The elder statesman label looks pretty natural on the lapel of Patrick Cote.
He’s 37 years old. He’s been a professional MMA fighter since 2002. He once fought Anderson Silva for the middleweight title (but let's not speak of that again). He has a 23-10 pro record. He has some mileage on him.
Pump the brakes, though, on another “old guy still has gas in the tank” story. Cote knows he’s old. But is it possible that he may be using that age to his advantage?
Who has ever heard of such a thing? I don’t know, but Cote calls it “experience,” and he’s cashing in on that, almost quite literally, as his pro MMA career rolls on. Saturday, he faces fellow welterweight Thiago Alves on the main card of UFC 210.
Like most of the fighters with the unusual quality of UFC longevity, Cote, who entered the UFC in 2004 on a short-notice bout with Tito Ortiz, has taken certain steps to lengthen his career. In Cote's case, those steps—entertaining aggression and personal care-taking—have been at odds.
So how does he balance them? There are several ways.
“I don’t need to do sparring five times a week,” Cote said in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report. “I don’t need to receive punches in my head. If I’m not in camp, I don’t receive any punches in my head. If I’m in camp I spar only two times a week. I do technique drills, I do jiu-jitsu. You have to be realistic. You learn from experience. I don’t feel too scared or guilty to take a day off.”
Cote has plenty of advice to offer. That's actually kind of his thing, it seems.
For instance, he discusses weight cutting, a potentially dangerous and increasingly controversial practice that pervades MMA and other combat sports. Cote estimated he cuts 20-22 pounds for each fight (Cote is a very large welterweight) but also pointed out that he had never missed a mark in his career. And it's part of why he lacks sympathy for those who do miss weight.
“That’s stupid,” he said of those who struggle to make required weight limits. “Weight cutting is dangerous if you don’t do it well. It’s hard to do it, but there’s a process. I always make it and I feel awesome the day after. But I’m working with professionals who know what they’re doing. I don’t know how you don’t know what you’re doing at this level. It’s part of your job.”
Cote, who said he is taking it one fight at a time career-wise, has plenty of other irons in the fire. Plenty of UFC fans north of the border know him as the French-language color commentator for Canadian broadcasts.
“I’m like a French Joe Rogan," Cote said. "We do every UFC fight. I think it’s helping me a lot as a fighter because I see a lot of different situations.”
There's that experience theme again. Cote is outspoken about an athlete's need to prepare for life after competition. He's definitely trying to lead by example. He has a real estate company and works as a mentor with Canadian Olympic athletes and the Canadian Army. Contrary to what you might assume, though, there's no direct combat angle in either case.
“I mentor new athletes on how to sell themselves," Cote explained. "They are thinking they are invincible. Sometimes a big injury can happen, or a bad performance. You don’t want to think about it, but you have to. Sometimes we have no organization to back us, no pension. One day [retirement] is going to happen.”
The 33-year-old Alves (21-11) has plenty of time under his own belt, but not as much as Cote. Cote seems to believe that—plus a more well-rounded skill set—will win him the day. Either way, though, he still seems to have his ducks in a row.
“We’re both veterans," Cote said of himself and Alves. "I don’t think he’ll bring anything that will surprise me. His striking is excellent, he has heavy leg kicks. But at the end of the day, I’m the better fighter. I’m the better wrestler, I’m the better boxer, I have the better fight IQ. I’m going to meet him in the middle of the Octagon. ...I’m 500 percent confident I’m gonna win that fight. ...If it gets to the ground, it’s not getting back up. He’s going to be a little bit panicky. ...But now I'm not fighting because I need to fight. I'm fighting because I want to fight. And that's awesome."
All quotes obtained firsthand.
Scott Harris covers MMA for Bleacher Report. For more, follow Scott on Twitter.