John Danaher, coach to Georges St. Pierre, talks about GSP’s title defense at UFC 129.
Toronto, Ontario, Can. — Fighting in front of the biggest crowds in UFC history is nothing new for welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
Each of his two title fights in Montreal have generated record-setting attendance figures for the company, and this weekend will establish a new benchmark for MMA in North America.
For St. Pierre, this fight presents an opportunity to continue his push towards MMA immortality in front of more than 55,000 fans, many of whom will be in his corner. While the welterweight champion stuck to standard platitudes at Wednesday’s press conference, his Brazilian jiu jitsu coach John Danaher expanded on the French-Canadian superstar’s thoughts on competing on the biggest stage in UFC history.
“Georges takes very seriously his position as one of the main figureheads of mixed martial arts, and I know from many discussions with him that he’s delighted to be part of such a large event, in front of such a large crowd. He was ecstatic to hear not only that it was the largest event, but that it sold out so quickly.”
While fans and media began focusing on a potential superfight with Anderson Silva following the Brazilian’s knockout victory over Vitor Belfort at UFC 126, those discussions have died down in recent weeks. Danaher says that the topic hasn’t come up during St. Pierre’s training camp.
“We actually haven’t talked about it at all this fight camp because I like to make sure the fighter to focused on the task at hand. I think it would be a little insulting to Jake Shields to be talking about Anderson Silva while there is still such a big fight in front of us. To be honest, we haven’t really discussed moving up or anything other than this fight with Shields.”
The challenger has been pegged as a heavy underdog, but St. Pierre and his camp have spoken at length about the amount of respect they have for Shields and his acumen inside the cage. Despite being on the biggest stage in North American history and breaking new territory in his country’s largest city, Danaher says that St. Pierre’s preparation has remained the same for this fight and that the pressure fades once the cage door closes.
“[Preparing for a fight] always follows the same basic philosophy; assessing the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent and correlating those to his own strengths and weaknesses, and looking for the most high percentage way to achieve victory. That doesn’t change.
“The pressure is only really felt leading up to the fight. The bottom line is that both players are professional mixed martial arts athletes, and once the door of the Octagon gets shut, all the crowd, all the hype goes out the window.
“It becomes who is prepared better, who has the better strategy, who has the better set of skills? People often lose sight of that; these guys are professionals. When the fight begins, all the talk, all the hype goes out the window. Two professionals clash, and you’ll see a competition of athleticism and skills, rather than words and hype.”
While the hype surrounding this fight has been cooler than some of St. Pierre’s previous battles or other recent UFC main events, this encounter will definitely be as Danaher anticipates – a clash of two high-level athletes at the top of their games.