Story by Anthony Springer Jr.
Photo by Chris Cozzone
Rolling into the historic UFC 100, current welterweight champion Georges “Rush” St-Pierre seems more like the challenger when compared to the rhetoric of his opponent, Thiago “Pit Bull” Alves.
As usual, the champion has nothing but respect for his upcoming adversary. And while St-Pierre (18-2) exudes a quiet sort of confidence that typically makes him a favorite in any fight, Alves (22-4) is no slouch of his own and speaks as though he is already the undisputed welterweight champion.
“If he beats me, he can say he’s the best,” Alves said, challenging any talk of St-Pierre’s pound-for-pound status.
On the surface, the statement is almost laughable as St-Pierre holds victories over Matt Hughes (twice), BJ Penn, and Jon Fitch.
However, Alves also holds impressive victories over Hughes, Josh Koscheck, Karo Parysian, and Chris Lytle. With a record that matches Alves’ Octagon intensity, St-Pierre is calling the American Top Team fighter his toughest test to date—giving credence to the statement that the champion must tame the Pit Bull for any credible claim to being the reigning pound-for-pound best fighter in the UFC.
“I truly believe that if you put Thiago Alves and BJ Penn in a fight, I’d bet all my money on Thiago Alves,” St-Pierre explains.
Unlike BJ Penn, Alves does not rely on pre-fight talk to promote fights. While the champion was given extra motivation in the run up to the fight with Penn due to being dubbed “a quitter” and “a little bitch,” he will hear no such talk coming from Alves.
“Thiago Alves is a gentleman; he doesn’t need to trash talk to promote himself. He’s a very respectful guy. That’s what makes him so dangerous. Skill wise, he’s bringing more to the table than anybody I’ve fought so far. Even though the card isn’t just focused on my fight, if you look at the last fight [with BJ Penn], the focus was on that fight [which made it seem more dangerous]. But this fight is more dangerous. This fight is still very big, but it’s low key because we’re not the most well known guys on the card.”
Despite playing second to the heavyweight title showdown between Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar, St-Pierre could argue (but most likely would not) that he is the most well known—and well liked—guy on a stacked UFC 100 card. MMA aficionados admire GSP’s skill, female fans have been pulled into cheering for the champion by his physique and his humility made him a media darling en route to his meteoric like rise up the 170-pound ranks.
A Gatorade commercial that ran in St-Pierre’s native country didn’t hurt either. And all the while, the accomplishments that St-Pierre has attained in and out of the Octagon have been as much for himself as for the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts.
“They talk about us like real athletes,” St-Pierre said when asked about the difference in the way MMA is discussed in the mainstream. “That’s what we are. We train like real professional athletes; this is our full time job.”
St-Pierre has perhaps led the pack on training. A highly regarded member of Greg Jackson’s camp, he has also put in time with the Canadian Olympic wrestling team. With no formal wrestling experience prior to putting in time with his country’s best, St-Pierre became one of the best—and most talked about—wrestlers in the welterweight division. Dominant wins over highly touted wrestlers like Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck showcased the wrestling skills few would have credited to St-Pierre’s expanding arsenal. In the case of Hughes, the former champion quite possibly experienced the shock of his life due to his struggles taking GSP down. The wrestling prowess of St-Pierre found Hughes on the receiving end of a submission and TKO losses, while Koscheck spent a great deal of time staring at the lights in a unanimous decision loss to St-Pierre.
Unlike Koscheck and Hughes, however, GSP may not have the advantage of bullying Alves around the ring. A giant welterweight in his own right, Alves will not be counting on a perceived size advantage to capture the 170-pound title.
“I think on the day of the fight, I’ll be around 190 [pounds],” Alves said of his fight night weight, but was quick to add that, “We’re [both] going to weigh in at 170. I don’t think the size advantage at this level is going to count much. Georges is a pretty big guy too and well rounded. I’m not counting on [a size advantage].”
St-Pierre also dismisses any size advantage that Alves may walk into the cage with, insisting that it will not make a difference in the fight.
“I always train with bigger guys than I, so I’m used to every kind of fight,” St-Pierre said, nothing that he too will weigh close to 190 pounds on fight night. “To me, skill and technique always beats strength and size. The guy that fights the best will always win the fight.”
When facing the fighter with the caliber of Thiago Alves, St-Pierre knows that in order to leave the Octagon the victor, he must not fight a good fight, but a perfect one.
“I won’t be allowed to make any mistakes.”
For up to the minute analysis and commentary of UFC 100, follow Fight News writers Anthony Springer Jr (@SimplyAnthony) and Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) on Twitter.