Georges St-Pierre: The Science of Fighting | Lex Fridman Podcast #179 | Summary and Q&A

April 25, 2021
Lex Fridman Podcast
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Georges St-Pierre: The Science of Fighting | Lex Fridman Podcast #179


George St-Pierre discusses his motivation, sacrifices, and the difference between being a fighter and a martial artist.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why does George St-Pierre prefer winning over hating to lose?

St-Pierre explains that he wouldn't have become a fighter if he didn't like winning, as he doesn't enjoy fighting itself. Winning brings him a sense of accomplishment and the confidence to continue his martial arts journey.

Q: How does suffering lead to pleasure, according to St-Pierre?

St-Pierre uses the analogy of hunger and eating to explain that suffering enhances the pleasure of achieving a goal. The sacrifice and struggle make the ultimate outcome more satisfying and enjoyable.

Q: How has fasting changed St-Pierre's life?

St-Pierre shares his experience with fasting, which helped him manage his ulcer colitis symptoms and improve his overall health. It allowed him to maintain a fight-ready physique while also promoting mental clarity and vitality.

Q: What role does the mind play in St-Pierre's fighting career?

St-Pierre emphasizes the importance of a clear and focused mind in his fights. He describes his mental preparation before a match, including the use of positive self-talk and visualization techniques to boost his confidence and prepare for different situations.

Q: Why does George St-Pierre prefer winning over hating to lose?

St-Pierre explains that he wouldn't have become a fighter if he didn't like winning, as he doesn't enjoy fighting itself. Winning brings him a sense of accomplishment and the confidence to continue his martial arts journey.

More Insights

  • St-Pierre's motivation comes from the love of winning rather than the fear of losing.

  • Sacrifice and suffering are necessary for achieving success and building resilience.

  • Fasting has had a positive impact on St-Pierre's health and athletic performance.

  • The mind plays a critical role in St-Pierre's fighting career, allowing him to find confidence and execute his strategies effectively.

  • Many fighters struggle to walk away from the sport due to the allure of money and glamour, but it is important to have a plan B in life.

  • St-Pierre's analysis of other fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov highlights the importance of skill, technique, and artistry in martial arts.

  • St-Pierre acknowledges the difference between being a fighter and a martial artist, with the latter focused on continuous self-improvement and the pursuit of perfection.

The content provides insights into St-Pierre's mindset as a fighter and the challenges he has faced throughout his career. It emphasizes the importance of discipline, sacrifice, and mental fortitude in the pursuit of greatness in martial arts.


In this conversation with George St Pierre, considered one of the greatest fighters in the history of UFC and MMA, he discusses his motivation to win, the sacrifices he has made for his career, and the role of fear and anxiety in his fighting. He also talks about the benefits of fasting and his approach to diet. St Pierre shares insights into his mindset during fights and the importance of having a plan B and plan C. He explains his understanding of being a martial artist and shares his advice for fighters considering retirement.

Questions & Answers

Q: What motivated you more in your fighting career, the love of winning or the fear and hatred of losing?

I like to win better than I hate to lose because if it were the opposite, I would never have fought in the first place. While I don't enjoy fighting, I do love the feeling of having my hand raised in victory. Winning also provides me with freedom, money, and access to things most people don't have. But all of that comes at a price, including sacrificing myself by fighting.

Q: Can you explain the significance of suffering in martial arts and the pleasure that comes from relief of pain?

The pleasure in life is not so much about direct pleasure, but it is the relief from pain. To truly appreciate pleasure, we must experience suffering. The more sacrifice we make, the greater the reward. I use the analogy of being hungry for a long time and finally getting to eat your favorite dish. It tastes so much better because of the suffering and anticipation leading up to it. Fasting has been a transformative experience for me and has changed my perspective on food and life.

Q: What is your process of fasting and how has it affected your training and body composition?

I do three-day water fasts four times a year and follow a time-restricted eating window (16:8) on days I don't work out. Fasting has been a game-changer for me, both physically and mentally. It has helped me maintain muscle mass, increase bone density, and reduce inflammation. I also found that fasting played a role in my recovery from ulcerative colitis. I believe fasting can be beneficial for many people, but it's important to find what works best for your body and consult with a healthcare professional if necessary.

Q: How does fasting affect your mind and focus? Does it enhance your strategic thinking and learning ability?

Unfortunately, I started fasting after retiring from fighting. Looking back, I wish I had discovered it sooner. Fasting has had a significant impact on my mental clarity and focus. It has helped me appreciate the beauty of being alive and has given me a sense of gratitude. I can't speak for everyone, but for me, fasting has been a catalyst for personal growth and self-improvement.

Q: What are your thoughts on low-carb and carnivore diets? How have they affected your training and performance?

I personally enjoy carbs and love to eat, so I couldn't imagine following a diet without them. However, I understand the benefits of low-carb and carnivore diets for some people. Each person is different, and it's important to find a nutrition plan that works best for your body and goals. Joe Rogan has been an influence for me in exploring different diets, and I know he's a proponent of the carnivore diet. Ultimately, the key is to listen to your body and find what makes you feel good.

Q: How do you maintain confidence and stay mentally strong during a fight?

Confidence is crucial and comes from the preparation and repetition of scenarios during training. Before a fight, I go through a process of mentally boosting myself. I complement myself, focus on all the reasons why I will win, and visualize success. It transforms me into a different person when I walk out to fight. Once the fight starts, I enter cruise control, relying on my training and instincts rather than thinking too much. Trusting in myself and my abilities is essential.

Q: How do you handle the difficult moments in a fight when exhaustion sets in and your limits are tested?

Difficult moments are part of the fight game, often related to exhaustion and cardio. Having a plan B and plan C is crucial in those situations. I rely on my training and the adjustments I've made during the fight. Sometimes, switching gears or finding a new strategy becomes necessary. The key is to anticipate different scenarios and be prepared for them. It's all about staying focused, trusting in your training, and not giving up.

Q: Can you explain the difference between a fighter and a martial artist?

A fighter trains for a specific purpose, usually a fight. Their motivation is tied to winning and the fight itself. On the other hand, a martial artist trains for personal growth and self-improvement. They see training as a lifelong journey towards perfection, even though it can never be fully attained. I consider myself a martial artist because I train for myself and strive for continuous improvement.

Q: How do you communicate with your opponent during a fight, especially through eye contact?

There's no definitive answer to that. However, when I look into my opponent's eyes, I can sometimes see fear or signs that they have given up. This understanding comes from experience and observing subtle reactions. It's not about being psychic, but rather about reading their body language and reactions. These non-verbal cues can provide valuable insights during a fight.

Q: What advice do you have for fighters considering retirement?

If you're in your prime and you don't truly enjoy fighting, consider retiring when you're on top. Many fighters stay in the sport for too long and end up hurting themselves physically and financially. It's important to plan for your future and not let the love of fighting keep you in the game. Not everyone loves to fight, and if you're not passionate about it, it's best to walk away and focus on your health and well-being.


George St Pierre shares his unique perspective as both a fighter and a martial artist. He highlights the importance of finding motivation beyond just winning and the sacrifices that come with maintaining a successful career. St Pierre's experience with fasting and his insights into diet reflect his continuous pursuit of self-improvement. His mindset during fights, including having backup plans, demonstrates the strategic approach he takes. St Pierre encourages fighters to consider retirement on their terms and prioritize their long-term well-being.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • George St-Pierre talks about his love for winning and the anxiety and fear he experiences before a fight.

  • He highlights the sacrifices he has made to maintain his lifestyle and the impact of fighting on his mental and physical health.

  • St-Pierre emphasizes the importance of sacrifice and suffering to achieve rewards and compares it to the relief from pain.

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