In the introduction to his first book, The Way of the Fight, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre proclaims: "My goal here is to write the greatest book ever written."
This is a very ambitious goal for any first-time author. If those words came from another professional fighter—hell, if it came from any other writer, it would be almost laughably overambitious. Coming from St-Pierre, the statement seems like it is something obtainable.
St-Pierre is, after all, a fighter who got to the top of the heap by outworking his opposition, by overcoming obstacles, by setting ambitious goals and then going out and achieving them.
It would have been easy for St-Pierre to sit down and write a book filled with fluff, with nothing but tales of glory of St-Pierre the conquering hero. That angle's been taken by many athletes before him, and it is an angle that works well. If the focus of the writer is to move units, that is the path to take.
I do not get the feeling that St-Pierre's goal was to fleece his fans in that manner. There's much more to this book than a straight-line narrative about how St-Pierre went from birth to UFC champion.
St-Pierre took some heat in the days leading up to UFC 158, when he revealed that he does not man his own twitter account. There is no doubt that some will doubt that he wrote The Way of the Fight on his own. He did not.
St-Pierre readily admits that fact early in the book. St-Pierre had help in writing this book, just like he has help when he trains for his fights and deals with any aspect of his life. St-Pierre says he hires to his weaknesses, hoping to learn from the experts with which he surrounds himself. Those experts include Firas Zahabi, John Danaher and Kristof Midoux.
I mention these three individuals specifically because they are not only a huge part of St-Pierre's life, but also of The Way of the Fight. The book is broken down into five specific sections. Those sections are: "Mother," "Mentor," "Master," "Maven" and "Conscience."
Each of these sections focuses on a specific piece of Georges St-Pierre's story. Interspersed throughout the sections are recollections from the important individuals who shaped that portion of his St-Pierre's life.
"Mother" looks at a young St-Pierre, a "reject" who was bullied, a young man who learns to win through losing. The highlight of this section is when St-Pierre reveals why he is so interested in dinosaurs and then segues to comparing Royce Gracie's early UFC performance to that of a cockroach. It is an odd analogy, but it works.
The second section of the book, "Mentor," focuses on the man who began to shape St-Pierre into a mixed martial artist, Kristof Midoux. The story of how the two met and the progression of their relationship is interesting and definitely not your everyday tale of mentoring, as it takes the phrase "tough love" to another level.
What really becomes clear in this section is just how badly St-Pierre wanted to grow and be the best, and how his journey toward that goal began.
The next step on that journey was working with the man he writes about in the "Maven" section, John Danaher. If you have seen a St-Pierre fight, odds are you have seen Danaher. He is the serious-looking gentlemen who always seems to be clad in a rash guard.
Danaher is also recognized as one of the best minds in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Early in the section, Danaher reflects on how there was nothing remarkable about St-Pierre when he first arrived to train at Renzo Gracie's in New York City.
This may be the most revealing section. Danaher is blunt in his assessment of St-Pierre, proclaiming him to be a "good, but not great athlete" and then going on to detail exactly what it is that does make St-Pierre great.
The fourth section, "Maven" focuses on the man who most people associate with St-Pierre, trainer Firas Zihabi. Zihabi offers a different take on St-Pierre, and it is a comparison I've never heard anyone use: Zihabi compares the man who many feel is the best welterweight to ever fight in the UFC to an ant.
Zihabi writes about ants/St-Pierre, "They thrive in every ecosystem, they can modify almost any habitat and adjust it to their ultimate goal, they can tap into any resources they can find and they can definitely defend themselves." It is strange, but also somehow perfect.
The final section, "Conscience," focuses more on a behind-the-scenes look at the life of St-Pierre and is based around his manager and friend Rodolphe Beaulieu. This section was written between the Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz fights and takes a look at the life that St-Pierre lives as one of the most well-known fighters in the game.
Yes, there are tales from St-Pierre's fights included in The Way of the Fight and there are many pieces of biographical information that give some insight into one of the most media-savvy fighters in the game today, but if you are looking for a straight autobiography or profile piece, this is not that book.
In case you are confused by that: That is a good thing. The Way of the Fight delivers a great deal more than a book written in that manner could. It is part biography, part self-help, part philosophy. It is a book that, read in the right manner, teaches more than it tells.