From its earliest days, determining the best MMA fighter in the world has never been a particularly easy task. Even as Royce Gracie dominated the initial UFC tournaments in and , challengers to his throne emerged overseas, his own brother Rickson at the front of the pack. As the years have gone by and the sport has become more diverse—in size, technique and geography—winnowing a pool of hundreds down to one has become more and more difficult. Separated by continents, weight classes and promotional affiliation, there was no definitive method of determining who stood alone atop the heap. Unlike team sports, time-tested metrics to discern an athlete's worth were virtually nonexistent. Even today, most MMA stats are quantitative.
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For the first time in years, the welterweight division is wide open. After almost a decade on top, Georges St-Pierre has finally relinquished his death grip on the weight class, leaving the sport and his championship belt in the wake of injury and discontent. While we'll miss one of the sport's all-time greats, his departure allows a new crop of fighters to contend for UFC gold. Before his body betrayed him and his interest waned, St-Pierre was like MMA 's David , the perfect prototype of what a professional fighter should be. He was spectacular standing and tactically brilliant, with the best wrestling in the sport's short history and a bevy of slick submissions. His heirs, the men who are now contending for the top spot, lack his polish. They might equal or exceed him in certain areas, but no one is the total package the way the Canadian star was. It's those flaws that make things so interesting. When St-Pierre was at his best, the result of a title fight was a foregone conclusion.
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