.

“I would put Royce Gracie because he did stuff in the beginning that nobody had ever done,” St-Pierre said. “I will cheat because I have to put more than four. I would put Amanda Nunes already, even though she has not retired yet, because she is the best female fighter that has ever lived, I believe. I would put Khabib [Nurmagomedov] because he had the perfect career, undefeated. An incredible career.

“I would put Conor McGregor, also, because he brought the sport to a different level. I would put Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Demetrious Johnson because of their performances.”

All of GSP’s picks had accomplished careers in the sport, and were no doubt favorites of some of the best online bookmakers. Some of his choices, however, seem to be rooted more in accomplishments and achievements than impact.

Analyzing GSP’s Mount Rushmore

Royce Gracie

Gracie seems like an easy choice for anybody’s “MMA Mount Rushmore” thanks to his role in the early days of the UFC. Gracie emerged as the tournament winner of UFC 1, UFC 2 and UFC 4 all of which were contested in an openweight single-elimination format that left little to the imagination.

As valid of a choice as he is, one thing working against Gracie is that his status in the sport is mostly a product of timing. Half-brother Rickson Gracie is generally considered to be the strongest MMA fighter out of him and his brother’s generation of Gracies and finished his career 11-0 with most of his wins coming in Japan. Had half-brother Rorian opted to have Rickson compete, it is fair to wonder if Royce would have ever become the household name he is.

Amanda Nunes

An “MMA Mount Rushmore” deserves female representation, as women’s MMA has become an increasingly important part of some of the world’s most important promotions. However, Nunes might not be the best choice for such a list, as her success has come as more of a product of the growth of the sport as opposed to a catalyst.

As polarizing as Ronda Rousey can be, she likely deserves inclusion. She brought a level of mainstream attention necessary to the rapid growth women’s MMA has seen over the last nine years, and backed up her immense popularity with her performances in the Octagon. Though Nunes emphatically finished Rousey to retain the women’s bantamweight championship at UFC 207, her greatness would likely have never been seen without Rousey’s initial run. For this reason, Rousey seems like a better choice for an “MMA Mount Rushmore,” as does Miesha Tate.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

While Nurmagomedov’s 29-0 professional record is impressive and notable for the volatility frequently associated with the sport, his greater impact on MMA falls short of what is necessary for Mount Rushmore inclusion. Nurmagomedov’s time on top was brief, as he logged just three title defenses in three years. As a result, his standing on most fans’ pound-for-pound lists can be volatile.

Nurmagomedov has been somewhat of a trailblazer for Dagestani talent looking to compete in North America. He also figures to be involved in the sport for years to come as the owner of Eagle FC, a Russian promotion that is rapidly expanding stateside. His greater impact on the sport could be yet to be realized, but on a “Mount Rushmore” with limited space, Nurmagomedov’s achievements fall just short.

Conor McGregor

One of the most polarizing figures in the history of the sport, McGregor is still on the tip of everybody’s tongue even with an uncertain future in the sport. While he became a two-division champion, McGregor’s best case for inclusion on an “MMA Mount Rushmore” lies in his financial figures. He penned the blueprint for fighters looking to transcend the UFC’s popularity. Brash personalities such as Sean O’Malley and Paddy Pimblett have thus far thrived in McGregor’s shadow, taking full advantage of strong bell-to-bell performances over the years.

McGregor is part responsible for each of the five highest grossing UFC events of all time with UFC 229, the biggest UFC pay-per-view ever, having sold 1.24 million buys. McGregor also collaborated with boxer Floyd Mayweather on the second-biggest boxing pay-per-view ever. Forbes even recognized McGregor as the world’s highest paid athlete in 2021 in large part due to his extensive investment portfolio.

Jon Jones

Jones is the owner of one of the greatest careers in the history of the sport, but his antics outside the cage have put a dampener on his accomplishments. While his skillset lends itself to a fighter who should have had a role in moving the sport forward, a lack of reliability in the eyes of the fans has capped his drawing power. Even if he is able to join the ranks of two-division UFC champions, Jones will be hard-pressed to become one of the sport’s four most influential figures.

Anderson Silva

A lackluster end to his UFC career has caused fans to forget Silva’s decade-long dominance, but “The Spider” will go down as one of the most unique fighters in the history of the promotion. His striking style blended several martial arts together, and his approach to training remind of Bruce Lee, who Silva has credited in interviews as an influence of his.

Silva went 19-1 between 2005 and 2013, with his only loss having come by way of disqualification due to an illegal kick. The striking differential Silva would demonstrate against his opponents made for must-see TV for all fans of the sport. At 47, Silva has seen a career renaissance as a professional boxer, owning wins over Julio César Chávez Jr. and Tito Ortiz. He is currently booked to fight Jake Paul on Oct. 29, but win or lose, his legitimate success in boxing is just the latest chapter in one of the sport’s most unique careers.

Demetrious Johnson

Johnson is one of the most unheralded fighters in the sport’s history. From a technical standpoint, he may have the most fleshed out skillset of any fighter ever, combining crisp and fluid kickboxing with unprecedented speed and pace. His ground game provides him with similar advantages, as he is the owner of 12 submission wins. However, the strongest argument for Johnson’s inclusion has more to do with the deeper impact of his career.

“Mighty Mouse” is continuing to accomplish goals never before done in MMA, and is currently enjoying the second act of his career in ONE Fighting Championship. Though Johnson currently fights at 135 pounds, he played an important role in the UFC’s fledgling flyweight division from the onset as one of the promotion’s first four competitors in the weight class. Johnson is synonymous with the UFC’s flyweight division and carried the mantle so fighters like Brandon Moreno and Deivison Figuereido could thrive.

Closing Thoughts

While GSP’s decision to include seven names takes some of the air out of such an exercise, he, himself, deserves inclusion in the Mount Rushmore as well for his incredible career. St-Pierre is one of just seven fighters to have won championships in multiple weight classes. He is also a model of respect and sportsmanship, as well as a walking billboard for legitimate martial artists involved in the sport. Additionally, GSP has provided a great example of how to wind a career down. Though he may not have a desire to return to active competition, GSP continues to train like an active competitor but is able to dedicate more time to engaging with his fans.

A good “Mount Rushmore” should also be inclusive to those who contributed to the sport but weren’t necessarily fighters. For that reason, an argument could be made for Dana White on the “MMA Mount Rushmore.” White paired with some combination of GSP, McGregor, Gracie, Rousey, Silva and Johnson could make up a “Mount Rushmore” where each of its figureheads bring something unique to the table.

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