Friday, March 26, 2010 | 8:20 p.m.
- Complete coverage: UFC 111
- Breaking down UFC 111: St. Pierre vs. Hardy
- Shane Carwin plays spoiler, denies Frank Mir third fight with Brock Lesnar
- Although familiar opponents ahead, St. Pierre happy in welterweight division
- Breaking down UFC 111: Mir vs. Carwin
- Thiago Silva fails medicals, out of UFC 111
- Fireside chat with UFC president Dana White
- Dan Hardy embraces Matt Serra comparisons before fight
- Frank Mir knows only one way to train, with family nearby
NEWARK, N.J. — Georges St. Pierre is the undisputed UFC welterweight champion.
He's the athlete leaping over impossibly high hurdles in Under Armor commercials. He's the fighter who dominated Thiago Alves through five rounds in July, despite suffering a serious hip injury early in the fight. He's Mr. January, Mr. December and Mr. every other month in his own calendar.
But every time St. Pierre steps into the octagon and hears the door close behind him, he feels the same emotion many others would — fear.
"I get really nervous and scared to fail," St. Pierre said. "I'm calm, but I have a goal in my head of what I need to do to win the fight. I'm uncomfortable. You're never in your comfort zone because the fight can change at any second.
"When the fight is over, you're happy. But until then, it's always uncomfortable."
It's been awhile since St. Pierre looked uncomfortable in a fight, and there are many who doubt his challenger, Dan Hardy, will disrupt that trend during Saturday's title fight at the Prudential Center.
But while everyone wants to know what challenges are ahead for arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, St. Pierre refuses to even entertain thoughts of moving up a division or potential future opponents.
He even became angry with media at the beginning of the year for reporting he was considering trying out for the Canadian Olympic wrestling team, as the stories made it look like his focus perhaps wasn't completely on Hardy.
"There are plenty of challenges still out there," said St. Pierre's head trainer, Firas Zahabi. "Georges's thing about the Olympics was just an afterthought, it was an idea in the back of his mind.
"I guess he was back and forth with it and it's something I think he would enjoy. Moving to 185 pounds is a possibility. But the only thing on his mind and the whole camp's mind is Dan Hardy. There's no need to look for anything else."
Although part of it is probably in his personality, St. Pierre's conviction to never look ahead still stems from the shocking loss he took from Matt Serra in 2007.
Even though he avenged that loss the following year, dominating Serra in a second-round TKO win to reclaim the belt, the experience has stayed with him and has even turned into a source of motivation for this fight as the scenarios leading into the bouts are similar.
"It's not Serra that I want to have revenge against because I already did that in Montreal and I did that very well," St. Pierre said. "It's the moment. When I fought Serra the first time and I fell, I was fighting a guy where the odds were in my favor. Nobody gave him a chance. It's the same scenario right now."
There have been many upsets in mixed martial arts, but few favorites have hung on to the shock of the experience longer than St. Pierre.
According to Zahabi, St. Pierre realizes he allowed himself to believe what was being said and written one time and has never forgotten what it felt like to realize it's still up to him to win each fight.
"When you think something is going to go one way and it goes another, it's shocking," Zahabi said. "Everybody is in your ear. All the experts are telling you one thing and if you put your trust in those words and it backfires, it's a bitter taste."
Fans and media can continue to ask St. Pierre about a potential super fight with Anderson Silva, the possibility of vacating his belt and moving up in weight or the allure of the Olympics.
But they should know by now that if St. Pierre already has a challenge in front of him, that's the only challenge he's willing to talk about.
By now everyone knows, St. Pierre (19-2) is the all-around package.
He's an accurate striker from his feet, landing 58 percent of his overall attempts, and even more so on the ground where he connects on 70 percent.
His takedowns are regarded as some of the best in the sport and may be even better as he's added muscle to his frame coming into this fight with Hardy (23-6).
He's so dominant, he's been listed as high as a 13-to-1 favorite for this fight — which seems to not bother Hardy the least bit.
"If I was making the odds, obviously it would be very different," Hardy said. "But I also have inside information. If I were making them, I'd be like a 10-to-1 favorite, no doubt."
Hardy's confidence comes from his striking abilities that none of his UFC opponents have been able to deal with yet.
Over four UFC fights, Hardy has defended 62 percent of his opponents' takedowns, making it highly likely he'll have his back to the canvas multiple times throughout the fight.
The key for Hardy will be his ability to get back to his feet and still have the energy and discipline to find the right timing with his strikes to catch St. Pierre unguarded.
"I've accepted I'm going to get taken down at some point; it's not an issue," Hardy said. "I'm not saying I can outwrestle Georges, but I have a level of striking he hasn't seen yet. I'm looking forward more to how he deals with my striking than how I deal with his takedowns."
Last Time Out:
St. Pierre Unanimous decision win over Thiago Alves at UFC 100.
Hardy Unanimous decision win over Mike Swick at UFC 105.
The Lines: St. Pierre, minus-1300; Hardy, plus-800
St. Pierre: On his inability to sleep the night before a fight: "It's always tough sleeping that night. It's no problem. I'll sleep after the fight."
Hardy: On the new suit he wore to the pre-fight press conference: "I just thought it was time to make an effort. GSP always turns up in his nice, shiny suit, and I didn't want to be upstaged before the fight even started. I haven't really spoken to him much to be honest, but I told him he was looking sharp in that suit."