Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Having anyone else headline the UFC’s 20th anniversary card just wouldn’t have made as much sense.
Georges St. Pierre is closing in on a decade since he first fought for the UFC welterweight title and began the journey toward becoming the company’s most popular fighter. With eight title defenses, he’s two away from tying Anderson Silva’s UFC record.
His next opportunity comes at Saturday’s UFC 167, where he takes on top contender Johny Hendricks in the main event. We chatted with St. Pierre in the middle of his training camp about the fight and recollections from the UFC’s early days before the milestone event.
As you know, it’s the 20th anniversary celebration for the UFC weekend. When did you first become aware of the promotion?
One of my friends rented the videotape of the first one, the tournament, and I saw Royce Gracie when I was a teenager. I was very inspired and knew that’s what I wanted to do.
How fast did you act upon that inspiration?
It was the week after that I started training. I took karate right away, and then I started jiujitsu. People thought I was crazy. That was pretty much’s everyone reaction.
Aside from your own career, what are some of your favorite UFC moments over the past 20 years?
I think one of the greatest fights was Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie back in the day. That’s a legendary fight. Also, Kimo (Leopoldo) vs. Royce Gracie. Those are the fights I remember the most.
Are you still as passionate about watching other fighters?
I like to watch the best fighters in the world compete against each other because I feel like any time you watch another great martial artist, you learn from them. Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson was probably the best fight I’ve ever seen in the UFC. It was one of the best I’ve seen in my life. It was a great display of skill, heart and sportsmanship in the octagon.
Your UFC debut (a unanimous-decision win over Karo Parisyan at UFC 46) was here in Las Vegas almost 10 years ago. What do you remember from that night?
I was very nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t my toughest or most memorable fight, but being my first one ever, it was a fight that makes or breaks you.
What was your toughest fight?
I have a couple different that I think are the toughest. Carlos Condit (at UFC 154 last November) was very tough because I took a big kick in the fight. Nick Diaz (at UFC 158 in March) was bad in a way. In that fight, I was sick. It was tough fighting like that.
What was wrong with you?
I got sick when I tried to rehydrate myself and put the weight back on after the weigh-in. I was eight pounds lighter than I am normally. I had diarrhea throughout the night and felt very bad. I went into the fight with a headache and didn’t feel well.
Are you worried that could happen again at UFC 167?
It had never happened before that I didn’t feel good in a fight in the UFC. I’m prepared now and feel the best I’ve ever been. It feels like I have a lot more energy. My motivation is high. I have no injuries anywhere. I’m very explosive, accurate and flexible.
What do you make of people saying Johny Hendricks is your biggest challenge?
Hendricks is a great contender. I knew he was coming for me. He presents a big problem. It’s going to be a tough fight, but I’m very well prepared and looking forward to it.
There’s been speculation that you might retire after this fight. Is that true?
I take it one fight at a time. Right now, I’m planning my next fight. I’m not planning my retirement.
So this isn’t anything you want to stop doing any time soon?
I love my job, but you never know. I take it one fight at a time. I could do it for maybe 10 more years, one more fight or five more fights.
Another major fight card rolls into town after yours, UFC 168 on Dec. 28 with the Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman rematch. You were among the first to predict Weidman would beat Silva. Will he do it again?
Weidman has a good chance to do it again. He’s also a friend of mine, so I’m a little biased. But I believe he will do it again.