LAS VEGAS, NV -- Georges St-Pierre gazed down at the throng of reporters huddled around a makeshift stage at the MGM Grand lobby. Clad in a black form-fitting t-shirt, with a golden UFC belt shimmering by his side, St-Pierre deftly fielded UFC 167 questions until the inevitable happened.
For the better part of seven years, St-Pierre gritted his teeth and evasively discussed the only man whose greatness equaled his own. A superfight between the UFC welterweight champion and longtime middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva was the nagging thorn in St-Pierre's side, the legacy-defining fight that he neither asked for, nor wanted. But this time, the conversation changed.
"I'm sad for Anderson because it's sad to see a guy that..." St-Pierre trailed off, then gathered himself.
"It makes you remember every time that even the best can lose. One mistake can change everything. For me, I take that as a wake up a little bit. It can happen to me, as well. I'm a champion and I can lose."
St-Pierre's hesitance is just another indication of the new world mixed martial arts entered on July 6th. Silva's shocking second-round humbling at the hands of Chris Weidman, which added the bizarre qualifier ‘former' to the Brazilian's title of ‘UFC middleweight champion,' now serves as a stark reminder of how quickly things can change.
St-Pierre, himself once a victim of a similar fate, already understood this sentiment better than most. But that was six years ago, a lifetime in such an volatile sport, and sometimes even the greats need a reminder of the realities they face.
"It's when you don't see it coming," St-Pierre admitted.
"You never know what can happen. The moment someone seems invincible, sometimes that's when they fail. It's a crazy sport that we're into. One mistake can change everything. I believe there's no certainty. There's never a certainty.
"This thing happened, and it shakes you up a little bit and makes you [think], ‘Shoot, this thing can happen to me,'" St-Pierre continued. "But I don't want it to happen to me, so I'm going to work hard."
If St-Pierre can take solace in one fact, it'll be that when and if his time arrives, it'll arrive in a far different manner than Silva's. Once lauded for his unnatural wizardry inside the cage, the Brazilian ultimately fell too deeply into his own trap, dropping his hands, leaning straight back and absorbing a concussive bomb from Weidman.
St-Pierre acknowledges, he would never rely on such dangerous tactics in the middle of a cagefight, not when one wrong step can irreversibly damage his career forever. But that doesn't mean he discredits Silva's accomplishments. On the contrary, the St-Pierre still holds Silva in the highest regard.
"Anderson Silva is a genius. He wants, during the fight, you to think that you don't even belong in the ring with him, because he's too good for you. That's what he wants his opponent to think. He's a genius," St-Pierre repeated.
"Look at that fight with Weidman. He did a lot of crazy things, but he didn't land one significant strike on Chris Weidman. He landed some good leg kicks, but he didn't a land significant strike that really hurt Weidman. But because of this game, he made it look like he was dominating the fight. It's an illusion that he creates, which is very smart, because he can get into his opponent's mind. Chris did very well. He stayed focused. At one point I was afraid that he was starting to believe the hype, but he stayed focused and he did well. Obviously, Anderson, he got caught. But I still believe that Anderson Silva is the best in the world. That's what I believe."
If it seems strange to hear St-Pierre still refer to Silva as ‘the best in the world' even after accurately predicting his loss to Weidman, it's because St-Pierre accepts that there's more to the game than what outsiders see. Ultimately, St-Pierre believes Weidman was simply the more prepared fighter that fateful night, and that, above all else, made the difference.
"People around Weidman, they're very smart. It's not always the best team that wins the game in baseball, or in football, or in hockey. It's the team that comes the most well prepared and played the best match. Same thing with fighting," St-Pierre said in closing. "It's not always the best fighter. It's the fighter that will fight the best fight that will win.
"It's one thing people, they don't understand about fighting."