Maya Angelou once said, “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” And Mahatma Gandhi said, “Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.”
Defeats are temporary setbacks. In war, you can still win even after being defeated in several battles. Quitting, however? That’s permanent. That’s when you’re truly defeated.
My guest today is the iconic and legendary George St-Pierre, a top MMA fighter in the history of the world, who’s well-known in combat sports as the undisputed G-O-A-T: Greatest Of All Times. He is also popular for being a record holder for most UFC wins in title bouts.
In this episode, we discuss how Georges’ childhood bullies shaped him into who he is today, why it can be so hard to let go of our egos, how fasting has transformed his health, and so much more. This is an exciting episode of the School of Greatness, so let the class begin.
Georges “Rush” St-Pierre is a Canadian professional mixed martial artist who holds black belts in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Kyokushin karate. As a child growing up in the small town of St-Isidore, Quebec, Georges was bullied by older schoolmates for years. His father introduced him to Kyokushin karate at age seven, and he became a second dan Kyokushin karate black belt at age 12. In spite of his martial arts skills, he was still bullied.
However, the bullying he experienced only served as his motivation to practice and train more in martial arts throughout his teen years. When he watched the Royce Gracie UFC fight in 1993, Georges realized exactly what he wanted to do with his life. Since then, he has dedicated his energy and focus to becoming a better version of himself by spending more time in the gym while working as a doorman in nightclubs and hanging off the back of a garbage truck in between.
His life-changing moment came in 2006 when he became the UFC Welterweight Champion. Although he lost the championship belt in the following year to Matt Hughes, he regained it in 2008. Since then, Georges hasn’t lost a single title defense until his retirement in 2013, holding the UFC record for most wins in title bouts.
Georges St-Pierre became the fourth fighter in the history of the organization to be a multi-division champion when he returned to the ring in 2017 and defeated Michael Bisping to win the UFC Middleweight Championship title by submission in the third round. Unfortunately, after a month of winning the championship belt, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which sent him to his retirement from MMA for good.
After MMA, he shifted his career to acting. His original breakout role was in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier as “Georges Batroc the Leaper.” He leaped into action again as Georges Batroc in the TV miniseries, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which premiered recently to a record viewership.
Georges St-Pierre’s life story is an excellent example of the fact that defeats are temporary, and that as long as you don’t quit, you can still become a champion in your own league. He was bullied several times during his early years, but he overcame bullying and became a mixed martial arts champion.
Have you ever been bullied before? Do you still experience the pains of past bullying? How did bullying impact your life today?
It’s a fact: Bullying can leave a scar and have a terrible impact on your life, long-term. But there are only two things you can do if you’ve been bullied — you can either learn and grow from it to become much stronger, or you can stay stuck in fear and lose all your self-confidence. Let’s hear from Georges how his past bullying impacts his life now.
“I think it left a scar. But sometimes it’s for the best, and sometimes for the worse. There are good things like … I think it helps me to be stronger and face adversity.” – George St. Pierre
You can transform tragedies from something negative into something that positively impacts your life. It might take a long time, but if you put in the effort it takes to process those tragedies and shift your thinking, later you’ll start to see the ways in which tragedy may have strengthened or enriched your life on the whole.
“I was bullied when I was young. At the time I saw it as a very negative experience — and it was. But I realized now that it helped me later on in my life, facing the mental warfare that I had to face in mixed martial arts, because it’s a very egoistic sport.” – George St. Pierre
When you are bullied, you will feel the pain, the intimidations, and a sense of defeat as it’s happening. But at the same time, it will also make you more resilient to similar situations in the future.
“There’s a lot of intimidation when you get into a fight, especially during the promotion of the fight and the press conference. And I got used to it when I was so young.. … We see a lot of fighters, they lose their chill. … But they never worked with me because I had a very strong shield to protect me that I probably built during my youth.” – George St. Pierre
During his childhood, despite his martial arts skills, Georges didn’t fight his bullies back. Instead, he humbled himself in defeat. Sometimes in life, there are battles and competitions that are not meant for us to win, and we need to simply tap out and kill our ego so that we can bounce back someday.
Being great doesn’t mean you always need to win. It’s about knowing when to tap out and accept defeat so that you can live another day, compose yourself, and eventually bounce back. But sometimes, your ego keeps you from accepting defeats.
“My ego is my pride. It’s one of my best assets as a fighter, but also one of the worst issues I have in society. … I’m a very proud person and that’s why I trained so hard, because every fight is so important for me. So I don’t want to go there and lose and be humiliated, because my friends and my family will see it and remember that moment. So I do it not only for myself. I do it for others, because of the way they look at me. That’s why I’m so proud of it. I’m always training with that in the back of my mind.” – George St. Pierre
While our ego is important in building the self-confidence that we need to win and become successful at what we do, there are times we need to tame our ego to allow room for growth and improvements. Georges St-Pierre was aware of that and he knew when to tap out even if it was a very humiliating thing to do.
“It’s a sport. We’re not in a warlike soldiers, so I tapped out. Maybe if I would not have tapped out, I would get brain damage. I would never have come back to the same place. So I saved myself for another day — and there’s no shame in this.” – George St. Pierre
Tapping out from a fight can be very embarrassing since it is usually perceived as quitting, while some may think you’re a coward to quit quickly. There are also people who may not understand why you tapped out. Sometimes, you’re the only one who will know when to tap out for your safety. When Georges tapped out from a fight with Matt Hughes, he also experienced embarrassment that affected him so much, he had to consult a sports psychologist for help.
“I … [went] to a sports psychologist and he said to me, ‘You’re not focusing on the right thing. You’re always focusing on what happened in the past. You live in the past. You need to live in the present moment — not live in the future but live in the present.’’’ – George St. Pierre
A defeat can be devastating, but it shouldn’t cause you to remain stuck in self-pity and remorse, unable to move forward. You should learn how to extract the lessons from every defeat so you can transform into a better version of yourself.
Georges St-Pierre followed the advice of his psychologist. He started living in the moment, focusing on practicing more to become a better fighter rather than dwelling on past defeats or mistakes. The following year, he regained the championship belt and became undefeated, even in two rematch fights with Matt Hughes — the same fighter he tapped out to during their first encounter.
Guys, this interview with Georges St-Pierre is packed with so many words of wisdom. Listen to the full episode for more, and don’t forget to share the episode with someone you think would benefit from it.
Be sure to follow Georges on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and visit his official website for more updates from him. He’s also on a mission to help stop school bullying, and promote more physical activity in schools. If you know someone struggling with bullying, check out the Georges St-Pierre Foundation. You could change someone’s life today.
I have interviewed some of the greatest athletes in the world here at the School of Greatness, like Novak Djokovic, Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant, and now, Georges St-Pierre. Like the others, I asked him for his definition of greatness, and his answer was truly inspiring.
“I think it’s linked with happiness. Everything I’ve done in my life was to get me closer to my ultimate goal. … [Some] people think that my goal is to be a champion … It’s not my goal. I use that as a platform to get me to my goal. My goal is to have a family and live long and happy with my loved ones. That’s my goal. And … greatness is to be happy.” – George St. Pierre
Greatness starts when you begin your journey towards true happiness in life. So, go out there and do something great every day.