The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre (GSP) can attest to that fact better than most.
At first scheduled to face former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz at UFC 137, St. Pierre was forced to face a new opponent in Carlos Condit after Diaz was removed from the main event. Then, with less than two weeks left before fight day, St. Pierre himself adds to fight card permutations as an injury sidelines him from the event altogether. The welterweight champion will still be in attendance in Las Vegas on Saturday, but only as a wallflower cornerman, not as a participating champion.
Perhaps most frustratingly, questions and criticisms about his risk aversion may achieve temporary radio silence, but they've not gone away. That, along with questions regarding a potential move for GSP to 155lbs, make this time off as important for physical rehabilitation as it for mental focus.
In this interview with MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan, St. Pierre discusses the injury that forced him to withdraw from the event, the state of his physical rehabilitation, if he'd ever move to lightweight, whether he favors B.J. Penn or Nick Diaz to win this weekend, and what he makes of the criticism regarding risk aversion.
Luke Thomas: Joining me now on the McDonald's hot line, he is the UFC welterweight champion of the world. He was originally scheduled to headline this weekend at UFC 137 but is here to promote the event nonetheless, the one and only Georges St. Pierre. George, how are you?
Georges St. Pierre: I'm doing very well, thank you very much.
Luke Thomas: Georges, you sound a little under the weather. Are you sick today?
Georges St. Pierre: No, I'm good. I'm really good. I'm gonna work through Saturday in the corner of Francis Carmont, my training partner and friend so I'm not home, I'm in Vegas.
Luke Thomas: Alright, did you attend the press conference? Were you a part of that today?
Georges St. Pierre: No, I wasn't.
Luke Thomas: Well, Nick Diaz was sitting there on the podium and I know the fight's off now and your fight coming up is gonna be with Carlos Condit when you return and it's expected February of 2012 but I'm just wondering, Diaz went through the whole process. He was there. He was early to the workouts yesterday. In your mind, when you know that and you see that, obviously your injured and it doesn't matter because the fight's off, but do you ever think to yourself, "Why couldn't you do that before when we had a chance to do it?"
Georges St. Pierre: Yeah, of course I'm mad. I'm sad, I'm upset about it but what can I do? This is out of my control. I try to control stuff that I can control but this is out of my control.
Luke Thomas: Okay, so update our listeners. You sprained your MCL. Give us just a brief assessment of what injury you suffered that made you pull out of this fight.
Georges St. Pierre: Yeah, I sprained my MCL and then I took a week and everybody when it happened when I sprained my MCL, everybody said that I should pull out of the fight. I said, "No, no, no. I'm gonna wait a little bit." See if, you know, you put so much into sacrifice and training camp, I don't want to cancel after the first little obstacle but I tried to make it back 10 days after to train again and I was compensating with my other leg and I strained my hamstring so now I knew that both legs were hurt. I was like, "Ahh shit. I need to pull out."
Luke Thomas: So you're in this weird position. I think some guys take UFC fights injured and not that they're tougher than you but they have a lot less to lose. What's the worst....
Georges St. Pierre: (interrupting) Hey, there is something I need to say. Injured like I was, like right now, I cannot do like lateral movement and I cannot grapple at all so nobody would take a fight to be injured like I am. There are some little bruise, little ‘this and that' but an injury like I have, a sprained MCL and a strained hamstring, you cannot take a fight like this. That's impossible. You go like this, you gonna get killed in a few minutes, in like one minute because you cannot move, you don't have the ability, you don't have the stability and the mobility that you need to have as an athlete and at this level you'll get destroyed.
Luke Thomas: Yeah, that seems fair. So, tell me, in the previous course of your career, what's the worst, and maybe it wasn't that bad, but what's the worst injury you've ever carried into a fight?
Georges St. Pierre: Oh, you know, when you go to a fight, you're never at 110 percent. You always have bruise or something like that. Yeah, I had like my fingers or my knees, already had strained stuff but what I had is called a moderate MCL strain. It's not a light MCL strain. It's a moderate and it's a very strong strain. Moderate, it's bad. It's not very bad like in terms of needing an operation but it's bad enough to not fight. I'm very tough on my body and it's the people around me that had to pull me out of the fight.
Luke Thomas: I'm sure. I have no doubts. So talk to me about what rehabilitation looks like. You're not gonna get surgery on it and obviously it's gonna involve a lot of getting the ligament used to it again but aside from time, do you know what you have to do, have you already started rehab or are you still at a point where you're just letting the body heal?
Georges St. Pierre: I did rehab every day since it happened. Rehab every day, every day to accelerate the process of healing and I want to make it as quick as I can.
Luke Thomas: And what does rehab look like? Like walk us through a typical day in rehab.
Georges St. Pierre: Well, it's been interesting. When I was home, it was a different technique. I was doing a lot of exercise for my knee and swimming in the pool like a lot of regular exercise in the water and a lot of exercise with the electric electroshock thing and a lot of icing but now I go to this new place, it's very different. They don't use a machine at all. They use only manual technique and it's very interesting.
Luke Thomas: Alright. Let's talk about the main event that would up being on the card, UFC 137. You were originally scheduled to fight Nick Diaz, it was replaced with Carlos Condit as we said before, you'll probably wind up facing him around February timeline and now it's B.J. Penn - Nick Diaz so I'll just ask you up front and then we'll dig a little deeper but who do you like to win?
Georges St. Pierre: I don't know. I want the best guy to win, that's what I want but who I think will win? I think maybe B.J. Penn is a notch better. Sometimes things doesn't happen the way we expect and we'll see what's gonna happen. I don't know who's gonna win. I want the best guy to win.
Luke Thomas: What is your assessment of the, certainly Nick Diaz is a very high caliber opponent, I don't think anyone would say otherwise, but what would you say about the quality of opposition he faced in Strikeforce? Do you think it prepared him for the level of the UFC?
Georges St. Pierre: It's a level of course, but he fought Paul Daley. Paul Daley was a UFC opponent and you know, look at the fight Nick Diaz win in the first round but this fight could have gone either way. He got dropped like two times by Paul Daley so Paul Daley would have been very close to winning that fight as well, you know what I mean? It was a win, first round TKO, but it was not a complete domination. It was like flipping a coin almost, you know? Like, he won, but it could have gone the other side as well.
Luke Thomas: An interesting comment was made by your trainer Firas Zihabi, I think this week saying, "You know, listen, Georges is obviously rehabbing and we've got a title defense coming up, but in the future it's getting easier for you to make weight because you've substituted gymnastics for weight lifting." He even introduced the possibility of going to lightweight now I know you're focused on rehab, you're focused on your fight but is there any truth to the idea that you're toying with the idea of a potential future in the lightweight division?
Georges St. Pierre: No, the thing is, people talk to me about changing weight class. For me, it would be easier to go down than to go up. The reason is my weight, I walk around between 185-190 but the thing is, I don't want to go to lightweight because I don't want to get smaller as a human being, as a man. I want to be bigger as possible, you know? I'm good as what I am as a welterweight right now. People want me to go up and we'll see, one day if the timing is good and the person maybe I will but it will take time. Changing weight, it's hard to do. People ask me this question sometime so we'll see what's gonna happen.
Luke Thomas: So, I asked B.J. Penn and he said he would love to see you at lightweight and no chance at a third B.J. Penn - GSP fight at 155 pounds? That will never happen?
Georges St. Pierre: Oh my god, if it's gonna be that, I don't like the whole cut process now. I don't like to play with my health. I could do it. I could do it, seriously, I could really do it but I don't believe, I don't want to lose too much weight. I don't think it's healthy and outside of performance, the most important thing for me is my well-being so I want my well-being to be my first priority and I don't think it's good for the body to lose that much weight.
Luke Thomas: Carlos Condit's trainer, Mike Winklejohn, his striking coach, came out this week and sort of said that maybe this delay in the fight is sort of a blessing in disguise. Originally, Condit was set to fight B.J. at 137 and then got the opportunity to face you and that was on short notice. Fighting Georges St. Pierre on short notice is a tall order for anybody and this sort of gives them a chance to recalibrate and have a more complete camp. Do you believe that the delay in the fight is more of an advantage for Condit?
Georges St. Pierre: I think it's an advantage for both of us. I was fighting a left-handed guy who's more of a boxer and now I'm fighting a right-hander that switch from orthodox some time but he's more like a Muay Thai fighter and on the floor Diaz is more of a pure jiu-jitsu guy a Gracie jiu-jitsu guy and Condit is more of a grappler that likes to create chaos in the scrambles and works from there. Creates his own approach completely so it's more of a different style and I think it will benefit both of us.
Luke Thomas: I want to talk about, and I'm sure you're tired of the criticism. I was actually at UFC 129 and it was a hell o f a fight. Let me ask you first, any lingering issues with the eye? How is the health of your eye that was, it looked to be pretty damaged by the end of that fight?
Georges St. Pierre: It was, but now it's 100 percent.
Luke Thomas: Ok, so 100 percent now. If you look at your record, it's one of the most unbelievable records in the entire sport. You consistently face the best guys fight in and fight out. There's been some groaning from some people about the inability to put these guys away so on the one hand, there's no doubt that you're facing an unbelievable row of killers but on the other hand, some people say, "Georges St. Pierre has the best skillset in mixed martial arts. Could he have done more against certain guys." Guys like Dan Hardy. Could the ground and pound have been there and obviously you were injured against Jake Shields but I guess how do you respond to the criticism? Do you just say, "I maximize my resources in every fight." Do you believe that the critics who say you could do more, are they on to something?
Georges St. Pierre: It's true and I know the criticism and it piss me off. Actually, it doesn't piss me off, the criticism is there to make me better and I think it's important that I pay attention to it and some criticism are stupid, some criticism are true but it's true about the finish. Even myself, I want to be able to finish fights and in order to finish fight, I need to win but before, until up to this fight, I was training a lot on making my weaknesses stronger but now I've been training a lot on making my strengths even stronger. That's gonna help my offense and I can't wait for my next fight.
Luke Thomas: Last question for you Georges and then we'll let you go. The UFC returns to Canada December 3rd in Toronto, Canada at UFC 140 and the main event Jon Jones takes on Lyoto Machida in a light heavyweight contest. When they return to Canada, who do you think is gonna win, Jones or Machida?
Georges St. Pierre: It's gonna be a tough fight. If one guy can beat Jones, it's gonna be Machida because he's got a real karate style. Karate mix well with Jon Jones but Jon Jones is the man. I think he might be able to pull this off. I like him and he's a friend of mine and I think he's gonna win.