At the Bell Center, Monday, February 4th, 2008
Press Conference 10 am
The conference started with Pierre Boivin, President of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, introducing the history of UFC to the media. Matt Serra and George St-Pierre were on stage, with Matt Serra proudly putting his UFC Welterweight title on display. Boivin called George a local hero, and it was obvious that he hoped for George to reclaim his title. He also tried to introduce us to Dana White as well, but confused him with Matt Serra. According to Dana White afterwards, all bald guys looked alike from the top.
Patrick Côté was also there with what looked to be Stephane Patry, TKO President, who also happens to be his manager. Dana White introduced all the fighters that have signed contracts to fight in UFC 83, and Cote’s name was on that list. His opponent has yet to be announced, but Cote will not be doing French commentary as was reported by some websites; he will in fact be fighting.
Dana White talked a lot about how surprised he has been for years on the continued commitment of Canadian fans to the UFC brand. No matter where he put his shows, including overseas, there continued to be a strong number of Canadians at each and every event. Because of this, Dana talked about his commitment to maintaining a continued presence in Canada, including working on a deal to get on Network TV in Canada, similar to what he has with Spike TV.
Dana starts talking about the headline fight between George St-Pierre against Matt Serra, and immediately starts hyping George St-Pierre, saying that in comparing MMA to Basketball, George St-Pierre would bury Michael Jordan. Dana does not understand how George is not absolutely plastered across Canada on Wheaties boxing or anything else for that matter.
Dana then goes on to Matt Serra, who you almost wouldn’t know was even there. Dana references Matt’s first interview where he compared himself to Rocky, being that short little Italian kid from Brooklyn, to which Serra interrupts him and says that he never called himself “short”. Stocky, but not short. Matt Serra would continue to get everyone to laugh, including George St-Pierre, in the few questions that he was actually directed.
Dana gave kudos to Matt for accepting the fight in George’s home province, and admitted when pressed by Matt that he did not give Matt a chance the first time when he “shocked the world” and beat George St-Pierre. Although, it did seem as if he had to stop short of saying the same thing again.
Dana then announced that since the tickets had gone on sale for Fight Club members that weekend, over 13 thousand tickets had already been sold. He is fully expecting to have the event sold out, and with the Bell Center having a capacity of over 22 thousand, it will be the highest attended show they have ever had, breaking the attendance record they recently set in Ohio.
Notes from the Q&A period:
When asked which Rocky opponent George St. Pierre would be, St. Pierre answered that it would not be a Rocky movie at all, and that Serra will find it much different than the movies.
When asked about the apparent growing tension between the two, GSP responded that respects everyone in the sport, despite what has been said in the media. Doesn’t mind what’s been said, because he “doesn’t fight with anger, he fights with his head”.
GSP is questioned if fighting at home will cause any distractions. GSP says he fights best when under pressure and that he is working on his mental game. He believes now that he is a totally different fighter then the one that fought Serra the last time.
When asked about dropping weight should he lose this fight, George said all of his focus is on Matt Serra, so if he loses, he will not drop weight to fight BJ Penn. Hey may gain weight, but not drop it.
Dana White admits that the trip to England was too soon, that they got killed and lost a lot of money.
When asked of this is a trial run for future events in Canada, Dana White basically said that this was not a trial at all. That no matter where they go in the world, Canadians fans are there, so they will continue to fight in Canada. Says a Canadian network deal is in the works.
Serra says that he used to being the underdog, including being “a ridiculous 14-1 underdog the first time”. Said he proved a lot of people wrong, (he looks up at Dana White). Matt continued by saying that he thought that if you beat the man, you should be the man, but Dana likes GSP so much, that he may make it 2 out of 3, or 3 out of 5.
Dana also said that he has been the top PPV promotion in 2006 and 2007, beating the WWE and HBO Boxing, and that states like New York provinces like Ontario would want to change their regulations to allow the UFC to hold events there. .
I really found GSP’s comment about not thinking that Serra is under-estimated at all very interesting. He re-iterated that his loss was due to all the errors he made. Since the question was asked and answered in French, it will be interesting to see what Serra’s comments are when he realizes what was said. Essentially, he agrees that Serra should have been a 14 to 1 underdog.
GSP says that he fights because he wants to, not because he has to. He has degrees in school, and can do something else, but loves the job. He is a shy guy, and does enjoy the privacy he gets in being able to go to movies, and restaurants.
Serra asked about his herniated disks. He says that his L4-L5 disks were herniated but that he had a spinal injected and is back to sparring, and training, and will be fully ready by April 19th.
Dana makes some comments that most of the guys are great guys; that there are “a couple of idiots” …no direct reference to Tito or Couture.
There was a lot of talk on how brining this event to Montreal would now make St-Pierre a regular face in Quebec and across Canada. He gave Michael Bisping as an example of a fighter that was a relative unknown in the UK before The Ultimate Fighter series, but after a few PPV shows, he is now a popular figure in the UK, and Dana expects the same to happen for George.
Dana dismissed the notion of continued Pride versus UFC rivalries. He said that they purchased Pride, so that war is over.
GSP says that like in hockey, it’s not always the best team that wins, but the one that played the best that night. That is what he thinks happened in his last fight with Serra. He made a mistake, and he will not make it again.
Serra is with the same training camp, Renzo Gracie and Ray Luongo, along with a lot of tough guys from his school. He will basically keep the same training camp as the last time he fought GSP.