St. Pierre not underestimating Hardy
Before a bout, many fighters rave about their wrestling, boxing or jiu-jitsu, whichever skill they deem superior to an opponent's. No such talk is uttered from the mouth of Georges St. Pierre.
The UFC welterweight champion doesn't rely on any one discipline; he doesn't have to: He can do it all. St. Pierre is a true mixed martial artist, which is a rarity in the sport.
A native of Saint-Isidore, Quebec, St. Pierre never talks about dominating an opponent standing or on the ground. He doesn't predict knockouts or submissions. There is only one guarantee he will make before entering the Octagon: a victory.
It's a routine St. Pierre follows before every one of his fights. And he hasn't strayed from that routine leading into his Saturday night showdown with top contender Dan Hardy.
St. Pierre and Hardy will square off at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The UFC 111 main event is also available on pay-per-view ($44.95) at 10 p.m. ET.
When St. Pierre walks toward the cage, he will bring a multitude of skills with him -- wrestling, Muay Thai, boxing, jiu-jitsu and a host of other highly evolved artistic disciplines.
Whatever situation arises during the bout, St. Pierre will be more than prepared to handle it. That's the advantage of being a mixed martial artist. An argument can be made that St. Pierre is the only true mixed martial artist in the welterweight division.
Hardy will look to win this fight, preferably by knockout, and become welterweight champ. St. Pierre plans to put on a mixed martial arts clinic.
"I'm a martial artist. I call myself a martial artist, because I come from different backgrounds of martial arts," St. Pierre said during a recent conference call. "I've been a student of the game for a very long time, and when I'm going to fight, I'm not going to only to make a brawl I want to use my technique. I want to win in beautiful fashion.
"When somebody, who doesn't know the sport of mixed martial arts, watches me fight, I want him to say: 'That guy uses beautiful technique.'"
While possessing superior technical skills might generate confidence in most fighters, it's only half the equation for St. Pierre. Being mentally superior is equally important to the champion's success.
"I believe I'm more well-rounded," said St. Pierre, who is 19-2-0 and riding a six-fight win streak. "I have more knowledge, and by being a martial artist, I'm going to win the fight."
Despite the high level of skill and knowledge St. Pierre will carry into battle Saturday night, Hardy is undaunted. He doesn't refer to himself as a martial artist, just a fighter.
Whether he is a true mixed martial artist or not, Hardy remains a big underdog. It is a tag that has been assigned to Hardy in several of his recent fights.
Rather than complain that he is not appreciated, Hardy (23-6-0, 1 no contest) uses his underdog status as motivation. He seems to enjoy proving the disbelievers wrong.
"I've been in this situation a hundred times before," said Hardy, a resident of Nottingham, England. "Every time I step in the cage, I'm supposed to lose.
"Marcus Davis was supposed to knock me out; he was too strong for me. Mike Swick was too fast for me. I'm stepping into this fight a bigger underdog than I have been before, which is just going to make me perform better.
"In this fight, if I was looking at it from a fan perspective or a betting perspective, obviously George is the safe bet. But I know myself, and I know what I'm capable of. When people doubt me, it just gets me more excited for the fight."
There is one person who does not doubt Hardy's abilities: Georges St. Pierre. Despite the overwhelming number of advantages he possesses entering this fight, the champion is not taking his challenger lightly.
The previous time St. Pierre entered a fight against a heavy underdog, he was flattened. Matt Serra stopped him in the first round at UFC 69 to capture the title.
That fight remains one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. Inspired by that event, Hardy visited Serra recently on Long Island and trained with him for several weeks.
"I think [Serra] looks at me and sees the situation I'm in as exactly the same situation he was in the first time [he fought St. Pierre]," Hardy said. "No one gave him a snowflake's chance in hell, and he had a lot of belief in himself.
"He was very generous with his knowledge and his time. He was just helping me out a lot."
Since the loss to Serra, some have questioned the stability of St. Pierre's chin, including the hard-hitting Hardy. St. Pierre dismisses those critics and is quick to point out that Serra caught him behind the ear, not on the chin.
Though he would exact revenge on Serra, a second-round stoppage at UFC 83 in April 2008, St. Pierre has never been fully satisfied. A win over Hardy could fill that void.
"It's a chance for me to redeem myself," St. Pierre said. "I'm in a little bit of the same situation I was when I fought Serra the first time."
There is one major difference: It's highly unlikely Hardy will catch St. Pierre behind the ear Saturday night. St. Pierre learned from his loss to Serra, and has developed into one of the few true mixed martial artists competing in MMA today. Hardy will learn that taking St. Pierre's title is a very difficult task.Franklin McNeil appears regularly on ESPN.com's "MMA Live."
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