Georges St. Pierre. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Later tonight in Las Vegas, Canadian star Georges St. Pierre will try to prevent UFC lightweight king B.J. Penn from making history when he defends his UFC welterweight title in one of the biggest and most important fights in the history of mixed martial arts.
Two weeks ago, St. Pierre was kind enough to grant MMA on Tap an interview before his highly-anticipated rematch with Penn, in which he discusses B.J.‘s portrayal on the UFC Primetime shows on Spike TV, his thoughts on their previous bout at UFC 58, and what he has done to prepare for this fight among other things.
MMA on Tap: Have you seen the UFC Countdown shows? What do you think about them?
St. Pierre: I’ve seen them. I’ve watched them every time that it’s been on, or at least whenever I’ve been able to catch them on TV. It pumps me up… gives me the goosebumps and the butterflies, you know? It lets me know that the fight is coming up and what B.J. is thinking coming into this fight. I thought it was very well done.
The show has portrayed B.J. is a negative light of sorts. Dana White was critical of him on the show, calling his brother to check in on him and make sure that he was training. Do you believe that he’s taking it easy going into this fight?
I don’t believe that B.J. Penn isn’t training. I can’t believe that. I can’t believe that he’s not training hard because I know that he is. It would be stupid for me to think anything else. When I step into the Octagon, I know that I’m going to be facing the best B.J. Penn ever and that’s exactly what I want because I’m a proud champion. I want to prove that I’m the best at what I do and in order to do that, I want to face the best B.J. possible.
What about him going on a five-day vacation to visit his girlfriend?
This whole vacation thing… it’s gotta be a setup or a trap. I think it is, and if it’s not, so be it. I look at it as something that’s just going to play with my mind. I know he’s training hard. Look at what he’s said already about this fight… I know that he’s going to come at me no matter with everything he’s got no matter what what. He’s coming 110% without stopping. It’s up to me to match that and I know I will.
The first fight between you two was a memorable one. It was a close fight all the way through. You were awarded a split decision but B.J. and many others still feel that he won the fight. What are your thoughts on that fight and how have you changed since then?
At the time, it was the toughest fight of my career. I think I won the fight. I lost the first round because I didn’t perform at the level that I was capable of fighting at and everything was made harder because I was poked in the eye. I thought I won the second and third rounds though. I was able to use the takedown and control him. Even with the win, I was disappointed because I didn’t fight the way I should have. I’m better than that and I’m going to show it..
Since then, I’ve changed very much as a fighter. This is a totally different version of me… the new Georges St. Pierre, if you will. Everyone has seen it since my loss to Matt Serra… in all my fights since then. I’ve improved in every aspect and my training camp is completely different than it was back then.
Getting poked in the eye aside, B.J. did very well against you striking-wise last time. After the first round, your face was bloodied up and you were shown walking back to Penn’s corner instead of your own. What have you taken from that round and what have you done to prevent the same thing from happening again?
I think I underestimated B.J. on the feet. I’ve improved so much since then but for this fight I brought in a lot of people – some Olympic boxers and some other professionals including a guy, Herman Ngoudjo who is going to be fighting the day before me (and who lost a decision to Juan Urango last night on ESPN)… he has a similar style to B.J. so he’s been helping me out a lot. I’m not only focused on my striking though, I’ve brought people to prepare me in all aspects. I’ve brought in the best guy every discipline. I’m going to be ready for this fight.
One of the biggest criticisms of B.J. in the past is that he doesn’t have the conditioning to be able to go the distance in a fight. It was no more evident than in his last loss to Matt Hughes at UFC 63. However since then, he’s taken steps to improve upon that. Do you still feel that your conditioning is superior?
Everyone is talking about stamina and conditioning going into this fight. But if I took the fight to the ground against B.J, that’s his specialty. He’s amazing on the ground, just look at the things that he’s done in grappling tournaments and things like that, so I’m going to be a lot more tired than him. If I keep the standing up, he’s going to be a lot more tired than me because it’s not his expertise, you know what I mean? A lot of people talk about conditioning and how I might be so much better off than him but it’s also about who is controlling the fight.
What are your thoughts on the amount of trash-talking B.J. has done leading up to his fight? You certainly aren’t a stranger to it since you’ve heard it from the likes of Serra, Hughes, Frank Trigg, etc. But some of the things that B.J. has said have been pretty critical of you…
Those kinds of things aren’t nice to hear, but I’m not going to let it change my gameplan. I can’t do that. I’m not going to fight with anger; I’m going to fight with my heart. It’s not the first time that someone has said bad things about me like you said. B.J. can try all he wants; he’s not going to break me. If I’m a quitter or not… we’ll find out at fight time. I’m actually pretty glad that he said that. We’ll see who is going to quit first but I’m going to bet that it’s not going to be me.
How do you think B.J. has improved in general since your last fight against him?
B.J is a very well-rounded fighter. I think he’s improved a lot. He has great hands, his boxing is amazing, and he’s a world champion on the ground. His takedown defense has improved a lot. I’ve seen it in my last couple of fights and it excites me because I’m fighting the best B.J. Penn that I’ve seen and pretty much the toughest opponent in my career so far. This is nothing but good for me.
I need to perform better than I did last time though I think. I always love to challenge myself and I definitely see this as a fitting challenge without a doubt. Last time we fought, I won a close decision so this time, I want to finish the fight. If I win by another decision, it’s no good because I’m just doing the same exact thing again and not improving. I need to win and win in a good fashion. I need to finish him.
How has your training camp been for this fight?
My training camp went very well. We’re winding down now and still doing the things that need to be done. I started training in September so B.J. has been on my mind for a long time. I’ve been training all over the place for this fight, not just in Montreal like the television shows are showing. I’ve been at Greg Jackson’s camp and he’s come to me. I’ve been to Nate’s [Marquardt] place and he’s come to me. I went down to Brazil for a couple of weeks again to train just like I did for the Matt Serra fight. I’ve had kickboxers from France come in, everyone and anyone you can think of.
Thanks to the training camp that has put been together for me by everyone, I’m going to me more prepared for this fight than any of my other ones. This is the biggest fight of my career and a chance to build upon my legacy so I’ve had to look for the best for this one. I want to be known as the best pound-for-pound fighter to ever compete and this is one of my chances to cement that legacy.
What do you want to say to your fans before you step into the Octagon on January 31?
I hope that I can put on a great fight for everyone… I’m sure it will be. I’ve never been more excited for a fight. I’ve never been more prepared and I’ve never wanted to win so badly. I want this fight to go well for me more than anything else right now. Thanks for all of the support and I will try my best not to let everyone down.
MMA on Tap would like to thank Georges St. Pierre for taking his time to do this interview. Georges will be sponsored by Silver Star Casting Company for this fight. You can purchase his official walk-in shirt at the company’s official website.