Georges St-Pierre is back. It has been nearly four years since the Canadian announced he was taking time away from fighting, but on Nov. 4, the three-time UFC welterweight champion will face current middleweight champion, Michael Bisping. It’s quite the return: St-Pierre is moving up a weight class and taking on the winningest fighter in UFC history.
We caught up with the 36-year-old from Quebec while he was in Toronto promoting the fight, shortly after Bisping yelled a bunch of swear words in his face. St-Pierre sat down with us in a CBC studio, wearing a sharp suit and a smile.
Sportsnet: It looks like you’re taking a big risk in facing Bisping in your comeback fight. Does it seem that way to you?
St-Pierre: Oh yeah, it’s a risk. But the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.
Do you feel like the underdog?
I feel [like] the underdog because I have not been there for four years and I’m competing against the world champion in a higher weight class [than the one I last fought in]. But I like it that way. When people tell me I can’t do something, that’s what excites me. It makes me perform better.
How are you a different fighter than the last time we saw you?
I work on a lot of different set of skills. I work on making myself a better finisher.
Any tricks up your sleeve?
Yeah, I got a lot of different tricks, but it’s like a card game — when you play cards, you don’t wanna show your hand.
So you’re not going to tell us.
Absolutely not. Because you might tell Bisping — or Bisping might see this, you know?
You’re bigger. How did you do that?
It was a long process; it was a little bit more than six months. I hired a nutrition coach to do a plan. I had to be very disciplined. I never watch what I eat but I changed a lot of things — what I eat and when I eat — and it makes a big difference.
Did you eat ice cream? Chocolate?
No, I was eating a lot of protein, greens, and a lot of different stuff. And snacking between my meals, and still do as we talk now. I’m used to it now. I still eat my ice cream if I want to [laughs]. I like dessert, of course.
How do you not sacrifice speed when you get bigger?
Because I’ve been doing it over a long period of time. I’ve been training to it. If you do it over a short period of time, you carry extra weight. Now it’s part of me. I’m more powerful than ever.
Are you nervous for this fight?
Oh yeah, I’m very nervous. I’m scared, I’m excited, I’m happy — all this mixed together is going to make me explode and be good. I’m at my best when I’m nervous, scared. I feel like I’m on the edge, that’s when I perform better.
When you think of Bisping, what do you think of?
He’s a great fighter. He’s got a heart of a lion and he’ll be very hard, but at the end of all this I’m gonna be the winner.
He’s called you a “little bitch” so many times…
[Laughs.] Yeah, he said a lot of things about me. Tried to get into my head — it’s not gonna work. What he wants me to do is come in here and make like a brawl fight, stand in the middle and swing like an idiot. But I believe I got a better set of skills than he does, I got a lot more weapons, and if I fight my fight, I’m gonna beat him.
He says you’re a boring fighter.
I’m not boring. I used to be the guy that sells the most pay-per-view before Conor McGregor, so I don’t think I’m boring. If I would be boring people would not buy my pay-per-view.
Is it a different feeling being the hunter rather than the hunted, being the challenger?
I feel a little bit hunted, too, because Michael is coming at me. Everybody wants to fight me because they know they gonna have a big paycheque, they gonna sell a lot of pay-per-view. But I’m the hunter a little bit. I have something to gain from that fight, that’s why I want to fight Michael Bisping. His legacy, the title, everything — he’s got the most wins in UFC history, so I got a lot to win from that fight.
Were you training even in your time off?
I always train.
There was never a day you thought, “I’m gonna let myself go”?
A few days I took off, of course, but I’m in training all the time. I’m always in shape. Now I’m getting in fight shape, which is different.
At any point did you think you weren’t going to come back?
Yeah, sometimes I thought I wouldn’t come back. But UFC and my agents, it was the fight between my agency and the UFC. But they agreed and everything [came together]. It was a very long process but it was worth the wait.
Would you have come back to fight somebody different?
I’m not sure. I wanted to fight the best, the guy who’s on top right now, who’s got the highest stock, so to speak. Bisping is the guy right now.
You’ve said you won’t fight Conor McGregor, is that right?
No, I never said that. I just said right now I’m fighting Michael Bisping. Conor is competing in a different division than me. I’m not gonna try to talk my way to a fight against a guy who’s competing in a lower weight class division than me. If it happens, it happens. But right now, I’m focusing on Bisping.
What will your fight day look like?
I wake up whenever I want to wake up, maybe around 10 or 11 because I fight at night. Then I go eat. Then I take a walk in the octagon. Then I might go see some of my [physical] therapists if I feel like they need to activate the muscles and stuff. Then I might go take a nap or something. Then I wake up, I eat again. Relax, maybe eat again and then go to the fight.
What do you eat?
Depends on the time. I eat something that is light: fish, rice, things like that. I used to eat a lot of pasta but I was told it was not a good idea. It makes you heavy. I try to not eat something that is very heavy.
Do you picture your opponent, visualize what you’re going to do?
I visualize my opponent in different scenarios, all scenarios possible. Sometimes it is good and when it is negative I try to force myself to finish in a good positive way, my imagery.
Are you going to win this fight?
Yes. There’s no doubt in my mind I’m going to win the fight.
How will it happen?
It’s going to happen by finishing either by knockout or submission, and there’s gonna be a new UFC middleweight champion: Georges “Rush” St-Pierre. [He cups his hands over his mouth and imitates a cheering crowd.] Aaaah!
What do you say to people who think you’re doing this for the money?
No, I don’t do this for the money. I could retire, I have enough money to live all my life. I do this for legacy, to be able to have no regrets. People are like, “Why are you doing this?” Well, why would I not do this? Fighting in Madison Square Garden — this is like the temple of fighting, it’s a historical place — for the world title in front of millions of people. I’m at my best, in my prime, why would I not do this? I would regret if I wouldn’t do this. So many people would like to be in my shoes right now. I’m lucky to be here.
If you win, does this cement you as the greatest MMA fighter of all time?
If I win it will help my legacy to be one of the greatest. Greatest, there is no such thing, I do not believe. Every fighter is different, every fighter has faced different challenges. You never fight the same fighter twice. It’s hard to say. It doesn’t exist.
But you say Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player ever.
He’s the greatest for me. Maybe for you it’s different. For him it’s another thing. There’s nothing to measure [the way you can measure], for example, who’s the fastest man, because that time has been unbeaten, it’s objective. Where we’re talking the greatest, it’s subjective, so we can’t measure this.
Will you be the greatest in your mind?
I’m not sure. I will be happy with myself. I don’t do this for people, I do this for me.
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