MONTREAL — Since as long as I’ve known Georges St-Pierre –going back to somewhere between his two fights against Matt Serra — he has always said he’s nervous before every one of his fights.
But Saturday’s UFC 154 headlining bout against Carlos Condit at Montreal’s Bell Centre is obviously very different.
In this one, he faces a number of questions that he hasn’t before, all of which adds to the pressure of his first appearance in the Octagon since April 2011, when he defeated Jake Shields at the historic UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
And thus there are multiple things that he could be particularly nervous about:
1. Coming off a devastating knee injury and subsequent ACL reconstructive surgery, will his knee hold up?
2. Coming off the longest layoff of his career — more than 18 months — will he have any ring rust?
3. Fighting in front of his home fans for the first time in what seems like forever, will he be able to handle the expectations?
4. Can he elevate his game to defeat Condit, who poses perhaps the biggest threat of any fighter he has ever faced?
5. As the critics rear their ugly heads again, can he finally finish a fight for the first time in about four years?
6. With the constant talk of a super-fight with Anderson Silva, can he keep that possibility alive?
At Wednesday’s pre-fight press conference, I asked St-Pierre whether one of these things weighed on him more than the others. He wouldn’t bite.
“I don’t see this fight bigger than it is, I don’t see it smaller than it is. I try to see it like it is and I did all my homework,” St-Pierre said. “I’m the best I can be. There’s nothing I can tell you I should have done to be better. That’s how confidence comes from. I controlled everything I could. I go there with confidence.”
(Ah, the always diplomatic St-Pierre.)
Meanwhile, the fight between the two 170-pound belt-holders raises another interesting question: who has more to lose Saturday?
On the one hand, it would seem obvious that it’s GSP:
1. It would be the first time he isn’t atop the welterweight heap in about five years.
2. It would affect his legacy — he could never be considered the best UFC fighter ever (if that possibility even exists anymore considering what Anderson Silva has done).
3. Speaking of Silva, it would eliminate the possibility of a Silva super-fight any time soon.
On the other hand, St-Pierre would have the built-in excuse of the long layoff and ACL injury, and would likely have an immediate rematch (unless he were to be utterly dominated by Condit).
And there are actually a few reasons to suggest that Condit that has more to lose:
1. Unlike St-Pierre, he would not get an immediate rematch (save for the case of a draw or controversial ending/decision) and he would be back in the middle of the welterweight pecking order, possibly waiting a long time for another shot, if ever (see Jon Fitch).
2. His “interim” welterweight belt will lose all its credibility (if it ever had any to begin with) considering he never defended it and was only awarded it by virtue of winning a five-round bout, which it would have been anyway since all UFC main events are now five-rounders
3. Whereas GSP will still be considered an elite welterweight even if he loses, Condit will become just another one of those pretty good 170 pounders who got a title shot because he was the best candidate at the time (hello Josh Koscheck, Dan Hardy and Thiago Alves).
Certainly both fighters are positioning themselves as the one with the least to lose. St-Pierre has said repeatedly that he sees Condit as the one with the belt and he has to take it from him. Meanwhile, Condit, who admitted that it’s an emotional roller coaster for him leading up to a fight, has also tried to put the pressure squarely on GSP.
“This is a big fight, but I feel like I have less to lose,” Condit said Wednesday. “I’m focused on going out there and fighting to the best of my ability, putting on a great fight for the fans. The other stuff, I’ve prepared. I’m confident enough in my skills and my hard work leading up to the fight.”
Both fighters talk of being nervous yet confident. We’ll have to see which win out on Saturday.
POLL TIME: While Georges wouldn’t say that he feels one pressure greater than any other, instead you can offer your opinion as to which you think will be the greatest on him…
Which of these six pressures facing GSP is likely the biggest he will have to overcome?
And now, upon which corner is there greater pressure…
Who has more to lose in Saturday’s UFC 154 main event?