Those of you who've read my mixed martial arts work from the very beginning might know that I was never a huge Georges St. Pierre fan. For some in-articulable reason, the dude just didn't get my fighter-pulse racing.
I won't pretend I could rationalize it or even that such was possible—call it a gut reaction from afar.
You can also call it an obscene error on my part. One that's been slowly changing with each resounding performance and generous sound byte.
Now, having listened to the man answer question after question from a room half-full of strangers, it's official. Georges St. Pierre can add his name to a growing list of people who have proven me a complete fool.
Arguably, his name belongs at the top of the list. Yes, I'm about to open myself to charges of yet another non-sexual male crush on a fighter. Oh well.
Such are the perils of the position.
I was astounded by Pierre's media room performance. It was as impressive as any fight of his I've seen and that's saying something, considering his obliteration of B.J. Penn.
Not to mention his two defeats of the legendary Matt Hughes.
I had never exchanged a single sentence with a professional athlete at the top of his/her game. Several crossed my path in college, but that was before the fame, fortune, and adulation of the masses took root.
According to reliable sources, the phenomenon can change and even warp the best of us.
Granted, it was only about an hour's worth of conversation so conclusions can't be set in stone. Nevertheless, I think it's safe to say the new Rush is the same as the old Rush except for a couple extra zeros in the bank account.
The UFC's Welterweight Champion almost literally exudes humility, intelligence, respect, and integrity.
For instance, St. Pierre was asked about Penn's conditioning and whether he thought that added a new dimension to the Hawaiian's game. He answered in the negative, but more surprising was his explanation.
Georges St. Pierre does not and has never devoted training time to conditioning. He feels it represents time taken away from working on technique, skill, and strength. Furthermore, he's of the opinion that whoever controls the contest will be the fresher fighter.
The subtle implication being that conditioning is a waste of time unless you plan to dabble on the defensive. Yet he never explicitly made the connection.
That exchange encapsulated the entire morning—he delivered an honest, thoughtful answer and did it without once taking a shot at Baby J (who's taken his fair share of shots at GSP in the past).
Another thing that blew me away was how articulate the French-Canadian is. Although his accent makes it impossible to forget his native tongue is French, Georges carried on the entire conversation in English and only drew a blank on the word "conduct."
Consider the specialized vocabulary needed to converse about MMA.
Additionally, consider this was not the floor of Congress—English slang and idiomatic language were prominently featured in the informal session. Yet a man who absorbs physical abuse for a living (some of it to his head—see: Serra, Matt) navigated the treacherous waters essentially without error.
In front of a group that was intently focused on his every word and featured several running digital camcorders with a few cameras clicking for a little extra distraction.
It can't be an easy proposition no matter how experienced an individual is with the setting. Shoot, I was pretty intimidated before asking the Champ a question and nobody was paying me any attention.
Most of the discussion centered on his upcoming bout with Dan Hardy and St. Pierre's contemplation of trying to join the Canadian Olympic wrestling team for the 2012 Summer Games in London. During the latter discussion, Georges made it clear that he's always looking for a new challenge and, despite seeing numerous legitimate challengers in his weight class, he didn't want to wake up an old(-ish) man who regretted passing on the test.
Since the topic had run its course, I used the challenge angle to see what GSP thought about possibly bumping up to middleweight and making a run at Anderson Silva.
As with every other inquiry, St. Pierre held eye contact until he finished answering my question, gave a thoughtful and eloquent explanation of the situation, and thoroughly handled the matter:
—It would have to be a permanent move because sliding back down to welterweight would put an unwelcome and unhealthy strain on his body. Health is obviously of paramount importance to him.
—Middleweight is populated by several of GSP's friends and training partners (he mentioned Patrick Cote and Nate Marquardt amongst others). This presents a problem because St. Pierre said he would NEVER fight a friend. The example he gave—and it's tough to argue with his logic—was that the relationship robs him of his killer-instinct.
His exact words involved the prospect of inflicting "cerebral damage" to a buddy or leaving a permanent scar on his face from the mounted position.
Agree or disagree, it's tough to fault an individual for putting concern for a friend at the top of his priorities.
—There is also a timing issue. St. Pierre said he wouldn't feel comfortable fighting unless he could tip the scales north of 200 pounds, which makes sense. Though the former trash collector and bouncer boasts a new dietitian, he's only walking around at 193 and that's after several months of training. So putting on another 10 pounds or so would be a longer endeavor.
Unfortunately for those of us desperate to see both the Spider and GSP seriously challenged, I got the distinct impression it wasn't something on St. Pierre's radar.
Who could blame him?
Georges St. Pierre is the UFC Welterweight Champion, he's got another challenger sniping away at him in the press, he's got a gorgeous new girlfriend, and he's got to make an important decision regarding the possible attainment of a childhood dream (the Olympics) in the very near future.
Sounds like his radar is filling up quickly. As is his bandwagon so you better get a seat while you can.
I just got mine.