Sign in with your NHL account:
  • Submit
  • Or
  • Sign in with Google
Canadiens Magazine
 
  • PRINT
  • RSS

THE LAST WORD

Save over 40%!

3 years + a cap
= All for only $60!

 

This month:
UFC champ Georges St. Pierre


Born just outside Montreal in Saint-Isidore, QC, mixed martial artist Georges “Rush” St-Pierre rose to international superstardom thanks to his devastating mastery of Kyukoshin Karate, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and boxing. After debuting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship promotion in January 2004, St-Pierre won his first welterweight title in 2006, lost it to Matt Serra in 2007, then regained it from him on April 18, 2008, before a North American MMA-record crowd of 21,390 at the Bell Centre. Currently considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, the 17-2-0 St-Pierre will put his belt on the line against the current UFC lightweight champion, BJ Penn, in the highly-anticipated UFC 94 on January 31 in Las Vegas.

  
So let’s get the tough question out of the way first: Despite being a native Montrealer, you actually grew up an Oilers fan, right?
Georges St. Pierre: It’s true, the Oilers were my favorite team. I was a big fan of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Esa Tikkanen, and Jari Kurri, that whole bunch of guys.

You’ve been spotted at a few Canadiens games in recent years, so hopefully you’ve come around a little bit.
GSP: Unfortunately with my schedule now I’m not able to follow the NHL as closely as I once did, but the Canadiens are my team today.  To be honest, though, back in the day I was a Nordiques fan, too, when I was living on the South Shore.

Georges St. Pierre showed off some solid form on his slapshot when he visited the Bell Centre in early 2007.
Did you play hockey as a kid?
GSP: I played hockey and practiced karate when I was young, but my family didn’t have much money.  Eventually I could only focus on one sport, so karate was the choice.

You’re buddies with Georges Laraque, right?
GSP: Yep, Georges is a friend of mine. Maxime Talbot from the Penguins, also. I’m buddies with Benoit Hogue, too, but he’s retired now.

How rich would you and Laraque be if you got a dollar for every time someone in the media misspelled your names as “George”?
GSP: (laughs) People do tend to mess that up pretty often, yeah.

After fighting in Montreal and winning the welterweight championship at the Bell Centre before a UFC-record crowd, do all other venues and crowds now seem to pale in comparison?
GSP: There’s no doubt the experience here was incredible, and made for the greatest moment of my career. Nothing can compare to it.  People might cheer for me in other cities, but the support I got here was simply unbelievable.

St. Pierre captured the UFC welterweight championship for a second time on April 19, 2008, before his hometown fans at the Bell Centre.  The crowd established the North American record for attendance at an MMA event.
You come off as one of the nicest and most down-to-earth athletes on earth, but you could literally kill a man with your bare hands.  Discuss.
GSP: I’m a very nice person in day-to-day life, and I would never look to get involved in a street fight or anything like that.  MMA is my sport, though, and I want to do it well.  To do it well, I need to fight with absolutely no pity and no remorse.

Before your fighting career took off, you were a doorman at a Montreal nightclub, no?
GSP: Back before I was fighting regularly I was in school studying Kinesiology at UQAM, and to pay the bills I had three jobs: working as a doorman was one of them, but I also worked at a flooring company and at a group dedicated to helping troubled teens.   

So how many people walking around today can claim they were bounced from a club by the current UFC champion?
GSP: I never had any problems, actually. (laughs)  In fact, I never used force – I used words. It was always something along the lines of, “Hey, let’s go outside and talk because it’s too loud in here.” Once we were outside, I’d say, “Okay, so you’re not allowed back in.”

Why is there a move in MMA called the “rear naked choke” when nobody’s naked?
GSP: (laughs) That’s a good question. I really don’t know. It’s a term the Americans came up with. The actual name for that move is the “mataleon” – it’s what the Brazilians call it, and it literally means “to kill the lion”.

So explain to us how this fight on January 31 makes any sense.  It seems BJ Penn has everything to gain and nothing to lose given he’s moving up a weight class and you’re the one putting your belt on the line.
GSP: It’s definitely a risky fight for me, and I have a lot to lose. That’s fine, though, because I perform best and fight best under pressure. If you look at my entire career, apart from my submission loss to Matt Hughes and my TKO loss to Matt Serra, I never lost a single round – not one – except in my first fight against BJ. That was an incredibly tough fight for me because I lost Round 1 and had to come back from behind to win Rounds 2 and 3 to take the fight by split decision.

We guess it’s safe to say you’ll be taking a different approach against BJ in this second encounter then, right?
GSP: I have a definite strategy I plan to use but like in a game of cards, you don’t want to tip your hand.  It’s going to be a different fight this time ‘round.  I’m a lot better prepared and I’m expecting a much better result.

Do you know what “BJ” stands for?
GSP: BJ stands for “Baby Jay”.  That’s his nickname.

Impressive.  All right, not to look past BJ, but let’s look past BJ.  Who at welterweight, at this point, do you figure is your biggest challenger – Thiago Alves?
GSP: In the UFC Thiago Alves is probably the number one challenger at welterweight, for sure. Jake Shields is extremely dangerous.  And who knows, at some point I may move up a weight class to take on [UFC middleweight champion] Anderson Silva.

The official UFC 94 fight poster.
After Penn-St.Pierre II, logically the next big superfight would indeed see you take on Anderson Silva.  Do you foresee fighting at welterweight after your bout against BJ, or would you want to move up a weight class right away to face Anderson?
GSP: It depends on a variety of scenarios, but we’ll have to see what happens for both Anderson and I. I won’t say that fight might not happen in the near future, and I won’t say that it doesn’t have a chance of happening in Montreal. We’ll see, and I’ll leave it at that. (laughs)

You mentioned Jake Shields before.  Would you be in favor of seeing the UFC working with rival organizations like Affliction or Strikeforce, or even doing intra-promotional cards with its WEC banner so you can take on guys like Shields, Carlos Condit, and the like?
GSP: Sure, but I honestly think that the best welterweights in the world are fighting in the UFC right now.  That might not be the case for all weight classes, but it certainly is in mine.  If you look at most MMA rankings, the Top 5 guys at welterweight are all with us.

With the collapse of EliteXC his career appears to be more or less in limbo, but what was your take on Kimbo Slice?
GSP: I didn’t have much of an opinion, really.  I certainly didn’t have anything against him.  The people who had a problem with him were those who were mad that he had been a street brawler on YouTube before he got into MMA.  Kimbo in reality is a boxer who’s extremely dangerous on his feet, and he’s certainly a physical force who’s strong and powerful.  He’s training with some good people and he picked up some wins against some guys who weren’t necessarily high-level, but you saw in his last fight that when he faced someone with more extensive MMA experience, it didn’t end well for him.

On the topic of physical forces, former WWE champion Brock Lesnar recently beat one of your idols, Randy Couture, to become UFC heavyweight champion.  What do you think the future holds for both men?
GSP: Brock Lesnar is an exceptional athlete and he’s much more than just a former WWE champion.  He was a top NCAA collegiate wrestler in the U.S. in his weight class, he’s huge, and he’s training with a very strong camp.  All credit goes to him and I’m not one of those guys who begrudges his success or the fact he’s now champion.  I’ve heard him speak a bunch of times and he’s a real gentleman who can do some good for the sport; I think he’s just rarely the fan favorite because he’s got the size advantage over most guys.

And Randy?  You think he still has some fights left in his career?
GSP: Absolutely, for sure.  Randy’s not done, far from it.  He had a good fight against Lesnar but got caught with a shot that clipped him behind the ear.

Kind of like your first fight against Matt Serra.
GSP: Exactly, exactly.  It was in the same spot, the only difference being that Lesnar weighs close to 300 pounds. (laughs)

GSP: Badder than Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris combined.
We asked the guys on the Canadiens but they were divided, so settle it for us: who was the greatest ‘80s action superstar, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, or Steven Seagal?
GSP: Well, if you’re talking acting, I think it’s Jean-Claude Van Damme – he had the most success. But if you put all three in the Octagon and forced them to have a cage match, the guy I’d put my money on would be Chuck Norris. He was a legitimate
full-contact karate champion for a few years and he also practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
I think he’s a purple belt.

What’s the greatest martial arts movie of all time?
GSP: I always liked Bloodsport.

How long do you see yourself staying in the fight game?  You’re only 27 and you have your health, but have you given your long-term plans any thought?
GSP: I’ll do it for as long as I enjoy it.  I’m not a guy who fights because I have no other options; I do it because I’m passionate about it.  If one day I want to change my career, I have the diplomas that will allow me to pursue other interests.

You guys training at Greg Jackson’s camp in Arizona started an interesting pre-fight ritual last year. Care to explain how that nipple-twisting thing came about?
GSP: (laughs) It’s something we just started doing and since we’ve been doing it, we’ve been winning all the time.  I don’t know, I guess it’s a funny good-luck charm. I think I might have started it just subconsciously at one point after I took off my shirt before a fight; I’m not sure, I’ll have to review the video. (laughs)

Check out the official UFC 94 Web site at 94.UFC.com, and learn more about Georges on his official Web site at gspfightclub.com.  For a broad range of MMA news, head to sherdog.com or mmajunkie.com.

This article, written by J.S. Trzcienski, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 23 No. 3.  See table of contents