Short Notice Doesn't Sweat St. Pierre

By Andy Cotterill Dec 28, 2007
"First I'll beat Matt Hughes (Pictures) and then I'll beat Matt Serra (Pictures) for the undisputed world welterweight championship."

No doubt or ambiguity entered the voice of Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) as he spoke those words to on the eve of his interim UFC championship match.

This weekend's bout at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas will be the third between St. Pierre and Hughes, with the score even at one apiece.

The last time they met, in November 2006, it was St. Pierre who emerged victorious with a performance that was shockingly dominant over a champion who had held sway over the welterweight division for nearly three years.

Unfortunately for St. Pierre, it would soon be his turn to be shocked. Matt Serra (Pictures) stunned the MMA world by knocking him out in the first round of his very first title defense.

Only five weeks ago, however, a back injury forced the current UFC welterweight champion to withdraw from his planned grudge match with Hughes this weekend. When informed that Serra was out, Hughes was unwavering when he told UFC President Dana White that he wanted to fight St. Pierre.

While some might think it odd to immediately ask for a rematch against a guy who beat him so badly the last time, there was certainly some logic to it. Hughes surmised that with only five weeks to train, St. Pierre might not be as prepared as he could have been.

"If I caught Georges in a situation where he hasn't been training that long, then good for me," Hughes said recently during a pre-UFC 79 conference call.

But what looks to be an advantage, may turn out to have been a tactical error.

When the green light for Hughes was given, St. Pierre claims that he was already in tremendous shape. He also revealed another interesting fact.

"I was getting myself ready in case that scenario happened," he confided to about the possibility of either Serra or Hughes dropping out of the fight.

St. Pierre had only a five-week period to dedicate to Hughes specifically. Still, the Canadian called it "the best training camp of my life."

The camp was far from ordinary. It started by focusing on someone else entirely, as he helped prepare Rashad Evans (Pictures) for his November bout against Michael Bisping (Pictures). That portion merged straight into getting ready to enter the Canadian Olympic wrestling trials, which took place only two weeks ago.

When the time came to focus on Hughes, St. Pierre assembled a "dream team" of MMA training partners, including his current Montreal squad of BTT Canada leader Fabio Holanda (Pictures), Patrick Cote (Pictures), David Loiseau (Pictures) and Jonathan Goulet (Pictures). He also brought in Greg Jackson and such heavy hitters as Denis Kang (Pictures), Rashad Evans (Pictures), Nathan Marquardt (Pictures) and Keith Jardine (Pictures).

Although it looks as if St. Pierre has all of the cards in his favor, Holanda is the first one to voice a word of caution. "It might have looked easy," he said of St. Pierre's rematch win over Hughes, "but it wasn't. I think Hughes is well prepared and I think it's going to be a tough fight, but Georges still improves day by day, and he's going to win."

Sounding more confident than cocky, St. Pierre agreed: "This is the biggest fight of my career. It's a great opportunity and I will not let it go."

St. Pierre concluded by looking back at his training camp as evidence for his upcoming victory. "I was fighting an army," he said. "One man will not break me down. I'll win or end up in the hospital."
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