GSP a legend in the making
Report by Anthony Springer Jr
Photos by Chris Cozzone
In the run up to the epic rematch between Georges “Rush” St-Pierre and “The Prodigy” BJ Penn, UFC president Dana White said that the winner of the contest would walk out of the Octagon a superstar and be on his way to legendary status.
Judging by St-Pierre’s dismantling and subsequent domination of BJ Penn—and the applause he got as a result, it’s a safe bet to say that the world’s hardest working welterweight was already a superstar.
It’s the legend part he was working on.
While Penn ultimately defeated St-Pierre in the war of words during the promotion of the fight, the calm and cool Canadian had the last laugh, forcing a doctor stoppage at the end of the fourth round. Penn labeled St-Pierre a “quitter” and repeatedly questioned the welterweight champion’s heart. In turn, “Rush” responded with a vengeance, battering Penn over the course of four rounds in front of a sold out, excited and stunned MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd.
Clad in his now trademark suit and tie with a bag of ice covering his face, Georges St-Pierre entered the post fight press conference fresh off an interview with ESPN’s Sports Center and received an applause from the media in attendance. Despite coming off of a dominating performance against a fighter that referred to him as a “little bitch,” the champion remained classy in victory.
“I knew I broke him mentally after the first round,” St-Pierre said.
St-Pierre went on to say that his game plan from the opening bell was to make Penn expend energy early trying to carry his massive 170 pound frame (which ballooned to 185 when the bell rang). The strategy, which can likely be credited in part to Greg Jackson, paid off.
“He’s a very tough guy, I was trying to finish him,” he added, saying he was mad at himself for not being able to finish the fight in the fourth round.
At the end of the day, Penn’s undoing may very well be attributed to the trash talk leading up to the fight. Despite implying that St-Pierre may be taking steroids, the final straw came when Penn insulted GSP’s trainer, Firas Zahabi. On an episode of “UFC Primetime,” Penn stated that “after the fight, [Zahabi] can go home, walk to his bedroom, take his shoes off, lie down in his bed, take about 20 or 30 minutes and go fuck himself."
Needless to say, St-Pierre didn’t take to kindly to the insult.
“When somebody insults me, it doesn’t bother me as much as when they insult somebody that I really like,” St-Pierre said. “He insulted a lot of people. Firas, to me is like my brother. When he insulted him, it made me mad. But I didn’t fight with my anger, I fought with my heart.”
UFC 94 also saw St-Pierre complete his transition from starry eyed fighter to idol. When the 27-year-old faced Matt Hughes for the first time, pre-fight jitters got the best of St-Pierre, who referred to Hughes as one of his heroes. Now, St-Pierre is the hero that other fighters look up to. With new found super stardom on the horizon, St-Pierre is relishing the moment, but knows it won’t last forever.
“It’s important to have role models. But you have to remember something: everything that comes up, goes down,” St-Pierre said, offering a word of caution. “One day you can be champion and be on top of the world. In a click, you can go down. I share every moment in my career like it’s my last one...We’re all human beings. All [the greats], they were up and they were down. It’s going to be the same thing for me one day, I’m realistic.”
“But I’m hoping to retire before it happens,” he said to laughter.
At just 27 years of age, it’ll be a while before GSP begins to fall off.