Will Koscheck's taunting bring out the best in St. Pierre?
Is trash talk still trash talk if you don't really mean it?
Ever since the UFC announced that Georges St. Pierre would headline UFC 124 by defending his welterweight title against Josh Kosheck, the challenger has been lobbing verbal bombs at the surprisingly patient champ.
In October Koscheck made plane that he didn't plan to lose to a "French guy."
*Koscheck casts himself as the anti-Canadian in the bout but he must have studied geography under Don Cherry if he thinks being from Quebec makes you "French." No more than being from Ontario makes me "English," but I digress.*
And if you watched the latest season of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter" you saw Koscheck needle St. Pierre ceaselessly hoping, it seemed, to distract the champ from the task he'll face this Saturday.
It's a tried and true tactic, both in the ring and in the octagon, and with this showdown taking place in St. Pierre's hometown Koscheck had the chance to revel in the heel role, use the crowd's animosity as fuel and make St. Pierre so angry he forgets his game plan.
But on Monday afternoon conference call to hype the fight Koscheck revealed he doesn't plan to take this villain act that far this week because it was, after all, just an act.
"The show needed some entertainment," said Koscheck, who enters Saturday on a three-fight win streak. "(The trash talk) was nothing more than that."
Well St. Pierre says it's too late anyway.
The 29-year-old Montreal native says Koscheck's trash talk won't distract him when he enters the octagon. He intends to execute his plan, period.
But he acknowledged that Koscheck's verbal barrage motivated him in the lead-up to the fight, fueling him through grueling training session and pushing him to craft a fool-proof game plan.
"I prepared myself like I've never prepared myself before," said St. Pierre, who hasn't lost since April 2007. "This is the best Georges St. Pierre I've ever been. I'm sharper everywhere, I've been working on a lot of different things for this fight and I can't wait to show it to the public."
These two men first met in August 2007, while St. Pierre was working his way back to the welterweight title and Koscheck fighting to prove that he was a true mixed martial artist and not just a wrestler in an octagon. St. Pierre, stronger and more savvy, won that bout by unanimous decision.
But in the arms race that is top-flight MMA, each man has added plenty of weapons in the three intervening years.
Koscheck was an accomplished NCAA wrestler but St. Pierre controlled him in their first bout, so even as his striking and grappling skills have improved Koscheck says he spent this training camp polishing his wrestling skills.
St. Pierre, meanwhile, hit the mitts.
In the past St. Pierre says he would throw punches mainly to set up his nearly unstoppable takedowns, but after working with superstar boxing trainer Freddie Roach, St. Pierre says he'll enter Saturday's fight ready to throw knockout blows.
"Before I knew (Roach) I thought I knew boxing, but I found out that I didn't," St. Pierre said. "He corrected a lot of stuff. I feel...very confident.
Roach has said he expects St. Pierre to win by knockout Saturday but when St. Pierre co-signed on the prediction Koscheck couldn't resist countering with his own verbal jab.
"Working with Freddie Roach is all good...but Freddie Roach can't teach strengthening your chin," he said. "That's where I'm going to hit George and knock him out on Saturday."
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