Friday, July 10, 2009 | 3:09 a.m.
- Complete UFC 100 coverage
- Brock Lesnar: Can anyone beat this man?
- St. Pierre dominant despite injury
- UFC co-owner addresses fans at Expo
- Love story leads to UFC
- Lesnar wins, puts on WWE-style show afterward
- Win or lose — Mir a class act
- 702.tv: All-In: UFC 100
- Punchy Points: Key aspects about UFC 100
- Interactive Timeline: UFC Countdown: 1 to 100
At the age of 15, most kids daydream about driver's licenses and prom.
Thiago Alves dreamed a little bigger.
“I never thought I’d be here today,” said Alves, who will fight Georges St. Pierre for the UFC welterweight title at UFC 100. “But in the back of my mind, since I was 15, I played with it that at the age of 25 I would be a world champion. Here I am, at 25.”
Alves has traveled one wild road that will place him in the octagon Saturday night.
He made his professional mixed martial arts debut in his native country, Brazil, at 15 against an opponent 10 years older than him. At 19, he moved to the U.S. with nothing more than $70 and zero English in his vocabulary.
It was an intimidating challenge to say the least, but Alves knew if he wanted to become a world champion, the U.S. had to be his new home.
“It was really scary when I got here,” he said. “But I had 21 fights in Brazil already and when you want something and you want it really bad, you put in work and you make it happen. You don’t think and you don’t doubt. This is the place where whatever you put your mind on, you can get. It’s not like Brazil where you have everything against you.”
As ambitious as Alves’s dream was, he didn’t always show he had the determination to reach it.
At UFC 66, his sixth fight in the organization, Alves was handed an eight-month suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for testing positive for Spironolactone, a substance that can be used for weight-loss.
During the suspension, Alves used some of his new fame and fortune to hit the party scene. In a weird way, it may have been the best thing that could have happened to the young fighter. The suspension gave him time to get all of his partying urges out before fully dedicating himself to training.
Since it ended, he has never lost.
“When it really hit me was my layover with the suspension,” Alves said. “I was here and I couldn’t go back to Brazil because it was really hard at the time to get my green card. So I was here for eight months. I could have trained but without a fight, without a goal, it’s hard to.
“When I got the chance to come back it was like, ‘I don’t want to feel like this anymore.’ At that point, I put everything together – what I wanted for myself and what I wanted to accomplish.”
St. Pierre also has a dream for his career: Leave the sport as the greatest of all time.
“To be the best you have to right the best,” St. Pierre said. “I’m already the champion so I don’t fight to be a champion anymore. I fight to be a legacy. I want to be an icon. I want to be known as the guy that made a difference inside and outside the octagon.”
Maybe because of the up-and-down path of Alves’s dream and the honor associated with St. Pierre’s, neither fighter has been sucked into the trash talking that has gone on in the other main events of UFC 100.
Fight fans looking for animosity won’t be intrigued by the welterweight bout Saturday, as both fighters have been nothing but cordial in their regards to each other.
But a matchup between two fighters with such high expectations of themselves, GSP versus Alves shouldn’t disappoint.
“It’s just my time,” Alves said. “It’s been a long road, it’s been 10 years for me to get here. When I stop to think about it, I’m ready for this. All the things I’ve been through and all the situations, the suspension, it made me a better person for this moment. I was born to do this.”
Alves is a strong Muay Thai fighter with terrific takedown defense and some of the most explosive power in the UFC. His three main weapons: A vicious left hook, devastating knees and a quick right kick.
“I know a lot about him, but skill-wise, he creates more problems than any other fighter I’ve fought,” St. Pierre said. “He’s a great striker, explosive, and has good takedown defense. He’s very good at neutralizing people’s strength and fighting his fight, which is my strength as well.”
There’s no question Alves’ takedown defense is about to be put to perhaps the greatest test of his career. St. Pierre has landed 77 percent of his takedown attempts throughout his career, 32 percentage points higher than average fighter.
Alves will no doubt do his best to keep the fight on his feet, where he hasn’t been knocked down in more than three years.
“If anybody can beat Georges St. Pierre, I’m the man for it,” Alves said. “It’s been a long road for me to get here and when I stop to think about it, I’m ready for this.”
Last Time Out:
St. Pierre: TKO win over B.J. Penn at UFC 94 on Jan. 31.
Alves: Unanimous decision win over Josh Koscheck at UFC 90 on Oct. 25, 2008.
The Lines: St. Pierre -300 Alves +240
St. Pierre: “I think it’s important for me to live in the present. At the moment, I’m not in my prime. Maybe in two years I will be. Fighters reach their prime around 30 years old where they have experience and maturity at a peak. But I try to cherish every moment and enjoy it.”
Alves: On what he did during his eight-month suspension for using weight-loss drugs: “Partied.” Did it get old? “It did and it didn’t. [Laughing] But when it got time to get serious, I got really serious.”
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.