GSP pulls out all the stops for Shields bout
A major reason behind the success UFC welterweight titleholder George St. Pierre continues to experience inside the Octagon is consistency.
Before each fight, St. Pierre proclaims his current opponent to be the toughest he has ever faced. It's a mental exercise, of course. St. Pierre doesn't ever want to make the mistake of underestimating an adversary -- some might say he learned that lesson the hard way.
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But there is something different in the tone of St. Pierre's praises when he speaks reverently about the man he faces Saturday at UFC 129 in Toronto, former Strikeforce middleweight and Elite XC welterweight champion Jake Shields.
Like previous challengers, St. Pierre refers to Shields as his toughest opponent, but this time he actually means it. But if his words don't convince you, maybe his actions leading up to the fight will.
St. Pierre was concerned enough with the threat Shields poses that he has added a new wrinkle to his training regimen: gymnastics.
"The reason why I am doing gymnastics is very simple," St. Pierre said. "If you take any athlete in any sport, competing against each other in any sport, the one who will have the most success is the [gymnast].
"No one can replicate the movement of gymnastic guys, but gymnastic guys can reproduce the moves of everyone. They are the most athletic athletes in the world."
Translation: GSP knew he'd have to bring more to the cage than his usual, already well-rounded game when he signed on the dotted line to face Shields. And no one can say he didn't go the extra mile to make sure he's covered all his bases by the time the first bell rings Saturday.
Aldo won't be peeved by partisan crowd
More than 55,000 fans are expected inside Toronto's Rogers Centre on Saturday to witness UFC 129. It will be the largest on-site audience ever to see a mixed martial arts card in North America. An overwhelming majority of them will be there to cheer fellow Canadians George St. Pierre and Mark Hominick.
UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo could get caught up in the moment and seek to steal the spotlight, but he remains grounded. Aldo is a mild-mannered, focused fighter who will not let anything get in the way of his primary task -- to dispose of Hominick.
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Remaining calm and focused is part of Aldo's strategy before every fight, whether 55,000 are expected to watch or 55. The greatest reward he will receive Saturday is retaining his title belt.
"I'm not too worried about whether people are paying attention to me or not right now," said Aldo, the former WEC featherweight champion, who will be making his UFC debut. "What I'm focused on Saturday night is putting on a good performance and then people will know who I am."
White not for fighters' false shows of bravado
It is commonly perceived by casual fight fans that the participants have a deep hatred for one another. This perception might be derived mostly from high-profile boxing matches, where some trash-talking incidents have become legendary.
In most instances, the fighters really don't like each other. But there are times when the verbal back and forth is done to increase interest in the fight, in hopes that antics will attract attention and maybe bigger paydays.
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The long-standing belief is that if fighters hate each other, they will perform harder.
This has been the rationale for many of boxing's biggest fights. But pushing, shoving and verbal threats isn't the driving force behind most of MMA's high-profile fights.
"It happens," UFC president Dana White said. "Sometimes you have two guys you can't let near each other, but it's very rare. This is what it's normally like; these guys are very respectful.
"You don't have to have guys up here calling each other names to sell tickets. It's fun sometimes when it does happen, but you don't need it to sell mixed martial arts."
Franklin McNeil covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at Franklin_McNeil.
Tumult In Toronto
UFC 129 By The Numbers
Largest Attendance in UFC History
Largest Attendance in MMA History
|2002||Pride Shockwave||71,000||Tokyo National Stadium|
|2003||Pride Final Conflict||67,451||Tokyo Dome|
|2011||UFC 129||55,000||Rogers Centre|
|2005||Pride Shockwave||49,801||Saitama Super Arena|
|2006||Pride Shockwave||48,709||Saitama Super Arena|
How They Stack Up
|Career dec pct||38.1||50.0|
Most Title Bouts UFC History
Best Win Percentage
UFC Welterweight Title Bouts (Min. 5 Bouts)
|Georges St. Pierre||8-2||.800|
Georges St. Pierre During 8-Bout Win Streak
St. Pierre UFC Ranks Since 2000
In These Corners ...
"Mark [Hominick] and I are both strikers who like to move forward and we like to attack [in the Octagon]. He's got his game plan, I have my game plan. We will see who ends up winning." -- UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo
"To go from weighing in at the Holiday Inn with fighters and their seconds, literally in the lobby of the Holiday Inn, to what you're going to see on Friday is a remarkable journey [for MMA]." -- Former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champ Randy Couture
"Every fight, in every situation, there's a lot of pressure, whether it's the pressure of defending your title, the pressure of being a challenger or the pressure of making your debut. But I feel very well prepared for this fight." -- Former UFC light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida