Georges St. Pierre is preparing to defend his welterweight title belt at UFC 100 against Thiago Alves of American Top Team. Both are explosive, athletic fighters and the bout promises to be the highlight of a stacked card.
When did you first realize that you'd eventually have to face Thiago?
Georges St. Pierre: I know Thiago for a while. When I first saw him fighting I knew he was going a potential opponent and he beat Parisyan, Hughes and Koscheck and right away I knew when I saw those fights, I knew that he was going to be a potential opponent for me and I truly believe that he's the biggest challenge that I've faced so far.
Can you give me like a memory that you carry with you about watching the UFC either as a fan or as another fighter, one memory from a particular UFC, something that stands out in your mind that you always remember?
Georges St. Pierre: Yes, for sure. I remember the first time I saw UFC I saw Royce Gracie winning the first tournament and that's the precise moment that I became inspired to do what I do right now for a living. The fact that he was using a martial arts weapon that nobody knew at the time, which is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and he was smaller than all the guys and he was able to win. That's what really inspired me.
This is UFC 100, how has this sport changed the most in your opinion?
Georges St. Pierre: Well, I think the media has a lot to do with it. They've been following the sport more and more and I think that's what gives credibility. Before the sport was not mainstream, it was - for many people there was things like human cock fighting, it was a barbarian sport. Now, I think even the media, they start following the sport around and they talk about us like real athletes and that's what we are, we train like real professional athletes, that's our full time job.
You've said that Thiago represents your biggest challenge. Given the fact that you've fought champions like BJ Penn and Matt Hughes as well as other fighters, what makes Thiago so dangerous for you?
Georges St. Pierre: Well, I truly believe, first of all, that if you would put Thiago Alves and BJ Penn in a fight, I would bet all my money on Thiago Alves, no doubt about it. In this fight, for a lot of people seems less dangerous for me because Thiago Alves is a gentleman, he's not somebody that needs to trash talk to promote himself. He's a very respectful guy. So that's what make him even more dangerous.
And skill wise he's bringing a lot more problem on the table than everybody that I've fought so far. And that's for this reason that even though it's the card - the card of UFC 100 is not only focusing on my fight with Thiago Alves, it's also on Brock Lesnar and all the other fights. I think if you look at the last fight that I had on that like BJ Penn the card - the main focus was on my fight with BJ Penn.
So it looked like that fight was more dangerous, but it was not. I think the fact that this fight is more - it's still very big, but its low key in a way - its lower key in a way that we're not the main - you know we're not the only guy - the only well-known guy on the card and that's what makes it even more dangerous. Also because I truly - skill-wise on fighting the best guy that I've fought so far.
Are you finding that there's more attention coming to you because it is UFC 100 or have you been able to really just isolate yourself away from that and just focus on training?
Georges St. Pierre: The pressure is always there for me. I'm always very nervous and I think it's that nervousness that keep me sharp and going to make me perform better the night of the fight. I think it's a good thing. The only thing is with the experience that I'm getting, I'm getting more and more experience, I learn how to deal with it. But the nervousness is always there and I think it will always be a part of it.
Obviously Thiago is a bigger guy than BJ Penn, maybe even a little bigger than you, does preparing for a bigger opponent change the way you prepare at all?
Georges St. Pierre: I'm going to tell you the truth, I don't think it will make a big difference because I always train with bigger guys than I. I train with smaller and also bigger guy than I, so I'm used to every kind of size. And I truly believe in that sport skill and technique always beats strength and size. So the guy who will win that fight is the better fighter, not the bigger guy. It will be the guy who will fight the best that will win that fight.
You've been around the sport for a while. You've seen it grow. How much responsibility do you feel to be a role model for the younger fighters now that are coming up in the sport and trying to develop?
Georges St. Pierre: Well, it's important for me to give a good example you know to be a well spoken person and I think it's a way for me to give back to the society for what I do and to give back to where to - you know for me to feel better as well the world will be a better place you know what I mean?
Can you describe the weight cutting process? Does it create any problems for you physically or emotionally?
Georges St. Pierre: It's not a pleasant thing, I guess. Thiago said it, it's not fun but if you do it well it doesn't cause you any problem and it's - part of the game, we know we have to go through it all the time, so mentally I'm ready for it you know.
When you're going through that weight cutting process, are you easy to get along with? Are you difficult, what's your mindset like when you're interacting with other people?
Georges St. Pierre: It's hard for me because I cut the carbs and the sodium. So you know you're a little bit more cranky but it's all good you know I get along with everybody.
You've been through all of this before you know main event and several shows, huge one against BJ earlier this year. How much does that experience put you at ease going into such a big card coming up?
Georges St. Pierre: You know it's not my first - my first time, but every time the pressure gets bigger, every time I'm fighting a tougher opponent that I fought the time before. I'm really good at focusing on what I got to do and taking away all the distraction that I have and focusing on the main thing and the main thing for me is to win my fight and the thing that makes the me the most nervous about it, it's not that all the cameras and the hype around the fight, it's the fact that I'm fighting a really good guy and I will not be able at all to make any mistakes and I'm nervous. The reason why I'm nervous is because I care about it.
But like I said, I love my job. I love what I do, I know a lot of people if they could they would like to change place and take my place and be champion and be the one who is fighting in front of millions of Pay-Per-View viewers. So I'm glad and I'm blessed to be where I am right now.
If you guys were able to take any two fighters in the history of the company and put them in the octagon, which two fighters do you take you know from any era?
Georges St. Pierre: It's a good question. If I could say, I would like to take - I would like to take maybe - yes, I like the old school fight. I would like to Royce Gracie, in his prime fighting Mark Coleman at his prime, when he won the fight. For me that's what I would like to see.
Honestly, I know that probably if you would put Royce Gracie in the octagon right now it would be different. I'm a big fan of them because he has dominate the sport at his time like nobody has done before and that's why no matter what happens to him, even though he lost to Hughes. I find he's - I always going to be a big huge fan of him and he's always going to be my idol, no matter what.
Have you chosen your French rap song to enter to and if you could talk a bit about how meaningful that music is to you in preparation for a fight?
Georges St. Pierre: That's funny. But you know like where I come from its French speaking people and I identify myself more like when I listen because back in the day I couldn't speak English and since I'm young you know I speak French, my first language. So it's like you know it's just because I didn't - I grew up speaking French and the music like from the hardcore place where we come from is French hip hop. So that's why I identify myself more when I listen to it when (French ship of them) when I listen English. You know now my English better, but it's always - it's always for me - someway always easier to understand.
Thiago is known for his dangerous leg kicks. You had a great strategy when you fought BJ Penn by making all the blood rush to his shoulders and you know after that he couldn't effectively punch against you. Do you have a strategy for Thiago's leg kicks?
Georges St. Pierre: You know Thiago got devastating leg kicks, but that's not the only thing that he's got,he's great knees, a great left hook. And he's got a good - very good heavy hand too. I've been studying a lot of tape and I do have a specific strategy that I will use to take him out of his comfort zone, but it's like when you play cards you don't want to show your hand. When I fought BJ Penn I had a strategy and but Thiago Alves is a way different fighter than BJ Penn so it's going to be a different strategy, it's going to be something else that I'm going to do to him. But it's like, like I said, when you play cards, you don't want to show your hands. So it's like a - the guys will find out in the fight.
I've been studying a lot of things that he does and I know he's going to be a better fighter than I saw in his previous fight because he's a young guy and he's always come back -he's always a better version of that what he was the last time before. So I'm ready for it and I mean it's not only a question of stand up or ground, it's how do you fight him standing up, how do you fight him in the clinch, how do you fight him on the ground? Do you - how do you take him out of his comfort zone in every aspect of the game. It's not only a question of where the fight happens because its mixed martial arts, everything can happen and you have to use all range of weapon.
How do you keep your motivation consistently at a high level to where you know you're constantly motivated to keep getting better?
Georges St. Pierre: You have to keep your goals I mind. My goal is to - first of all, my first goal is to win my fight July 11and to stay champion. My second goals is to be - I want to be considered (again in my category) like the best pound for pound that ever fought in MMA history. That's my second goal and to do it I have to make a legacy. I have to fight the best guy and be able to win and win in a - win in a good fashion and that's what I wanted to do.
Georges, where you have said that you think Thiago is going to be your toughest opponent yet, have you done anything especially particular for him?
Georges St. Pierre: You know in the experience, you always learn how to do your training camp better. And I made myself better. I learned some new stuff and there's a lot of things that I haven't shown yet and I'm ready to fight.
I'm going to fight Thiago in a way that nobody has fought him yet and it's going to surprise a lot of people and also for that fight, I brought a lot of good Muay Thai guys, a lot of guys from Europe came down and - you know because he's a very, very Muay Thai guy so I brought some very high - very high skilled Muay Thai people to acclimate myself to the Muay Thai and also I've been training with a lot of great boxers a little bit - maybe a little bit more than I have done in the past. So plus all the good guys that I am training with, with some extra guys who came for - to help me prepare for this fight. I truly feel I am in the best shape that I have been so far.
Your struggle to get where you are today has been well documented. now that you've achieved all the success, being the welterweight champion, defeating BJ Penn, Matt Hughes, what keeps you motivated to perform at your best and not pull up on the reigns a little bit, so to speak?
Georges St. Pierre: The - all the people that you have named like BJ Penn and - BJ Penn (no) but you have named Matt Hughes, Koscheck and like all those guys. The guy that I'm fighting, Thiago Alves has beaten those guys. So for me fighting Thiago Alves is something very exciting for me because he has beat those guys and he has beat them even in - I would say in a better fashion that I did. So I'm very excited about that fight and that's why - my motivation has never been that high because it's a great challenge for me and I never been so pumped up for a fight. And for me, Thiago Alves is even in the name - in the name Thiago Alves is even higher than Matt Hughes and all those guys that I've beaten, because he's even more dangerous.
Georges, do you plan on having your corner man do the breathing exercise with you again for this fight?
Georges St. Pierre: Well, I don't know about this, but maybe - we'll see. I mean I know (when they) fight they're going to check us a lot and I'm all for it you know. I never cheat in my life, I'm not a cheater and I want - I'm a proud champion. I want to win fair and square. You know what I mean? And I don't mind - they did a double check, it's even better for me. I'm happy you know?
I was just curious if it was something that you felt was necessary you know, irrespective of what happened in the past.
Georges St. Pierre: It's something that - I'm not the only one who does that. A lot of people like to have them, the breathing technique before. But I mean, it's not going to change the results on a fight, whether we do it or not so it's - you know when this thing happened I was in fight, I didn't even realize that this thing happened like and when I saw the video we looked bad after, but now it -you know the - they have to check. The athletic commission they check and I don't mind. I mean it's not going to change my life in the fight at all.
You talked a little bit about this in your primetime special about your childhood and being sort of alone for a certain portion of your childhood, going into a new school and getting picked on and stuff like that. Do you think in any way that those experiences helped you prepare for the level of celebrity that you're dealing with now ?
Georges St. Pierre: The only thing I can say about it is I start back in the day I was nobody, I was nothing and I keep hanging out and I keep being with the same people who were there for me in the beginning when I was nobody because I know those people are real you know? And all those people who came after, were there because I'm GSP and not because I'm not because I'm Georges St. Pierre, because I am what do for a living. These people, I know how to recognize them easier than maybe other people because of what happened for me in the past. But you know it doesn't change anything from how I look to the different people, you know what I mean?
St. Pierre v Alves takes place at UFC 100 on Saturday July 11th in Las Vegas, Nevada.