LAS VEGAS – Like most fighters, Georges St-Pierre‘s love affair with the UFC started early. A friend rented a videotape at a barbecue when he was 15 years old, and he watched the 170-pound Royce Gracie submit and choke out much larger men.
He was obsessed, and veered sharply away from Kyokushin karate as he learned jiu-jitsu and other fighting techniques he saw in the octagon. In 2002, he began fighting professionally.
That same year, St-Pierre stepped into the octagon, although not as a competitor. Nobody was guarding the octagon the night prior to UFC 40, so he and training partner David Loiseau shadowboxed giddily around the canvas.
“We were aspiring to one day fight in the UFC,” said St-Pierre (24-2 MMA, 18-2 UFC), who on Saturday at UFC 167 attempts the ninth defense of his welterweight title against Johny Hendricks (15-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC). “Nobody was there to watch the cage. I couldn’t believe it. I could have taken a knife and ripped (the canvas) and they could have canceled the whole thing. It was crazy. I was a fan. I was not a fighter in the UFC.”
It would be two more years before St-Pierre set foot inside the octagon as a competitor, and from what he remembers, it was a raucous introduction.
“I was so nervous,” he said today at a pre-event press conference for the pay-per-view event, which takes place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. “I was fighting Karo Parisyan, so I was fighting on the prelims. They put us in a little locker room, maybe half of the (size of a) mat. I was with three guys, and when we got into the room, it was very long, but it was very narrow. We didn’t have enough space to work out, so I decided to take all the chairs and throw them out of the room, and still it was very tiny.
“So I was not working out. I was waiting for the time to get ready. And all of a sudden, I heard a noise in the hallway like a third world war was breaking out, and guess who got into the room? It was Wes Sims, Kevin Randelman and Mark Coleman, two of my idols, Goldberg, and Ricco Rodriguez. So we didn’t have enough space with those giants. I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I couldn’t speak English; I was very intimidated. It was my first time in the UFC.
“Mark Coleman goes, ‘Who are you?’ And I’m like, ‘Hi, I’m Georges St-Pierre.’ He goes, ‘Who are you going up against? (I said), ‘Karo Parisyan?’ He goes, ‘You a wrestler?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I wrestle.’
“He goes, ‘Yeah! I’m rooting for you!’ And then pandemonium broke out in the locker room. I was so agitated. I was scared. When the time came for me to warm up, and these guys were screaming at me. I didn’t understand what they said, but there were a lot of f-words. I couldn’t speak English, so I tried to let it motivate me. But they were scaring me.
“I was the one fighting, and they were going back and forth, hitting the wall. I had to go to the bathroom to do some jumping jacks, and Burt Watson exploded in the room like, ‘Ready to roll!’ Then I stepped up, and I fought.”
Luckily, the craziness didn’t distract him inside the cage. He dominated Parisyan en route to a unanimous decision, and he was a certified UFC fighter. He would go on to become the promotion’s most dominant champion.
Since that day, he’s seen Coleman at UFC events, and thankfully, the “Godfather of Ground and Pound” has mellowed out.
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