Five wins by TKO, four wins by submission, three wins by decision... and a single loss to Matt Hughes by armbar in his first title fight. It's that last one that haunts Spike athlete Georges "Rush" St-Pierre.
But on November 18th he'll get a chance to avenge his only loss and capture the UFC welterweight title. T-Nation caught up with Georges during the final stages of his training camp in New York.
T-Nation: You've got about two weeks to go until the fight. Tell us where you are mentally and physically in your preparation.
Georges St-Pierre: I'm almost at my peak right now in terms of my training. Both physically and mentally, I've never felt so well and so strong. I'm ready to do the fight of my life.
T-Nation: If you think back two years ago to the last time you fought Matt Hughes, where would you say you are now as compared to then?
GSP: I'm totally different. Matt Hughes is a different fighter too, but I think I've improved more than him. Right now I'm more mature. When I fought him the first time, I was a newcomer to the sport. Now I'm a veteran. I'm 25 years old. The first time I was fighting my idol, the guy I always looked up to. But now I feel like I deserve my chance and I'm going to take him out.
Pics from Sherdog.com
T-Nation: Being seven years younger than Matt Hughes, do you feel like your youth is an advantage for you?
GSP: Yes, I definitely feel that my age is an important factor in why I'm going to beat him. I'm still young, but I'm a man now. My mental approach has changed a lot. I'm not a kid any more. And I'm more confident as well.
T-Nation: Can you give T-Nation a little insight into your training techniques and methodologies?
GSP: The way I train for conditioning is to do a lot of sprints. When I lift, I do a circuit. I don't train like a powerlifter or bodybuilder. I usually do five or six exercises without a break, then take a rest.
In terms of the exercises, I do a lot of core training with medicine balls and that kind of thing, as well as weight lifting. To recover, I drink a Metabolic Drive protein shake. You know, I think of myself as an elite athlete. You don't put normal fuel in an F-1 car, so I need a world class supplement and that's what Biotest is all about.
T-Nation: Is the groin injury completely healed?
GSP: Yes, I'm not worried about that at all.
T-Nation: You've had more than seven months in between fights. Do you feel that's an advantage for you as well?
GSP: I think so. I couldn't fight Matt Hughes the last time because I wasn't one hundred percent. I think everything in life happens for a reason. So maybe I wouldn't have been ready if I'd tried to come back from that injury too soon.
T-Nation: For people who didn't see your most recent fight against BJ Penn, take us back to that fight and explain how you battled through it.
GSP: At the beginning of the first round, I got punched and his finger went into my eye, so my vision was shut down for three minutes. I was too much into the fight to tell the referee to give me a break to recuperate, because that's like a low blow. I kept fighting even though I could only use one eye.
During the exchanges I was seeing double, so I wasn't accurate, and he had an advantage. I also couldn't really back up because then he'd know that something was wrong. After the first round, they washed the blood off my face and I changed my strategy. But most importantly, my vision came back, so I was able to fight back and win.
T-Nation: Have you watched that fight on video and are you amazed at how much you were bleeding in the first round?
GSP: Yes, I've watched it. The bleeding looked worse than it really was. An uppercut clipped my nose, but it wasn't that bad. With all the grappling that we were doing, blood was going everywhere, but I wasn't hurt.
T-Nation: With all that blood and the fact that you couldn't see, was that the most fear you've ever felt in the ring?
GSP: No, I've been more scared before. I was fighting Thomas Denny in TKO [a Canadian MMA championship] and I entered the fight very sick. I couldn't breathe and I had a headache.
In the first round, I put him down and I beat him. I tried so hard to finish him, but the guy always managed to survive. At the end of the round, I was so tired that I could barely walk back to my corner. So I said to my cornerman, "Damn! I'm so tired; I can't go back out there." And my cornerman said, "What do you mean? You're kicking the guy's ass. Just go back out and do the same thing you're doing."
I said, "I feel so weak; I'm gonna die. I'm going to try a high kick to his head, and if that doesn't work, throw in the towel." So my cornerman looks at me and says, "Georges, I don't have any towels. Do you see any towels here?" So I think to myself, "Great! My cornerman wants me to die."
I got so pissed off that my cornerman, my friend, wanted me to die in the ring. So I went back out there and finished the guy off.
T-Nation: And then after the fight, you kicked your cornerman's ass, right?
GSP: [laughing] No, I respect what he did. That was one of the scariest moments of my life, but it turned out to be one of my greatest achievements. With BJ Penn, I was scared because I couldn't see, but I was never hurt.
T-Nation: When it's time for you to leave the locker room and head out to the octagon to fight Matt Hughes, what's going to be going through your head? What do you do to get fired up for a fight?
GSP: I never fight with my emotions. Never. Because when you fight with anger, you make mistakes. When I fight, it's all mechanical. There's no emotion whatsoever. I just try to keep up the rhythm, keep up the pressure, and take the opportunity when I feel I can finish him.
T-Nation: What's the last thing you'll do before you enter the ring?
GSP: About ten minutes before I come out, I take a Spike tablet. As I said, so much of my approach in the ring is mechanical and analytical. Spike gives me total mental clarity as well as incredible energy. I think it's a real advantage for me.
T-Nation: You had a pretty rough childhood in Quebec. Tell us about where you grew up and some of the scars, literally, that you have from growing up there.
GSP: I grew up in a little town that was separated into four different districts, so I ended up going to four different schools in my childhood. One of the schools I went to was La Salle. La Salle was a very bad place with lots of gang members.
T-Nation: Is this in the suburbs or is this in Montreal?
GSP: It's in Montreal. When I was there, it was the worst neighborhood in all of Montreal. In my school there was a class that was full of delinquent teenagers. They came every week to steal my money, take my clothes, things like that.
T-Nation: Did they pick on just you or did they pick on everybody?
GSP: It wasn't only me. They took on a lot of people. They were the main gang in school. They were three years older than everybody else and they were always together, always hanging out.
I had to fight many times against those people when I was young. I remember one time, six of them came after me and they beat me up and took my Chicago Bulls hat. This was at a time when Michael Jordan was playing and it was a cool thing to have a Bulls hat. They also tried to take my shoes, but I defended myself and they just got the hat.
We all got suspended from school for a couple of days. Everybody was afraid of these guys and I was afraid too, but they made me so angry that I never wanted to give in to them. So when I returned to school, I saw one of these guys and he was wearing my hat and walking around like it belonged to him. I walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Hey! Do you remember me?" When he turned around, I just punched him in the face and took my hat.
So that was the kind of thing that happened when I was in high school. I never fight somebody who doesn't deserve it. I always had to fight for myself.
T-Nation: How did you get the big scar on your calf?
GSP: That actually wasn't from school. I was fighting a guy – I didn't want to fight him, but I had to – and I knocked him down. But I was too nice to him and started to walk away. That's when the guy grabbed his knife and slit my calf. So I just turned around and kicked his head like a soccer ball.
T-Nation: Between the fighting you did as a kid and later being a bouncer at bars in Montreal, does any of that come into play when you're in the ring, or is it pure MMA technique?
GSP: It's pure martial arts for me. I mean, the fact that I went to a bad school, I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that I'm a fighter. If anything, in life when I face an obstacle, I have no problem overcoming it. I never give up and always keep my head up to face any obstacle.
T-Nation: On your career path, do you feel like you're in your prime as an MMA fighter or is there still more to learn for you?
GSP: I definitely still have more to learn. I don't think I'm in my prime. If you look at other champions, they're usually around 30 years old. So I still have a few years to go. At thirty, you're more mature, you're stronger and in the best shape, but you've also got experience, which is very important.
T-Nation: Where did your athleticism come from?
GSP: I've always been interested in sports and I've always been a good athlete. Maybe not the best, but one of the best in every sport – hockey, basketball, baseball. Whatever I did, I was always competing at an elite level.
T-Nation: During the recent Ultimate Fighter TV show, you and Matt Hughes didn't exactly get along very well together. Will you bring any of that into the ring on November 18th?
GSP: Like I said before, I don't fight with emotion. I try to clear my head of all that stuff. During that show, Matt Hughes was very arrogant. One day he said to me, in front of everybody with the cameras on, "Georges! When are you going to stop avoiding me? Come see me and I'll show you how to get out of an armbar."
It was a joke and he was trying to be funny, but nobody laughed and it wasn't a nice thing to say. That wasn't something that a gentleman would say, not something I'd ever say.
T-Nation: So you're just going to get in the octagon and let your actions do the talking for you?
GSP: Exactly. You know, he can say whatever he wants, but I'll talk with my fists in the octagon on November 18th.
T-Nation: We've got a big party planned for you after the fight in Sacramento. Good luck in the fight. All of T-Nation will be rooting for you!
GSP: Thank you very much. I'd just like to say to my main sponsor, Biotest. Thank you for all of your support! You guys are the best and I'm looking forward to celebrating together in a couple of weeks.