When I first met Georges St. Pierre, he was nothing like what I expected. For one, he was wearing a coat but no tie, looking more like a young professional heading to the club or Ruth's Chris than a cagefighter. There were no logos visible on his clothing at all, a rare sight in the hyper ad heavy world of MMA. Secondly, he was smart. Not just chatty like Stephan Bonner or witty like Chael Sonnen - legitimately smart.
We talked a little about the history of combat and Georges mentioned the revolutionary power of the composite bow. The power of the arrow transformed warfare for the Assyrians - St. Pierre believed there were techniques from traditional martial arts that could transform MMA the same way. Eventually we weren't even talking about fighting. GSP offers the world much more than that.
At the time I didn't know what to think of the strange young French Canadian. There is potentially a danger in being too contemplative for MMA, even too nice. After all, this is cage fighting we're talking about, a sport where the top fighters are often loathsome, mind numbingly dumb, or both. Luckily Georges and his team found Greg Jackson, a trainer built specifically for him. He's surrounded himself with interesting, confident, and strong people. It's a great group and their success isn't by chance.
And now, a season's worth of fighters on The Ultimate Fighter have been able to experience the Georges St. Pierre experience. Jonathan Brookins, one of the season's finalists, says GSP was instrumental in changing the way he approached the fight.
"I think the biggest thing that I took from it was just my mental outlook towards fighting," Brookins said in a conference call yesterday. "On the physical front, I realized after the show it is going to take me years to kind of perfect and to really kind of understand, because that's how long it kind of takes. But the way that I perceive the sport, the way I go about it, was changed completely by that set of coaches, and I was really thankful for that."
While GSP's opponent on December 11, Josh Koscheck, comes from a highly touted fight team himself, Brookins believes that the training he offered his team was a little one dimensional. After all, the same size glove doesn't fit all hands.
"During the filming, it became apparent fairly quick that we were getting a different set of coaches, a different look, so to speak, than the other team. You're kind of locked up, and we were beginning to kind of (learning) from these people from all over the world," Brookins said. "And it became kind of like, you almost didn't want to brag to the other team, you almost kind of had something to brag about. What these guys would kind of start to notice real fast that like they're getting the same guys from you know one school, and there's no variety. And so you can kind of tell kind of quick that we were getting a better coaching staff than the other team."
Brookins's opponent Michael Johnson, a man who was also his teammate throughout the filming of the season, says there was more than just a philosophical difference between the coaches. St. Pierre, according to Johnson, put his money where his mouth is and got in the trenches with his troops.
"I knew coming in that Georges was going to bring in all the great coaches that made him great, and I think the main thing that separated our coaching staff from their coaching staff was Georges actually trained with us every day," Johnson said during a conference call. "I got a feeling that Koscheck didn't do that. You know he was more of, 'Let me sit on the sideline and try to kill these guys through the sixth week,' as opposed to helping these guys win."
The fight between Johnson and Brookins will crown the winner of the twelfth season of the venerable reality show. But true to TUF's history, neither man is sure if he will stay in the lightweight division after the finale Saturday. The inclusion of the featherweight division into the UFC has opened the door for both men to return to 145 pounds.
"I'm going to look at everything. I'm just going to go by the fights where they need me," Brookins said. "You know if there's a good fight at '45, and they call me up and say, "Hey, we need you here," I'll be there. If there's a good fight at '55, and they say, "We need you there," I'll be there. So it's nice to be able to go both weight classes and whatnot, and I enjoy competing at both of them."