Being trapped in the middle of a media scrum is not Georges St-Pierre’s idea of a good time, but the mixed martial arts champion is always glad to do it.
Then again, it only ever seems to be an issue when his opponent is the apparently camera-shy Nick Diaz.
And that’s who St-Pierre is set to face when he puts the welterweight championship on the line March 16 at UFC 158 at the Bell Centre.
Diaz reportedly came within a whisker of being pulled from the fight card when he recently failed to show up for three scheduled interviews.
While he eventually did attend to his media obligations, it’s anyone’s guess as to what UFC boss Dana White will do if Diaz is a no-show again at events leading to the fight with St-Pierre.
“I hope they don’t take him out because I’ve trained hard,” St-Pierre said Tuesday amidst a thicket of cameras after a public workout at the Tristar gym. “He’ll show up.
“It would be inconceivable that he doesn’t. He can make some money that will maybe last the rest of his life. Not showing up would be really stupid, and he’s not stupid. He’s strange and unorthodox. He has maybe had trouble dealing with stress in the past. But he’s not an imbecile.”
St-Pierre (23-2), the UFC welterweight champion, will be going for an 11th win in a row. He’s seeking a second straight win since he ended a 19-month injury layoff with a victory by unanimous decision over Carlos Condit at the Bell Centre in November.
Diaz has been in trouble for missing media events before.
St-Pierre was supposed to fight Diaz at UFC 137 in October 2011, but the Stockton, Calif., native was taken off the card when he skipped some pre-fight promotional events. St-Pierre eventually also pulled out with a knee injury.
“We all have our problems,” the 31-year-old St-Pierre said. “I don’t know why he’s had a problem with that.
“It’s true he has problems with anxiety. When he’s in front of a camera he’s not the same. But that’s up to him to deal with. I control what I can control, and that’s to be ready for March 16.”
St-Pierre is one of his sport’s biggest stars and the St. Isidore, Que., native is always in demand for interviews and appearances.
He is at ease with the media, but admits he’d rather spend that time training or doing other things.
“Seriously, I despise it,” he said. “I like you guys (reporters), but I don’t like doing this.
“I’ve been repeating the same thing 50 times every week. It’s like a computer in my head. But it’s part of my job, so he has to do the same. Otherwise, it’s not fair.”
St-Pierre would also hate to have Diaz pulled from the card this close to fight night because he has done specific training for the tricky left-hander with strong boxing skills.
There are strong welterweight contenders on the same fight card who could be promoted to the main event, including Condit versus Johny Hendricks and Jake Ellenberger against Nate Marquardt, but none with the same style as Diaz.
To prepare for Diaz, St-Pierre spent Tuesday at the InterBox gym sparring with former International Boxing Federation super-middleweight champion Lucian Bute, a southpaw.
“It was an amazing experience,” St-Pierre said. “I’ve worked a lot on boxing with Lucian Bute and Jojo Dan, two of the best boxers here.
“They’re world class guys and I learned a lot. It was a very painful experience, but I came out stronger from that and became a better martial artist.”
His trainer, Firas Zahabi, says Diaz may be the best opponent at boxing St-Pierre has faced.
“We’ve put our chips into making sure there’s no headway there for Diaz,” said Zahabi. “That’s strategy: you take away your opponent’s strongest element and take him to where he’s weakest.
“He’s good at body punching. He’s good at boxing. It’s a unique style.”
Bute’s trainer, Stephan Larouche, was impressed with St-Pierre, particularly his tenacity and dedication to getting better at all aspects of his sport.
“He has a jab that is better than a lot of boxers,” said Larouche. “And he’s courageous.
“He used to come to the gym and spar with Bute or Adrian Diaconu back in 2005 and 2006 and he didn’t have the edge, but he’d always come back the next day and he would learn from that.
“The good thing about Georges is he always pretends he’s the worst, but he’s not far from the best (boxers). He wrestles with the best. He does ju jitsu with the best. It’s always with the best.”