It's impossible for mixed martial arts fans to agree on who is the best fighter in the world. But one thing they can agree on is that UFC welterweight champion Georges "Rush" St. Pierre is on the very short list of names for consideration.
At 16-2 and just 27 years of age, the Canadian phenom has already been through a meteoric rise and fall - and subsequent rise in the annals of UFC superstardom.
"There were problems" the champ tells me when I ask him about the difficulties in his past, including his loss to Matt Serra. "But part of growing up is recognizing what is wrong and then doing what is right".
St. Pierre had the unenviable task of growing up in the public spotlight. And in that spotlight, sometimes you're only as good as your last fight.
Yet that seems to be an approach that 'Rush' has embraced heading into his fight against Jon Fitch at UFC 87. No more looking back on what he's done. Conversely, no more looking ahead to what he might do.
"Jon Fitch is my focus right now. Nothing else."
I spoke to the St. Pierre at 35,000 feet, en route to Minneapolis for his August 9 showdown with Jon Fitch at UFC 87: 'Seek and Destroy'. We covered everything from training in Brazil to a possible showdown with Anderson Silva.
And what about all that talk from BJ Penn about gunning for a rematch?
Check it out.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Georges, first and foremost thank you for taking the time to talk with us again at MMAmania. Let's get the requisite health question out of the way. How are you feeling physically?
Georges St. Pierre: I am 110%. I am in the best shape of my life.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How good does it feel to have the two Matt's (Serra and Hughes) finally behind you?
Georges St. Pierre: It is a relief and it is good for my health, but I cannot relax because there are still so many challenges ahead of me. There is no resting anymore.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): On Saturday you'll be facing Jon Fitch who trains with Josh Koscheck - one of the few fighters that took you to a decision. Does that put you at a disadvantage coming into this fight?
Georges St. Pierre: I don't see it as a disadvantage for me and I don't see it as an advantage for him. I'm a different fighter than I used to be a year ago. Jon Fitch is going to find that out.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): You recently spent time in Brazil training jiu-jitsu. Was that specifically for the Fitch fight or was it the next logical step in your evolution as a fighter?
Georges St. Pierre: It was for my evolution. I constantly want to evolve and make sure I am ahead of the game.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How were you received by the Brazilian fighters? I've heard they can be a very tight-knit group.
Georges St. Pierre: Oh very well. I got a lot out of them and even had some of their trainers come back with me to Montreal to help me prepare for this fight.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Do you have any plans to return?
Georges St. Pierre: Definitely. I got so much out of the time I spent there it would be a waste of an opportunity to not go back.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): What kind of difference has it made in your career to be aligned with Greg Jackson and his stable of fighters?
Georges St. Pierre: Greg is very well organized and someone I can count on 100% as a trainer. For me he is the best trainer in the world and that gives me confidence in my fighting and my overall strategy coming into a fight.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): In my interview with fellow welterweight and former Jackson pupil Diego Sanchez, the "Nightmare" blamed you for his split with Greg Jackson - that you kind of ran him out of town with your arrival. Your response?
Georges St. Pierre: (Pauses) Well, I don't think so. I thought that Diego left because of his kid in California and for his family. I don't know if it was for anything else.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Here is a direct quote from Diego: ‘GSP could have gone to any camp he wanted. He knew that place was my home, my dream. That took a little something out of my heart. He's training in the cage that I bled in, that I sweat in and cried in'.
Georges St. Pierre: Well...he's got to do what he's got to do. I don't have any angry feeling towards Diego Sanchez.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How do you respond to critics and even fellow fighters like Pete Sell who question your mental preparedness coming into a big fight?
Georges St. Pierre: I might have had some issues before, but I'm more mature now and I have learned from my mistakes.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): BJ Penn has not exactly kept it a secret that he intends to eventually move back up in weight to rematch you for the welterweight title. Is this just a fighter's mentality or does BJ seem overly consumed by your last fight?
Georges St. Pierre: I think BJ always looks for the best challenge. I'm not afraid of nobody and I'm not going to dodge nobody. I will give a shot to anyone who deserves it. If that person is BJ, then so be it.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): It seems a big part of his motivation is the outcome of your first fight. Does he have a legitimate gripe or is this just sour grapes? Looking back on the fight, can you say you were a clear-cut winner?
Georges St. Pierre: I truly believe that I won that fight. If he wants to do it again then I am up to it, I don't care.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Thiago Alves has rocketed himself up the welterweight ladder with stoppages over Karo Parisyan and Matt Hughes. Yet Hughes isn't convinced he's a top five welterweight. Are you?
Georges St. Pierre: Yes of course, I would put Thiago in the top five.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): EliteXC welterweight Jake Shields seems to be calling out anyone with a pulse and a bodyweight of 170 lbs. Does it frustrate you to hear trash-talk from a fighter who knows there is little to no chance of ever fighting you?
Georges St. Pierre: When people call me out it makes me feel good because it means I am doing well. I take it as a compliment. I am always looking for a challenge so I'll fight anyone who deserves a shot.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Without looking past Fitch, can you envision a scenario where you move up in weight to face middleweight champion Anderson Silva, should he be able to defend successfully against Patrick Cote?
Georges St. Pierre: Well I still have a lot of challenges at 170 now, but it all depends on the timing of such a fight and how well I do on Saturday night. I don't know what the future is but it's definitely a possibility.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): You're as close to Cote as anyone. Does he stand a chance against "The Spider"?
Georges St. Pierre: He's very well prepared. He hits very hard and stands a good chance to win this fight. He has a good style to beat Anderson Silva.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Do you have any pre-fight rituals? Sometimes I see you spitting out water like Triple H.
Georges St. Pierre: The only ritual I have before I fight is to pray. I pray for myself and my opponent that we both come out in good health.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): What is your contract status with the UFC? Including Saturday, how many fights remain on your current contract?
Georges St. Pierre: Two.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Well then negotiations are right around the corner. Would you consider fighting for another promotion? Assume a competing promoter could offer you double what the UFC could.
Georges St. Pierre: Right now I am under contract with the UFC. This is my home and I'm very happy here.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): What if that same promoter could guarantee all your fights would be in Canada?
Georges St. Pierre: (Laughs) I am under contract with the UFC.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): That's good news for UFC fans and bad news for UFC welterweights. Thanks for taking the time Georges and we wish you the best of luck on Saturday.
Georges St. Pierre: Thank you.
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