Georges St-Pierre's UFC belt now a museum piece
Belt won by St-Pierre in January 2009 welterweight championship bout with B.J. Penn
Georges St-Pierre is taking his place among other celebrated Canadian athletes such as NHL goalie Jacques Plante and Paralympian Rick Hansen at the Canadian Museum of History.
The museum announced Thursday it has acquired the mixed-martial artist's Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) belt from his victory over B.J. Penn on Jan. 31, 2009.
St-Pierre was on hand to help unveil the museum's newest attraction Thursday, and said he owed much of his career success to his fans.
"Now [the belt] is going to be exposed to the fans. It's going to be a way that I can say thanks to the fans."
The native of Saint-Isidore, Que., is considered one of the best pound-for-pound UFC fighters of all time. He holds the all-time record for most UFC wins — 26 — and is still fighting at the age of 37.
The museum acquired the belt from a sports memorabilia auctioneer after a somewhat strange journey.
St-Pierre had gifted the belt to a friend who helped him along the way to a successful career, something he said he does with all his belts.
"It's a trophy, it represents something, so it's not something you want to keep in your closet at home," he said.
In this instance the friend was a gym owner who let St-Pierre train during his early years, despite St-Pierre not being able to afford a membership.
But the owner went through a divorce and his ex-wife ended up selling the belt online. Now it will be displayed in the national collection as a "unique piece of sports history," said museum president Mark O'Neill.
"I have to say this is one of my career highlights — you don't get to do this this every day."
St-Pierre expressed his gratitude to the museum for getting the belt back and displaying it with items from other Canadian sports legends.
"I would never have thought one day that ... an MMA fighter would be able to expose his belt in the Canadian history museum," he said.
"For me to be there among such great athletes like [Maurice] 'Rocket' Richard, it's an immense honour."
The belt will be on display in the museum lobby until Monday before moving to the museum's national collection.