ATLANTA — Georges St-Pierre is the UFC welterweight champion and widely regarded as the biggest draw in mixed martial arts, having attracted more than 750,000 pay-per-view buys to six different events over the past four years.
But he’s also a fan. And no one is looking forward to Saturday’s light heavyweight title showdown between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans more.
“As a fan of the sport, it’s definitely a fight I want to see,” St-Pierre said Thursday at the Georgia State University Sports Arena, where several fighters on Saturday’s card held open workouts for media and fans. “Both of these guys are incredibly talented. I believe that a mistake from one of these two guys will be fatal.”
St-Pierre, who turns 31 next month, hasn’t fought since making his seventh consecutive defense of the UFC’s 170-pound title with a points victory over Jake Shields in April 2011. He pulled out of an October defense against Carlos Condit due to a knee injury suffered in training. Two months later, it was revealed St-Pierre would be sidelined 10 months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
“I’m in good shape now, but I’m not in fighting shape,” said St-Pierre, who explained the graft in his knee needs more time to fuse before he moves on from light exercise. “In two months it’s going to 100 percent. I don’t want to mess it up. If I try to jump or go too fast, I will have to do it all over again.”
St-Pierre spoke highly of rising welterweight prospect Rory MacDonald, who fights Che Mills in Saturday’s co-feature bout. The 22-year-old MacDonald, who trains alongside St-Pierre at Tristar Gym in Montreal, says he wants to be a world champion within two years — in the division St-Pierre currently rules.
“I’m not interested in fighting him,” St-Pierre said, repeating himself multiple times. “There are a lot of welterweights. I don’t think we have to do it now. In two years, who knows? Maybe I will go to middleweight. Who knows what’s going to happen?”
Ever the diplomat, St-Pierre abstained from predicting Saturday’s winner — but he said it won’t take long to see who’s in the driver’s seat.
“After the first round, we will have a good idea of who will impose his dominance,” he said. “After the first round, we will see who will be the winner, who will be able to impose his game on the other guy.”
– Bryan Armen Graham