Saturday, April 7, 2007

St-Pierre to fight like a challenger

By Steve Sievert

Canadian champ prepares to defend title for first time

Even though he has the title belt to prove it, Georges St-Pierre is having a difficult time settling in to the role of UFC champion.

Maybe it has something to do with getting on his knees in the octagon to beg for a title shot or coming up short in his first crack at the championship belt. The 25-year-old Canadian has been the UFC welterweight champion since beating Matt Hughes last November, but you would never know it from talking to him.

"The way I take this fight, I don't see myself as the champion," said St-Pierre of his bout tonight against Matt Serra in the main event of UFC 69 at Toyota Center. "That way, I keep my motivation up as much as I can. This is the first time that I'm champion, and I read a lot of books about athletes. When they reach a point when they're champions, that's how they keep their motivation up, so I decided to do the same thing."

St-Pierre and Serra were due to tangle at UFC 67 in February, but St-Pierre injured a knee, forcing a postponement. GSP, as he's known among his mixed martial arts contemporaries, comes into his first title defense healed up and a heavy favorite — another role with which he's not entirely comfortable.

"Matt Serra's not the same fighter he used to be," said St-Pierre (13-1), who trained briefly with Serra last year during the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show. "He's improved a lot, and I am going to have to be careful, especially on the ground. The main concern is to not hear what people are telling me, that I'm the favorite to win the fight. I need to take this fight very seriously. To me, right now Matt Serra is the most dangerous guy on earth."

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