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GSP planned to overcome the three biggest criticisms of his legacy at UFC 217

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Celebrated jiu-jitsu coach John Danaher revealed that Georges St-Pierre and his team came up with a plan to tackle the three biggest criticisms of his career in his successful comeback fight at UFC 217.

According to Danaher, he had no interest in seeing St-Pierre return to his old welterweight stomping ground. He claimed that he suggested that the former champion should look to answer his critics if he did decide to return to the Octagon.

“It’s a huge thing to come back after four years, but if you come back why don’t you do something different – something that’s going to change your legacy?” Danaher told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, recalling a conversation he had with St-Pierre.

“We talked about it a little more and I said to him that there has always been three criticisms of your career.

“The first is that you’re so controlling and tactical in your approach to fighting that it makes for boring fights. That’s always been a persistent criticism.

“The second is that you never fought up a weight class. You always fought guys at welterweight. The third is that you don’t finish fights. Those are the three persistent criticisms of the legacy of Georges St-Pierre.

“I said why don’t we focus on a training regiment that strongly emphasizes submissions and TKOs/KOs and punching power that you need to finish a fight. You go up a weight division and you focus on the old, dynamic in-and-out and lateral movement of Georges St-Pierre to create a faster paced fight that people find more interesting.

“We ran the idea past other people – Firas Zahabi, Freddie Roach etc. – and everyone said that it was a good idea.”

Danaher detailed the training regiment that St-Pierre was put through in order to produce the career defining performance he achieved at Madison Square Garden against Michael Bisping.

“Georges came in and worked with the squad and we strongly emphasized submission holds. Normally when I train with Georges it’s really what we call ‘grapple boxing’, which is a mixture of striking and boxing on the ground. It’s mostly positional work,” he explained.

“Instead we changed everything to submission holds, favoring strangulations from the back and leg locks. Georges made remarkable progress.

“He started working with Freddie Roach on the mechanics of punching so he was hitting harder. He was sitting on his punches more and just working on the mechanical element of straightforwardly hitting harder with a strong emphasis on left hook, jab and straight rear hand.

“He made significant changes and there was a notable sense that he was hitting harder and he was working submissions with a lot of success in the gym.

“He started working with a karate specialist who brought back the old, linear, in-and-out movement that Georges was so famous for in the early days of his career.

“We were pretty confident before the camp started that people were going to see something new, something that would add to Georges’ legacy. This wouldn’t be the Georges of 170 fighting another top welterweight and doing the same thing that he did for a decade.

“This was him fighting up a weight class with a strong emphasis on finishing the fight in a dynamic, mobile way, which people found exciting.”

Danaher thinks GSP’s ability to overcome a serious illness and stick to his game plan underline what an “incredible athlete” he is.

“Unfortunately the plan ran flat into a physical problem, which was completely unforeseen. But Georges is the incredible athlete that he is and he managed to find a way to get through that and enact the original plan and he did exactly what the plan was designed to do,” he said.

“He finished the fight with a beautifully applied strike into a submission hold. He showed increased power, he knocked down a man who is extraordinarily difficult to knock down in a weight division above him.

“He showed genuine improvements in punching power. He showed genuine improvements in submission attacks finishing people from the back and he did it on a man in a weight class above him in a dynamic and tidy fight that went back and forth, and thrilled a sold out crowd in Madison Square Garden.”

By knocking down Bisping before finishing him with a rear naked choke in the third round of their bout, Danaher believes the former champion overcame the three biggest criticisms of his career in ‘one fell swoop’:

“All three of the main criticisms of his legacy were answered in one fell swoop. It was a fantastic achievement on his part, made all the more remarkable by the fact that he had to go through such physical adversity in order to get it done.”