Georges St-Pierre may be the king of MMA in Quebec but Patrick (The Predator) Cote is also UFC royalty in La Belle Province.
The 34-year-old welterweight, in his 10th year in the UFC, will walk into the cage for the 15th time Wednesday night when he takes on Australian Kyle Noke in a battle of rival coaches from The Ultimate Fighter Nations reality TV show.
England’s Michael Bisping, ranked No. 5 among middleweight contenders, faces No. 8 Tim Kennedy in the main event at the Colisee Pepsi.
Cote, wearing a Quebec Nordiques cap, received rapturous applause at a public workout Sunday at a Quebec City mall.
The five-foot-11 Cote — a native of Rimouski who now lives outside of Montreal — has remade himself into a welterweight, studying nutrition himself to ease the weight cut from 205-210 pounds to 170 pounds.
Clearly comfortable in his own skin these days, he credits the people around him for easing his path. He used to work with just a trainer — now he has a team that includes a sports psychiatrist and nutritionist.
“I don’t do anything by myself now,” he said. “I have a specialist in everything. Right now it’s easier for me to train. I just follow what they tell me to do.”
Cote (20-8 including 6-8 in the UFC) showed off his flexibility at the workout, bending a leg up like a figure skater.
“I feel awesome,” said Cote, who spent three weeks in Thailand during his training camp. “For this fight, I feel I have no worries. I have a free mind. I’m not nervous at all. I’m just going there to do my thing.”
For Tom Wright, managing director for UFC operations in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Cote showed his leadership skills during the six-week taping of the TV show. They already knew he was popular.
“Pat was chosen because we also know he has a very strong following here ... And he’s been our go-to person on broadcasts.”
While Cote has been in and out of the UFC as a fighter, he has been ever-present as the organization’s French-language commentator. He also is an MMA and boxing analyst on the TVA network.
“Not only is he comfortable at it, he’s very good at it,” said Wright. “He knows his stuff.”
A trailblazer in Canadian mixed martial arts, Cote has also proved to be a survivor.
The former soldier — he served in Bosnia — started his UFC career in the deep end, bumped up a weight class and moved to the UFC 50 main event from the undercard on short notice after light-heavyweight star Tito Ortiz’s opponent dropped out.
At the time, Cote’s screensaver just happened to be a shot of Ortiz.
Cote lost by decision but acquitted himself well, even wobbling Ortiz at one point — a photo of which replaced the screensaver shot of Ortiz for some time after.
Cote lost his next three UFC fights, winning two more outside the organization before being shunted into Season 4 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which featured fighters looking for a second chance.
The Canadian made into the final, only to lose a chance at a title shot when he was beaten by Travis Lutter.
Cote went on to win his next five fights, including four in the UFC, to earn a championship bout against Anderson Silva. He took the Brazilian to the third round at UFC 90 in October 2008 before losing by TKO when he had to quit due to a knee injury.
Two knee surgeries followed and Cote did not fight again until May 2010. Back-to-back losses and he was dumped from the UFC again.
Cote won four straight outside the UFC to earn his ticket back. He lost a decision to Cung Le but has won his last two outings, dropping down to welterweight last time out in March 2013 to beat Bobby Voelker at UFC 158.
Preparation for and taping of the TUF Nations show kept both Cote and Noke on the sidelines. Cote has not fought since Voelker while Noke, who also had to overcome shoulder surgery and a hand issue, has been idle since a November 2012 win over Charlie (The Spaniard) Brenneman.
The Brenneman bout was the six-foot-two Noke’s first at welterweight.
Cote and Noke (20-6-1 including 4-2 in the UFC) were the picture of professionalism during the taping, with no drama between the two.
“We understood the superstars of the show were the fighters,” said Cote.
“We both went into the show with the same mentality of it was more about the fighters than us,” echoed Noke, who was a cast member on Season 11 of the show.
Cote saw four of his fighters advance to the two finals, meaning that the first Canadian TUF winners will be crowned Wednesday.
The Aussies didn’t have it easy, however. They had to compete in hostile territory in Canada and had to hit the ground running with no time afforded to recover from jet lag.
Noke, 34, is still in Cote’s backyard but has no complaints.
“A fight’s a fight, doesn’t matter where it is,” he said philosophically.
Noke’s resume famously includes a stint as a security officer for the late Steve Irwin, known as the “Crocodile Hunter.”
“That was a great experience for me,” said the native of Australia’s Sunshine Coast who now fights out of Albuquerque, N.M. “Something I still look back on now and can’t really believe I did. Steve was a great guy, he was a great inspiration to be around
“I think he really helped me as well in my fighting. The passion that he showed for everything, he just brought that out around people ... He was a great person, a great motivator for me. There’s no doubt I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Steve.”
Away from the cage and the studio, Cote is involved in real estate investments and Kore Fit Living, a sports equipment and nutrition company.
During the summer, he likes to spend time on the golf course and on his boat.