After working with Georges St-Pierre for three days, famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach believes the beloved former longtime UFC welterweight champion will return to the sport of mixed martial arts and fight again.
"Yes, I do," Roach said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "He's so positive, so good, and it was the best three training sessions we've ever had."
The Montreal-based fighter has ventured to Los Angeles several times over the course of his career to train at Roach's Wild Card gym on the corner of Santa Monica and Vine in Hollywood.
But this was something entirely different. St-Pierre, of course, is nearly two years into a sabbatical from the sport, as he relinquished the title following a controversial victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, citing burnout.
This was step one in a possible comeback, and given how St-Pierre looked in the sessions, a full, six-week training camp is next.
"He wants to see if he's hungry for it still, and if he still wants to do it" said Roach, who is best known as the trainer for boxing megastar Manny Pacquiao. "After six weeks, I know we'll have a great idea, it's either yes or no. I knew it was a great idea to do something like that. I haven't heard of it before, but it does make sense to me, the thing is, if he's not hungry for it again after six weeks training, you go away, if you are, you come back and get pulled out of vacation."
Roach likes what he's seen from GSP thus far, noting in particular training sessions in which he made the former champ do 10 stright rounds of mitt work.
"We did have three very, very good workout," Roach said. "One days we did mitts 10 rounds straight with no rest period, we just worked right through it. He's not in top, top shape right now, but he made it through the 10 rounds, he was wondering when I'd give him break, but he never asked. We just went 10 rounds straight."
The camp will mimic the sort of training a fighter undergoes when there's an actual fight on the docket. Roach promises there will be "no holding back" this time around.
"During the six-week session we're going to have actual fights in my ring," he said. "Downstairs, there'll be private, we will have fights, they'll be competitive, no holding back, that's part of process of getting to know if you still want to do this, guys will come down and help us out and give us an idea where we're at in in the sport right now."
Roach understands a fighter's struggle with retirement from all angles. The Boston native was a go-for-broke competitor during his days in the ring and lost five of his final six fights before finally calling it quits in 1986. As a trainer, he's not opposed to he notion of fighters coming out of retirement. But he'd rather they do it sooner rather than later, lest they risk coming back too late.
"Sometimes if you're unsure, and the rest of your life you're saying ‘what if.' I don't like that," said Roach."I don't like guys saying ‘what if I fight that one more fight. What if I get in shape and fight for the title again.' I don't like that either. There's certain ways to go out, I do like when people go out on top, it's a great thing. But sometimes in your own mind, if you can't get over it, you make that comeback later on when it's too late. So I'd like to see know and make sure [St-Pierre is] hungry for it and see if he's ready for the big time again."
As for the multimillion-dollar question of St-Pierre's opponent for his potential return fight, Roach would like to see the former champ ease his way back into the sport with tune-up fights, which is something more often seen in boxing than MMA. But he also agrees with the notion the time just might be right for the long-discussed superfight with Anderson Silva.
"I would like him to go get back into it, build yourself up, and not fight the top guys right away," Roach said. "Get a couple fights he's supposed to win, build his confidence and so forth. We can do it here in the gym but it's better in real life. Build his confidence up to where he wants to win a world title again. That's the only way. The Silva fight would be great if we can come up with catch weight everything agreeable on."
But that's still a ways down the road. In the meantime, GSP still needs to go through the camp at Wild Card and determine whether he'll actually come back. The dates have yet to be determined, although they won't be until after Roach corners Miguel Cotto for his Nov. 21 fight against Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas.
"Getting ready for fight is a lot of work," Roach said. "That's what I like about training camp, if he can put himself through it, I think he'll be in good shape to fight the top guys out there. It's a good test for him, If he wants it. But at the end of six weeks, if he decides its over, I'll shake his hand and wish him best the of luck, I'll always be there for him, there's no shame whatsoever."