by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Monday held a conference call with Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre, who will be fighting for the third time when they meet on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas. Hughes was originally slated to face current UFC welterweight titleholder Matt Serra, but the champion suffered two herniated discs in his back, leaving him unable to defend the belt at UFC 79.
“It’s bad in the fact that I’m fighting a lot tougher opponent than Matt Serra,” said Hughes of the change in opposition.
“I just feel that Matt Serra is getting the easy way out. If he would have beat me, then he would have fought Georges again; so he would have fought both of us. Now, he’s getting the easy way out, fighting just one of us, possibly.”
He continued, “As you can tell, I’m not a big Matt Serra fan right now because of what he’s said about me.
The good thing about this fight is I’m not fighting this guy that’s been bad-mouthing me, but I’m fighting somebody that I really respect. It’ll be a pleasure to fight Georges St-Pierre, a stand-up character like he is, as opposed to somebody like Matt Serra who is just running his mouth.”
As for the relatively short notice for this change, both Hughes and St-Pierre felt that five weeks was ample time to be ready for each other.
“I’m at the top of my game right now. The only thing I was doing wrong is not eating as well as I should, like as well as if I would (be preparing for a) fight,” said St-Pierre.
As for the fight itself, he seemed excited about the opportunity. “I don’t wish nobody bad luck … but for me it is very important to fight for the interim world title. I am glad to fight Matt Hughes. I consider him as the best welterweight on the planet right now.”
Hughes wasn’t overly concerned about his own preparations, saying the biggest change in training will be his focus. “I think I really need to concentrate more and be more focused. There’s such a difference in competition when you look at Matt Serra and when you look at Georges St-Pierre. I’ve publicly said before, Georges St-Pierre knocks Matt Serra out nine out of ten times, so now I’ve really got to step it up and I’ve got to mentally focus and stay on my game to fight someone like Georges.”
One thing that Hughes apparently has working in his favor is a new training regimen. He discussed his exodus from Pat Miletich’s camp and how things are going now that he has broken away from his longtime mentor. This fight with St-Pierre will be his first without having trained at Miletich’s center in Iowa.
“I’m getting much better workouts than I have in the past. I really think I’m going to be in a lot better shape in this fight,” stated Hughes.
“Up at Pat’s it was kind of the same routine. Nobody really told me what to do; I did what I wanted to do. Here, I’ve got some great coaches, they tell me what to do. I don’t have the option of saying, ‘You know, I don’t feel like doing all of that today. I’m just going to run on the treadmill.’
“So I’ve got some coaches that really know what’s going on and they are pushing me. It’s human nature to take the easy way out. I’m a nine-time UFC champion, and yet I’m still human in the fact that I will look for the easy way out. I need to be pushed like everybody else does and now I’ve got people that are going to do that.”
This being the rubber match – Hughes won their first meeting and St-Pierre dominated the second – both fighters have past successes and disappointments to think about. But neither seems to dwell on the past.
“I’ll have a whole different mindset (compared to the loss to St-Pierre),” said Hughes about this fight. “I’m not going to go into what I’m going to do different right now … I just need to get my head screwed on straight and get thinking about Georges and stop thinking about Matt Serra and I’m going to be fine. I’ve got plenty of time to do that.”
Despite winning their last meeting, St-Pierre knows he has to keep his head “screwed on straight” as well. “I’m not overconfident at all. I remember, Matt beat me once and I beat him once. So now it’s equal. We beat each other one time. We’re both going to be different fighters this time. We grew up from our win and loss and it’s going to be a total different fight.”
UFC president Dana White had no qualms about switching gears for what is likely to be the promotion’s biggest event of the year. In fact, he seemed to be rather proud of being able to pull of such a prominent “replacement” fight on short notice.
“If this were boxing we’d be canceling this whole event and every ounce of promotion we did would be for nothing. The fact that we were able to pull an amazing fight like this out of our asses is incredible,” said White.
“Georges stepped up to the plate and said he’d do it. Then Hughes said he’d do it. I found out Serra was out and I was devastated and then the way these two stepped up and jumped into this fight… I was just blown away.
I love the sport when stuff like this happens.”
The fight between Hughes and St-Pierre on Dec. 29 will be for the interim welterweight title. White also verified that it will indeed be the headline bout atop of a loaded card that also features the long-awaited bout between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva.