Georges St-Pierre had a crack at the UFC title in only his ninth professional bout, well before the world realized he was destined to be a legend.
St-Pierre was afraid, which may seem strange now, nearly 17 years after he originally challenged Matt Hughes for the welterweight belt. And it wasn’t just nerves or the jitters before a fight. At UFC 50, St-Pierre revealed he was “terrified to death” to fight Hughes.
“In my third fight (in the UFC), I had to fight Matt Hughes,” St-Pierre told Burt Watson in the latest “Legend 2 Legend” episode. “And when Dana White told me I was fighting for the title, I thought it was a joke. I didn’t believe it. And to tell you frankly, I didn’t want that fight. I was scared to death. I didn’t want to fight him. I knew I wasn’t ready.”
St-Pierre tapped to Hughes with one second left in the first round after Hughes caught him with an armbar. It was St-Pierre’s first career loss.
St-Pierre said that initial loss to Hughes helped him realize he could turn the corner. After that, he won five fights in a row and got another shot at Hughes at UFC 65, and there he knocked him out to win the belt. He lost the title to Matt Serra in one of the biggest upsets in MMA history his next time out, but after that never lost the rest of his career – and won the welterweight title back and, eventually, the middleweight title, too.
“I fought him. I hung there a little bit until I got caught with an armbar,” he said. “But after I watched the fight, I realized my problem was just mental. I went there to fight him not to win – I went there not to lose. After that fight, I said, ‘You know what? I can be there with the best guys in the world. I can beat anybody.’”
Hughes was one of the most dominant fighters in the sport at the time, according to St-Pierre, and he had a dominant pair of wins over a legend from St-home Pierre’s country of Canada.
Hughes was 37-4 overall and 10-2 in the UFC when he first defeated St-Pierre. The welterweight champion had a resume that included ground-and-pound TKOs, submissions, and a memorable slam to win the title.
“It was a nightmare for me,” St-Pierre said of the first Hughes matchup. “People sometimes don’t remember how scary Matt Hughes was. He used to grab guys and throw them on their heads. He was a scary guy to fight. He had some crazy highlight reels.
“One of the pioneers of martial arts in Canada was Carlos Newton. He was the first (Canadian) champion in the UFC. For most martial arts people at the time, he was like a god. And Matt Hughes grabbed Carlos Newton from a triangle choke, stood up with him and slammed him and knocked him out – one of the most brutal knockouts in UFC history.”
Check out the video above for St-Pierre’s recollection of his first fight with Hughes, and don’t miss the full episode of “Legend 2 Legend” below.
Source: USA Today