"Georges is being weird right now," UFC president Dana White said Thursday. "Georges isn't close to being Georges.
"There's no doubt this thing has messed with his head. I just think he's pissed. He's a in a different place than he's ever been because he's mad."
White said he visited the 31-year-old welterweight champion in the Montreal hotel hosting UFC fighters this week and the man wasn't his polite self. St-Pierre was curt. He was "different, weird." St-Pierre's sighs and eye rolls and perturbed facial expressions at the final news conference before meeting Diaz at the Bell Centre on Saturday sure were hard to miss. At a minimum he appeared frustrated with having to listen to Diaz rant again, that "uneducated fool." At most, he’s steaming mad, like White suggested, and thusly off his game.
As UFC 158 approaches, the intrigue hangs on St-Pierre’s attitude and whether it will impact what he attempts to do to Diaz in the cage. Will the estimable champion’s distaste for Diaz lead him to try to bury the challenger from California? Or will he lift off the gas and stay conservative, a recoiling reaction to what he’s feeling inside?
Control has always been the name of St-Pierre's game. Mentally. Tactically. Physically. Emotionally. He does not go off the rails because he just doesn't. Well ... hasn’t.
"As crazy as Nick Diaz seems,” White insinuated, "there's strategy in it."
Has that strategy worked on a man with just one fluke loss in 17 fights since 2004?
Asked whether St-Pierre really is upset enough with Diaz ahead of another monster fight in his hometown to do something foolish, John Danaher, the champ’s jiu-jitsu trainer and cerebral guru, demurred.
"He is a professional and a tactician,” Danaher said. “He knows that technique wedded to physical preparation guided by strategy wins fights; not emotion."
St-Pierre, to be fair, is also a man, one -- based on recent evidence -- seemingly not above wearing frustration like his tailored pinstripe suits. Even the best of us are capable of succumbing to that reality from time to time, no?
"A man who extolls high-percentage approaches to gain competitive advantage,” Danaher responded. “Emotions are for amateurs."
How is this even possible in a hot-blooded sport like MMA? To be so detached as to remove all emotion?
St-Pierre has been tagged as some sort of automaton, so if there’s a person able to live above the fray, perhaps it’s him. Yet his reactions to Diaz, the pressure that comes with fighting in the city that raised him, the expectations built into a St-Pierre fight ... none of those things come across as emotion-free.
Which thoughts will prevail in his head as he stands across from Diaz on fight night:
Anger? Hate? Self-preservation? Control?
For all of White’s selling of St-Pierre as somehow off his French-Canadian rocker, it is a difficult notion to accept. Nothing in St-Pierre’s history, at least caged history, indicates he’ll forgo tactics for a firefight. Nothing. He’ll walk into the cage having been buoyed by the preconceptions of superiority, and for good reason. St-Pierre appears stronger, more athletic, more ring-intelligent. Diaz gets hit too much in the head and St-Pierre holds speed, power and reach advantages. Diaz can’t defend low kick and St-Pierre will really turn into them when he wants to. And Diaz won’t be able to stay off his back against the best MMA wrestler in the sport. From his back Diaz is dangerous yet wide-open, and St-Pierre has always been aware and efficient.
You see, St-Pierre should be able to dictate what he wants, which is why the potential for him losing it is so interesting. Every perceived advantage is in his corner. He’s as pro as pro can be, and remember, emotions are for amateurs.
Given everything that’s transpired in the lead-up to this title fight, it’s difficult to picture, if afforded the chance, when risk is minimized and the advantage is clear, that St-Pierre wouldn’t attempt to pound Diaz into the canvas.
Out of anger. Or not.