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Before Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, there was Georges St-Pierre—the original UFC superstar whose athleticism, humble demeanor, and vicious ground-and-pound made him the hottest ticket in mixed martial arts from 2005 until his retirement in 2013. Then, after taking some time off to rehab from not one but two torn ACLs, St. Pierre returned to the Octagon in 2017 at UFC 217, moving up from 175 to 185 pounds and choking out Michael Bisping in the third round to win the middleweight belt. Though he’s unsure of when— or even if—he’ll return to MMA competition, you wouldn’t guess it based on how the guy trains. We caught up with the legend to talk about his insane diet, new style of training, and when he’ll throw down again.
St-Pierre used to hit the weights hard in his heyday, but he now admits he would’ve done it differently. “I used to think more is always better, but that’s not true. Smarter is better,” St-Pierre says. “Now I train in the water with Aqualogix, which I started doing when I tore my ACL the first time in 2011.” (St-Pierre suffered a second ACL tear in 2014.) He credits pool training with keeping his joints healthy while increasing his power. You can read more about St-Pierre’s water training at Hydrorevolution.com.
Another unique aspect to St-Pierre’s regimen is the absence of traditional weights. “My main training as a fighter is fighting. I can’t let my strength and conditioning compromise my main training,” he explains. “It’s been many years since I’ve lifted a weight. I do gymnastic stuff with parallel bars and rings and on the pommel horse.”
Unbeknownst to the general public—until recently—St-Pierre has battled with ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Certain foods can disrupt his stomach, but St-Pierre is still able to eat whatever he likes, which he credits to intermittent fasting, eating within an eight-hour window each day. “I love chocolate and want my ice cream,” St-Pierre says. “We live a life, it’s important to enjoy every moment of it.”
But because he’s Georges St-Pierre—at one time considered the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet—he takes IF one notch further. “Three times a year I fast for five days in a row, only drinking water,” he says. “You get your body into a state called autophagy, where it burns all the bad cells. It’s very good.” And if you’re wondering—yes, St-Pierre still trains every day, sometimes twice, during this time.
Ask St-Pierre what his toughest fight of all time is, and you’ll get a couple of answers: “In terms of damage, my toughest fight was with B.J. Penn, and Carlos Condit kicked me and messed up a vein in my head,” he recalls. But one fight, he says, stands out as the toughest of them all.
“My fight against Thomas Denny in TKO Major League MMA. I almost passed out, I was sick when I took the fight,” St-Pierre says. “I didn’t know how to manage my energy and pushed myself so friggin’ hard trying to finish him in the first round. I felt like I was going to pass out. I told my cornerman to throw in the towel, and he said, ‘Georges, I don’t have any towels, you are going to die in that octagon,’ and I said, ‘Eff you, you’re not really my friend.’ I was mad, and when they rung that bell, I turned around and beat that guy by TKO. That was my hardest fight ever.”
“I might come back, or I might retire as well,” St-Pierre says, when asked about his career in MMA. “I don’t want to defend a belt for 10 more times. I only want big fights—fights that are good for my legacy. The more time that goes by, the more I think retirement is a good option for me. Also, I see a lot of fighters get damaged, and I don’t want to be one of these guys. The fighter is always the last to know when it’s time to stop, but I wouldn’t have a problem right now to pull the plug and live my life healthy and happy.”