LAS VEGAS – After mumbling out a few remarks from the podium, Brock Lesnar declared he was done talking and was about to perform one of his patented moves – storming out of a press conference.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion turned to exit stage right, leaving five of his fellow fighters to promote Saturday's UFC 100 card without him. He got two steps before company president Dana White threw an arm around his massive shoulders, leaned into his ear and set the record straight.
"Sit down," White said he told Lesnar, who actually complied.
Afterward White shook his head in disbelief at the scene, "the guy's trying to leave the UFC 100 press conference?" Two other times during the hour-long session, White had to talk to Lesnar about not leaving Mandalay Bay early. Lesnar had decided he was too good to continue promoting an event that will earn him an estimated $3 million. Don't doubt Dana's power, he got Brock to stay until the end, a square off with opponent Frank Mir as cameras flashed.
"I'm telling you, people don't want my job," White laughed after. "Telling a 400-pound dude to sit down?"
Sitting next to Lesnar during the entire affair was a far more accomplished mixed martial artist, a man enjoying a longer run as a champion and a class act who not only never thought of leaving early, he actually stayed late.
Long after Brock was finally allowed to bail, Georges St. Pierre was still doing interviews with everyone from a Japanese television network to a British newspaper, all while wearing a black pinstriped Armani suit.
"If you want to be treated like a professional athlete," the UFC welterweight [170-pound] champion said, "you have to look like a professional athlete."
There are no antics with St. Pierre. No foolishness. No outward ego. Lesnar is the exception in the MMA world; the vast majority of fighters are about projecting positive images and going the extra mile to help grow their sport. Still, few seem to take it as seriously as St. Pierre.
Forget defying or disappointing White, GSP even gave him a gift – a portrait of St. Pierre, which while finely done, may have, as a present, gotten lost in the cultural translation. The thought counts, though.
"One of the classiest, most respectful guys," White said. "He's an awesome human being."
He's every bit the equal as a fighter, a dynamic, world-class athlete who through dedication to self-improvement has become possibly the finest pound-for-pound fighter in the world. (GSP is tied at No. 1 in the Yahoo! Sports poll with Affliction heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko).
St. Pierre is 28 and if not in the prime of his career, he's approaching it. His skill level, well-rounded game and precision make him a poster boy for changing the impression that this is some glorified Toughman competition.
He's 18-2 overall and won 11 of his last 12, the lone defeat coming on a stunning upset to Matt Serra, who caught GSP with a punch and pounced. St. Pierre avenged the defeat and almost no one considers the two anywhere near equals.
If St. Pierre has his way, no one will be his equal. He's a big dreamer, a guy who sets high bars and then, at least thus far, finds a way to clear them. His last one is his highest.
"My goal is to be known as the best MMA fighter in history," St. Pierre said. "That is what I'm fighting for."
Saturday he'll take on an extremely dangerous Thiago "Pitbull" Alves, a hulking, bruising Brazilian, in one of the main events. The fight hasn't garnered the hype of his last victory – a mega-clash over B.J. Penn – or even the promise of a future one against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, who White still regards as the best fighter in the world.
St. Pierre says anyone who can't see the challenge of Alves isn't paying attention.
"He's the toughest guy that I've fought thus far," said GSP, who has wins over ex-champions Penn (twice), Matt Hughes (twice) and Sean Sherk. "Skill-wise, he brings more problems than any other guy I've fought."
This is what he wants. He begs White for the toughest fights imaginable. He's willing to take on anyone in or out of his division. Much like Silva, GSP is one of the UFC's ultimate warriors, whatever's best for the company, whatever's best for the sport.
"I want to be known as the best so I want to fight the best guys," he said.
This entire life still seems like a dream to him, he says. He was a small for his age growing up in Saint-Isidore, Quebec, a small town outside of Montreal. He was bullied until he took up Kyokushin karate and then one day saw this thing called the UFC where a guy named Royce Gracie kept beating guys bigger and stronger without even punching them. He was hooked.
"I have goals that I fix," St. Pierre said. "Before I started doing MMA, I wanted to be a MMA professional fighter. Everybody told me I couldn't do it and I did it.
"When I became MMA professional fighter, I wanted to fight in the UFC, the most prestigious organization. Everybody told me I couldn't do it and I did it.
"After that I wanted become a UFC world champion. Everybody told me I couldn't do it, it's impossible, this guy Matt Hughes is going to be there forever, he is a beast. And I did it. I beat him."
His next goal meant even more. In August of 2008, after a big day in UFC 87, he secretly went down to the bank in Saint-Isidore, opened up an account and met with the banker.
"I told the guy at the bank, you see that money I put in the account. I don't want my parents to pay any more debt the rest of their life. So the mortgage, the car, you take the money and put the money there."
When the bank called his father Roland, who installs carpets and ceramic tile for a living, and explained why there wouldn't be a mortgage due that month, Georges got an ear full.
"My mama was crying, 'Why did you do that?' And my dad was kind of mad, 'Why did you do that, it's your money?' "
St. Pierre smiled at the memory.
"It was the most beautiful day of my life."
He now owns two homes himself and can't believe his good fortune: financially, physically or emotionally. He is solely focused on the challenges ahead and the responsibilities they bring with them. This is his time, he knows. This is his chance to carve a lasting place in a sport that he works tirelessly to promote.
Saturday comes the challenge of Alves in what should be a classic clash on an historic night. If he wins, who knows what's next? He'd fight Silva. Or he'll wait for later.
"Whatever Dana thinks is best," he said, nodding to White.
Sometimes running the UFC, with all these divergent personalities, all these fragile egos, all the moods of Brock Lesnar feels like a circus to Dana White. And sometimes he's glad he can look over at his superstar welterweight, dressed to the nines and smiling for the camera, and know there isn't going to be a hint of drama.
- Brock Lesnar
- Dana White