By Jesse Holland
As we reported here at UFCmania last Friday, Georges "Rush" St. Pierre is making several promotional visits to select GNC stores in the New York and New Jersey areas throughout the weekend.
Ever the opportunist, I made arrangements to not only meet the UFC Welterweight Champion, but to also interview him and get his thoughts on a variety of MMA topics for the readers here at UFCmania.
I knew a weekday was going to be my best chance, so I set sail for Lawrenceville Friday morning for the 12-3 autograph signing at the Quaker Bridge Mall. As I predicted, the mall was quiet when I arrived at 10 a.m., with most would-be patrons either at work or in school at that time of day.
The first person I met from the GSP camp was John Alessio around 11 a.m. (no, not the fighter). He was friendly and easygoing, but had a bit of bad news. Georges was running about an hour late (ironic since he calls himself "Rush") and that we would have to push the interview back until after the signing.
Disappointed but undeterred, I agreed to wait until 3 p.m. Unfortunately, I wouldn't have as much time to talk to him afterwards because they were scheduled to be in Menlo Park by 5:30 p.m. Plus, how does one with no money and no appetite kill four hours in the mall?
I had to get in touch with my inner-teenager and do some hardcore loitering.
At that point I decided to make the most of it. I grabbed a cup of joe from The Coffee Beanery and parked my keister on the bench just outside of GNC.
At first I was a little apprehensive about meeting Georges. I've heard reports that he can be a little curt with his fans. However, after watching an hour of autographs, I can officially exonerate him.
Some fans are still a little fuzzy on the whole fan/celebrity interaction policy and end up ruining it for the rest of us. One fan in particular wasn't content with a personalized autograph and photo.
His mission was to convince Georges that while he was in town he owed it to himself to stop by this clown's rat-infested dojo to "workout" with some of the guys.
As Georges politely explains that he's bound by a very tight schedule, Sensei Dipstick starts rifling through his overstuffed wallet only to produce a moth-eaten and oil-stained business card.
Never in my life did I think it was okay to choke out a complete stranger (until today) and the fact that GSP allowed him to leave with the ability to chew solid food is a testament to his composure.
What also surprised me was the number of small children that came to meet their hero. I'm not sure how I feel about children under 10 watching the UFC. Witnessing Sean Salmon fold up like a beach chair was frightening for me as an adult. What kind of impact does that have on a child?
Speaking of impact, I'd like to give a shout-out to the snot-nosed little grommet that rammed me with a Build-A-Bear stroller. Thanks, I didn't need that shinbone anyway.
Charged with excitement at the prospect of talking with Georges, I began to get a little restless. Three o'clock couldn't come soon enough!
Well, that was until the sponsors arrived with the requisite eye-candy. Two beautiful ladies that make a living by looking good were propped-up outside the entrance to shower passerby's with sample packs of the latest nutritional aids.
As a writer, I decided that I would be remiss in my duties if I did not engage them in conversation and get their thoughts on well, anything they wanted to talk about.
We kibitzed for a few minutes and they were kind enough to take a picture with me (probably just to get rid of me) and by that time things were beginning to wind down anyway.
Around 2:30 p.m. I saw them packing up so I quickly got a hold of John Alessio. He made a few gestures and led me down one of the side aisles to talk with the champ. At first I was startled at how large he was for a 170-pound fighter.
St. Pierre is tall and lean, but solid as a rock. As far as I could tell he was ready to dismantle Serra at a moments notice.
When I introduced myself he nodded but seemed disinterested. He wasn't making eye contact as I continued to talk and at one point even seemed to be looking for a way out.
In a panic, I hastily reached for my notes and wound up knocking over a display of unidentifiable creams -- not exactly the way I wanted to get things started.
We bent down to pick them up (a few had broken) and I whispered, "If you don't mind, I'm going to have them charge this back to your sponsor."
He let out a laugh and suddenly the skies turned to blue. I wasn't sure how long it would last so I dove right in.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Congratulations on not only winning the 170lb title, but also defeating B.J. Penn and Matt Hughes in the process. Is the pressure off now that you're champ?
GSP: No, I feel more pressure now that I am champion. I have the entire 170lb division gunning for me and I must defend my title.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): There have been some exciting additions to the UFC roster recently with the signings of Anderson Silva and Mirko Cro Cop. Is there a particular fighter that you would like to face who may be under contract for another organization? Any particular fighter you would like the UFC to pursue?
GSP: It is hard to say, for me I am open to any and all challengers. There really isn't one fighter who comes to mind because I see all fighters equally. We have so many talented fighters in the UFC I think I will be busy for a while.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): You've had two injuries in the past year that kept you from competing. Were these injuries a result of your training intensity or do you consider them to be accidents?
GSP: First of all I would like to say that I am 100% and ready to fight. Both injuries were unfortunate accidents. I went for a double-leg and I slipped. It happens but it was not a result of how I train.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Can you translate your tattoos and what they mean to you?
GSP: The tattoo on my chest means that there are two sides to me. I can be very rude and I can be very nice. I like to be rude when I fight.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): We can assume then that the GSP inside the cage is a lot different from the GSP outside of it?
GSP: Most definitely. Inside the cage I am all business.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): And the tattoo on your leg?
GSP: The tattoo on my leg represents Quebec.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): You mention Quebec. Do you consider yourself a representative of Canada or just a Canadian fighter?
GSP: I am just a Canadian fighter. I do not like to think of it in terms of Canada versus everyone else. Maybe I would consider myself an ambassador to Canada in the same way Cro Cop is an ambassador to Croatia. But I fight for everyone. Wherever my fans are I fight for them. Where they are from or where I am from does not matter.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):On that note please let me apologize and say with utmost certainty that the few thousand drunks who boo and chant U-S-A when you fight do not speak for the rest of us UFC fans across the world.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):You're still very young yet you've beaten some of the best in the world and now enjoy what many expect to be a long run as champion. Because it's so early in your career, does that affect your timeline for fighting? How long do you see yourself competing at this level?
GSP: As long as I wake up each morning happy to fight and with the desire to train and compete, I will fight. If I am no longer happy to do it than I cannot continue but I cannot say when that day will come because now I am happy to compete.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):What do you like to do when you're not training for a fight?
GSP: I am always training, even if I don't have a fight. I will train every day no matter what. But when I have no fight coming I can drink and spend my nights going out.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):Who keeps you grounded now that you are champion? Does the wealth and fame become a distraction?
GSP: I keep myself in check. One thing I promised myself early on, I would never forget where I came from. I have self-discipline and I will not allow myself to make mistakes that could hurt my career or myself.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):Recently Rashad Evans said publicly that he would not fight fellow light-heavyweight Keith Jardine because he is a friend. Would you fight a friend if he was in your division and considered a contender?
GSP: I will not fight a friend. To me it is not about the money. I don't care about that. If you are a friend then you have a bond. It is not right to have to change that by fighting. No, I will not fight a friend.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):What is your opinion on fighters who cannot make weight?
GSP: It is difficult to say. If you are a fighter than you have a job to make weight. But this is something that is not always black and white. Sometimes there are circumstances that get in the way that prevent you from making weight. It depends on the fighter I think.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):There has been some discussion that you would consider moving up in weight if you were successful in defending your title against Serra and Hughes, and possibly Diego Sanchez. Is this just talk or is it a real consideration?
GSP: If I am able to get past those fighters then I will definitely challenge the champion at 185lbs – as long as he is not a friend.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):Word Association! I'll name something and you give me the first thing that comes to mind.
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):Matt Hughes
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): B.J. Penn
GSP: Very skilled fighter
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):Diego Sanchez
GSP: He is the real deal
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):Dana White
GSP: A good guy
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):PRIDE FC
GSP: Good competition, but second to UFC
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):UFC fans
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):Steroids
GSP: (He gave the thumbs down and made a loud disapproving sound – think of the red "X" from Family Feud)
Jesse Holland (UFCmania):Split decisions
GSP: (He gave the thumbs down and made an even LOUDER disapproving sound)
Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Georges thank you for taking the time and good luck in your next fight!
GSP: Thank you.
What I found most compelling about this interview was how adamant Georges was about not fighting anyone he considers a friend.
Since the UFC recently had a public tit-for-tat between Rashad Evans and Dana White about the exact same topic, I'm wondering if Dana would be as insistent with GSP as he was with Evans.
Overall, the experience was awesome. I owe a big "Thank You" to Georges St. Pierre -- arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter on this planet -- for taking the time to check in with us at UFCmania.