Come this Saturday night, life as Ovince St. Preux knows it is about to change.
Although it won’t be his first time on Showtime fighting for Strikeforce, this will be the biggest bout of his career, as he will be taking on former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi.
With Dan Henderson vacating the title when he returned to the UFC, this matchup could boost the winner toward a title shot, especially now that Strikeforce seems to be sticking around for the time being. Mousasi offers up a set of skills and the type of experience that St. Preux has yet to see in his three-year-old career.
OSP, as he has been affectionately called, doesn’t seem fazed by Mousasi’s list of victims or the fact that he has held titles not only in Strikeforce, but Dream as well. All St. Preux is concerned with is the man that stands in front of him when that cage door shuts and the bell sounds signaling the beginning of the fight. In his mind anyone can be beaten on any given night and he plans on showing the world he has the skills to beat the former champion.
As St. Preux prepares for Mousasi he will continue to train at his home camp of the Knoxville Martial Arts Academy where he has been since the beginning. His loyalty to his trainers and sparring partners is to be commended, but this time around he realizes how important this shot is and he brought in a good friend of his to help him prepare for Mousasi.
"My head trainer here is Eric Turner and another one of my trainers is Joey Zonar and I’ve been with them since day one," St. Preux told Bleacher Report. "We also brought in a good friend of mine Virgil Zwicker to help me with my stand-up. Virgil came up from Temecula, Calif., where he trains with Team Quest. His stand-up is real good and the sparring has been very beneficial to me."
OSP hasn’t lost since September of 2009. He has won all eight of his fights since that time and during that time he has beaten former UFC middleweight Jason Day, Antwain Britt, Benji Radach and Abongo Humphrey. While his level of competition has grown so too have his skills and his ability to deal with the pressure of fighting in front of bigger audiences and on national television.
“I have matured physically and mentally,” OSP said. “My strength and conditioning coach has helped me out with my cardio. When I first started off it was difficult because I needed to be pushed and all of my coaches have done that for me. They can give me that extra shove that I couldn’t give myself. One of the guys I train with who has been a big help is Rafaello Oliveira who will be fighting on Jan. 20 for the UFC. These guys help keep me levelheaded and on the right path.”
There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the future of Strikeforce, but UFC President Dana White seems to have come to an agreement with Showtime seemingly breathing new life into the San Jose based organization. While that may have disappointed some of the fighters on their roster, St. Preux seems to be happy just where he is.
“I just signed a new deal with Strikeforce so I have no plans on going anywhere else,” explained St. Preux. “I leave all of the behind the scenes stuff to my management. I just want to concentrate on training. As long as I perform well I’ll wind up in a pretty good situation. There is so much speculation right now when my manager feels I need to know something he tells me.”
At 28 years old, St. Preux is just reaching his physical peak. To some he is just a baby in the sport, but as long as he keeps getting big fights none of that will continue to matter. Any fighter worth their salt gets into this business to win championships and compete against the best fighters in the world. For OSP these words couldn’t ring any truer.
“My short term goal is to win this fight,” St, Preux offered. “With Gegard being in the top 10 in the world a win here would put me in a very good situation. He’s a tough guy to beat and I am constantly telling myself that he has been in the trenches and I relish the role of being the underdog. I know with every one of my fights I feel as though I am getting better and better and adding more tools to my arsenal.
"Everyone’s long term goal is the same as my long term goal and that is to be a champion. Everyone wants to be the champ and I want to be able to bring the belt back to Knoxville, TN where I am training right now. To be honest I want to beat the best in the world and Gegard is one of them. If I beat him it’ll definitely put me in the top five for the light heavyweight title.”
If you look at St. Preux’s Wikipedia page it has his style listed as wrestling and kickboxing. Some fighters forge their style from a very young age and add pieces of other fighters along their way. Other fighters choose to ignore what other combatants do and develop a style all their own. St. Preux likes to think he is somewhere in the middle.
“Once you come down to it it’s going to be your own style,” said St. Preux matter-of-factly. “I’m taking little things from here and little things from there. I’ve been down at Team Quest working with Hendo and he has shown me a couple of tricks. I also went down to train with Grudge and Trevor Wittman showed me some stuff, but when it comes down to it all of the outside influences get incorporated into your own style.
"My biggest strengths are that I am well rounded in kickboxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu. I believe my athleticism gets me out of a lot of trouble. Being an athlete all of my life it helps out a lot. When I played football it caused me to be quick on my feet and to be a quick thinker. Football is all about discipline and patience and I use all of that today in MMA.”
I’ve heard a lot about visualization from all different types of fighters. Some of them go as far as to go into the cage and imagine the arena full of fans and they actually see the fight taking place. They can see themselves in certain situations both positive and negative. But does this really help when the real fight begins?
“I put myself in every scenario possible," offered OSP. “I put myself in bad situations and try to see myself getting out of them. Every scenario I put myself in never seems to happen and I am talking about over 1000 different possibilities. I don’t know how and I couldn’t even tell you how this fight is going to go, but I can tell you this, at the end of the day my hand will be the one that gets raised.”