It will have been nearly 19 months since Georges St-Pierre last stepped foot in the Octagon when he returns at UFC 154 on Nov 17.
In that time, St-Pierre has undergone reconstructive knee surgery to repair a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), but the time off also provided the long reigning UFC champion some much needed time off to rest his body and mind.
Following his last fight with Jake Shields at UFC 129, St-Pierre admits he was reaching mass critical in terms of his psyche with the fight game, and the time off was actually a blessing in disguise.
“I was at the point before my injury that I went to train because I had to, not because I wanted to really much,” St-Pierre said on Thursday at the UFC 154 pre-fight press conference.
“I lost motivation and I learned that in my career sometimes you need to break something to fix it. You need to break it yourself and fix it before it breaks by itself, so what I mean is I don’t need to lose a fight to improve my training schedule to make me a better martial artist. I need to stay on top of the game before the fight game catch up on me. That’s what the long layoff allowed me to do.”
In the past few years while St-Pierre has remained the top draw in the entire UFC, he’s also come under intense scrutiny for what is perceived as a ‘play it safe’ mentality with his fights.
Through his first 7 victories in the UFC, St-Pierre finished five of them by either TKO or submission, and he looked like a machine putting away opponents. Then the shot heard round the world seemingly changed everything.
St-Pierre was knocked out by unlikely opponent Matt Serra in the first round of their fight at UFC 69 in 2007. Since that loss, St-Pierre has remained undefeated, but has taken criticism for a change in his style that now includes a lot more wrestling, and the perception that he doesn’t go for the finish nearly as much.
Over his last nine fights since the Serra loss, St-Pierre has finished 3 opponents and gone to decision in the other six fights. While dominant in all of the victories, critics have said St-Pierre no longer has the killer instinct to put fights away in the same manner he did earlier in his career before the upset loss to Matt Serra.
St-Pierre knows it’s impossible to please everyone, but he’s making some changes to hopefully improve upon his finishing rate.
“I cannot make everyone happy, but I need to do changes in my training and make it more efficient for myself,” said St-Pierre.
The problem with gunning for finishes so often comes at the expense of taking damage in certain situations, and St-Pierre certainly wants to avoid that, but he also knows that when an opening presents itself, he needs to show killer instinct and pounce on his prey.
“The key for me because of the criticism (for the) finishes, it’s a very dangerous sport, we don’t play golf. It’s a full contact sport. For me I think the key to have more finishes is be more opportunistic. Not taking more punches or having less defense, it’s being more opportunistic and the instinct of the finish,” said St-Pierre.
“I’ve been working a lot on that the last few months and I think that’s the key to more finishes. But I’m coming into the fight, the ultimate goal is to entertain but also to win. I want to win the fight and also hurt your opponent, that’s how you win the fight.”
Only fight night will tell if St-Pierre has truly changed his mentality and approach to fighting, or if that could have an adverse effect when he faces Carlos Condit at UFC 154.
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