Former UFC champion turned actor Georges St-Pierre tells Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole that despite a Hall of Fame career in MMA that he's still working on becoming that "ideal Georges St-Pierre" that he dreamed of when he was young.
KEVIN IOLE: Hey, folks. I am Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports, and it is my great pleasure to bring back UFC Hall of Famer and actor, one of the greatest fighters who ever lived, and one of the best guys that I ever covered in a long career of writing about mixed martial arts-- of course, that has to be Georges St-Pierre. Georges, how are you, my friend?
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: I'm doing fantastic. And yourself?
KEVIN IOLE: I am awesome. You know, it's fun to get a chance to talk to you now. Let's first start with the great honor that you had recently-- you were inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. Obviously, that was a no-brainer, that at some point you were going to get in, but as you're standing on stage that night with all those legends not only on stage but in the crowd, what was the emotion that was going through you when you thought about that?
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: Man, it's the biggest honor an athlete can have when he retired, and it's the cherry on top. And my favorite part was actually the fact that I was able to see all these guys. Mark Coleman, Bas Rutten, Royce Gracie. They were all there hanging out backstage, and it was a lot of fun to get them all together at once. I took some great pictures.
KEVIN IOLE: I was going to say, you're kind of a fanboy for Royce. I knew that, because you even during your career you made known. Yet-- and these guys were fanboys of yours, so it was a little bit funny sometimes, huh?
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: I'm a huge fan of all these guys-- Bas Rutten, Mark Coleman-- they all paved the way for us. And we learned from them, and performance in sport gets better. It always improves with time, because we learned from our predecessors. And the fighters of today are better than ones of yesterday, I believe. And the ones of tomorrow will be better than the ones off today. That's how it goes, you know?
We can't measure it, because it's not a sport that you can measure. You can measure, for example, the time of a 100 meter sprinter, how heavy someone lifts the bar, but fighting, it's very subjective. So we always speculate, who would have won between Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali, or a guy like Tyson Fury. You know what I mean? But I'm under the impression that, as time goes by, generally, fighters get better.
KEVIN IOLE: I agree with that. And one of your peers that you fought in, I think, what was the best selling pay-per-view of your career was Nick Diaz, and it was kind of interesting. He came back-- I mean, just amazing, Georges, when you think about it. 17 years after he first fought Robbie Lawler and six years after he last fought, he fought again. You were in the locker room before the fight. So I got two questions for you. Number one, what was your relationship with Nick like? And number two, how did you think he looked after such a long time away?
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: First, I don't have a relationship with Nick. He just happened to be in the same locker room, and when he came I didn't know-- you never know what to expect. So I looked at him, and he came, and he put his hand like this. And I said to myself, OK, now it's all good.
So I wish him the best of luck, because was fighting-- it was a tough night for him, because he came back after-- I think it was six or seven years. It was a long, long time. Nobody can come back as good as they were before, after that much time. And I'm under the impression Nick left a lot of money on the table, unfortunately for him, because maybe his best years are behind him. But he was-- for sure, he was rusty.
And it's not to make any excuses, but maybe we haven't seen the best out of him yet. Maybe he's going to come back and get better, because after seven years-- I fought after more than four years. I can tell you, it's very hard.
There's a lot of things that you cannot do in training, you cannot replicate in training, that happens in a fight. And the only way to get it back is through the experience of real competition. And I think he can be better at than he was. I think he can come back better, if he wants to. Of course, it's always about if he wants to.
There is a difference between fighters that goes there to collect a paycheck and fighters that want to come back to become champion. And I know what he wants. He needs to figure it out for himself, but whatever he chooses to do, you need to stick to it and go all in, you know? It's a game that you cannot go halfway. You have to go all in.
KEVIN IOLE: Georges, your promotion with him was one of the craziest promotions. And I remember Dana got mad at the one press conference Nick didn't show up. And then the wolf tickets thing at the press conference in Montreal-- was that a surreal experience, going through that? And did you feel like that was just Nick being Nick, or do you think he was trying to get into your head to kind of affect your performance?
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: I don't know him personally enough to tell you that, but I believe that's his character. That's his persona. That's how he is. He's a very charismatic person, and he's not afraid to say whatever he thinks. He doesn't try to be politically correct. He just says it how it is, and that's why people love him. I think it was his real personality, at the time, that came up.
And now-- we shook hands, everything is done. But I really enjoyed watching him fight. And whatever he chooses to do-- if you chooses to come back, I will enjoy watching him fight again. I will turn on the channel, for sure, and be watching him, for sure. It's always interesting to see what happens with Diaz, you know?
KEVIN IOLE: You were in the corner-- UFC 266, you worked one of the corners early on the fight card. Does that-- when you're in the corner, does that give you a little rush? And do you kind of get the memories-- does it bring that competitive juice out of you? Not of course, the same as if you're actually fighting, but you still have that angst and all the stuff that goes with fighting when you're working a corner?
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: No, I was in the corner, and I thought of it. I was like, man, I really don't miss it, not even a second, not even a little bit. I never really enjoyed fighting. I did this to-- I used fighting as a benchmark to get me where I wanted to get to in life. I never enjoyed it, not even a second.
I enjoy training. I love the freedom that comes with it. When you're good, you have a lot of freedom. I have no boss. I can get out of the radar for six months, if I want. And we all have responsibilities, but I can do whatever I want. Of course, I made a lot of money. I like, also, the fact that it keeps you fit, because you're into sport, you know?
So I like the training, the mentality of martial art. But the fight itself-- I really don't miss it at all. I never enjoyed it. But it's not everybody that is like me. Like some people really do enjoy fighting, you know? We all do this for different reasons.
KEVIN IOLE: I was going to ask you, because you hear a lot of guys say, oh I'm fighting. I love to fight. I do this because-- not because of a paycheck and everything. And I always think, yeah, there are some crazy guy out there that actually likes it. But I think, more often than not, there's more guys like you. Don't you suspect that there's more that have the feeling you have than have the other way, that, hey, I like to get hit. I just like to fight for fighting sake?
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: Well, the best way I can describe it is that I have two personalities. I have the one that is talking to you right now. It's Georges St-Pierre. He's a nice guy. He tried to be a good role model, and he doesn't like to fight. He loved the freedom of his lifestyle. I really enjoyed it.
But there's another person that I can become sometimes during training when I hit the pads, because my body and my memory-- I remember the mechanic of my movement. And when that happens and I starts training, it turns on something into my brain that I become a different kind of person. And
I made a joke to Dana that night, actually, during the Hall of Fame ceremony. I told Dana, I said, if you really want me to come back, just hide somewhere and wait that I'm in the middle of a training and come with a contract and offer me a fight. Because if you come before and after, for sure, I will not accept it, because I'm done.
KEVIN IOLE: That's funny. You know, Georges, you're doing some acting now, got a TV show, "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." I don't know what other plans you have in that realm. But is there any similarities, in terms of preparing for a role on television or in the movies, to fighting, in terms of what you have to go through and the mental focus it takes?
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: Well, I think I was acting all my life, because I never enjoyed fighting. It felt extremely uncomfortable and unbearable to me. However, I pretend in front of camera, in front of my opponent. I put on a poker face, and I pretended I loved it, that I was excited, like the sports psychologist used to say. But I wasn't at all. I didn't have any fun.
And also, sometimes when I was fighting, I was pretending that I want to box someone, then I was wrestling him. And I wanted some-- when pretended that I wanted to wrestle him, then I switched gears, and I transformed myself into a striker. So it's a form of acting.
It's a form of acting, because it's an expression of yourself. That's why it comes-- the word mixed martial arts. That's where the artistic word comes. The heart is to be able to deliver a beautiful technique, not-- winning is the number one priority. But we want to win with a beautiful display of technique. That's the ultimate goal. That's the artistic expression.
But there's a lot of similarities in between acting and fighting. You can train and repeat different scenarios during your training and to get ready for a fight. And when you get into the fight, you realize very quick that your opponent is never as you thought he was. He's always different. The same thing in acting-- I remember I rehearsed so many times certain scenes, because I like to prepare myself very well. That's how I gained my confidence.
And when I get on stage-- on set, I mean, the background is different. The reaction of the actor could be different, as well. So you need to be able to adapt. And Bruce Lee described it very well. He said the best fighters, I believe, are like the best actors.
You need to be like water-- ready to adapt to everything. And a water can adapt to a form, to a cup, to everything that you're going to put in there. And I think it's the same thing for the best actors. And the best actors, they are good to adapt.
KEVIN IOLE: Now, do you have any new projects, any movie projects, in the fires that you're going to be working on?
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: Yeah, I do, actually. And I've been working really hard on my game. Before I did some appearances, but I was too busy competing in mixed martial arts. But now it's been four years that I work on my game every week. I have camera classes, theater classes, all acting classes, English classes. So I think my game has improved a lot.
But all these projects-- a lot of them have been delayed by COVID, unfortunately. But in fall, I'm working on something. Unfortunately, I cannot discuss, because it's always secret. But you guys get to see me soon. And I have, in the meantime, a lot of auditions to do.
So it's fun. It's a new challenge for me. And I have to go back to white belt, so to speak, and work my way up again. And it's interesting. The problem with a lot of guys that are retired is they have nothing to look for after they retire.
That's why I believe a lot of them fall into depression, alcoholism, and they use drugs. I think when you are satisfied, it's finished. That's when you can be unhappy. I'm never satisfied. I always work towards a certain goal. Yeah, my life as a competitor in mixed martial arts is over, but my life is not over.
I always try to become that ideal Georges St-Pierre that I dreamed when I was young, that person that I wanted to become. And I'm not there yet. I try now to turn and to get myself into the acting world, and it's a hell of a challenge, you know? It's very interesting. And the journey is very fun, so far.
KEVIN IOLE: Well, you say your MMA career is over, but you weren't so willing to say your boxing career was over, because you tried like hell to get a fight with Oscar De La Hoya. What were you doing, Georges? What were you thinking for wanting to fight a Hall of Fame boxer?
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: It was something different. It was done for a good cause, a charity. And Oscar De La Hoya is my second-favorite boxer of all time, behind Sugar Ray Leonard. And also, it was not like a regular boxing fight. It was done with bigger gloves-- 14 ounces. It was two-minute rounds, eight rounds. So it was different.
And the chance of getting hurt are minimized. I mean, it's still-- you can still be hurt, if you're not prepared. You can be hurt, don't get me wrong. But if I prepared myself very well, I'm very confident that I would have done well, because I think Oscar is older than me. I think he has more mileage than I do.
Of course, he's much-- in his prime, he was a much better boxer and much more experienced than I am. But I think right now, I could have prepared myself in a way that, with all the world champion-- it would have been a fun thing to do. The fight itself would have been very stressful, but the chance of getting hurt are much less than a real fight. So my days as a competitor, a serious competitor, trying to prove that I'm the strongest man in the world are done.
But I always leave the opportunity open to, maybe, a super fight grappling match or something, a boxing fight with bigger gloves, something that the fans can enjoy and could be done for a good charity cause. You know, I'm an entertainer.
Professional athletes work in the entertainment business. We win-- we make our living because of the fans that are watching us. That's all entertainment-- singers, athletes, actors. So I'm an entertainment. So I work in the entertainment business. And I'm not done yet. Maybe the future-- the future will tell.
KEVIN IOLE: Coming to a big screen near you-- Mr. Georges St-Pierre. Georges, I know you got to hop, so I'll let you roll. I appreciate you, brother. All the best to you, best of luck in the acting career. And you know, who knows? Maybe we'll see you in the ring with boxing gloves on.
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: Yeah, bigger boxing gloves. We'll see.
KEVIN IOLE: Thanks, Georges.
GEORGES ST-PIERRE: Thank you.