Georges St-Pierre reveals his personal, philosophical side in new book
Like his fights, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre's first book, Way of The Fight, is methodical and well executed -- and if you're not prepared, it knocks you off your feet like one of GSP's break-neck shots.
A blow-by-blow account of the 31-year-old St-Pierre's climb to the top this is not, at least not in the traditional way readers have come to expect from the handful of fighter-authored tomes that have occupied the market in recent years.
Way is divided into five sections, each featuring interspersed commentary from a person who influenced the French Canadian fighter's development in some profound way. They include St-Pierre's mother, fighter mentor Kristof Midoux, Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach John Danaher, head coach Firas Zahabi, and close friend and manager Rodolphe Beaulieu. All offer insightful thoughts and anecdotes about St-Pierre the fighter, as well as St-Pierre the person.
Like St-Pierre, this book is part philosophical, part scientific, part business-tutorial and even part self-help, with carefully selected pieces of the fighter's personal story interwoven throughout. It's all fascinating, coming from one of the most evolved fighting minds the sport has ever produced. St-Pierre the martial artist dissects MMA on a different level and the layers of dedication he has for his craft are, at times, staggering to read about.
I spoke to St-Pierre about Way of the Fight (William Morrow, $26.99), released in the U.S. this week.
SI: How would you describe this book?
Georges St-Pierre: It's not a biography. It's not a fighter's book. It's a book that's made for everyone who wants to succeed in life and in their own domain. They don't have to be in sports, they don't have to be into MMA at all. I share what techniques and the mentality that I had that allowed me to succeed to the point where I am in my career as a martial artist -- basically, the tricks that I used. Essentially, I made myself a routine and a plan that would allow me to reach my goals and I just repeated it every single day until I reached them. It's personal, philosophical and about [having] a plan.
SI: Your fans will have a strong interest in this book, but there are mantras and practical applications that one could apply to many avenues in life...
St-Pierre: That's right. I didn't want to do an MMA book. I wanted this to reach a bigger audience. I wanted this book to reach someone in a business, someone who wants to graduate from school -- a bigger audience than the MMA audience.
SI: At the start of the book, you explain how this work came out of your knee injury in 2011 when you realized you'd be sidelined with surgery and rehabilitation for some time. [St. Pierre went eighteen months between fights.] Had you given any thought or discussion to writing a book before that?
St-Pierre: When I got hurt, I couldn't do much. I was down. I started writing stuff down, taking notes, and my manager and team said, 'This is very interesting stuff that you're writing. Instead of keeping it for yourself, why don't you share it with the public?' We found Justin Kingsley, who wrote the book [with me]. He's a good friend of mine. Everything I thought in my head he was able to write it down so people could understand. He's very gifted with that skill.
SI: It's interesting that you picked Justin Kingsley, who has a very strong business marketing and advertising background.
St-Pierre: Oh yes. He's very, very smart. I needed to have someone that was a friend to follow me everywhere, someone that I could open up to easily, and most importantly, a person who was able to -- you know how sometimes you try to explain something that's in your head and you don't have the words to share the knowledge. He was very good at describing what was going through my mind on paper. Me, I don't have the skill for that. Justin is not a martial artist. He has nothing to do with the MMA world and he doesn't know that world. I needed someone like this to share my point of view with the rest of the world.
SI: You divulge quite a bit about your personal approach to fights and how you break down opponents. Are you concerned that it could be detrimental to give away too many of your fighting secrets and your opponents can use this information against you?
St-Pierre: I'm happy to share it and I talk a lot about my errors because if you admit that you're afraid, then you can overcome it. If you fear and you don't admit it, that's when you're lying to yourself. Sharing it with the people, I'm honest with myself and I can step over it.
SI: Fear -- and how you've dealt with it over the years -- is a recurring theme throughout the book. For practical purposes here, I thought I'd ask you a hypothetical question. What advice would you give someone who's deathly afraid of spiders, to the point that they freeze when they see one?
St-Pierre: For me, personally, when I'm afraid of something -- when you're afraid of something, normally you try to go away, you try to avoid it. Instead of avoiding it, to overcome your fear, I believe you need to embrace it. If you're afraid of spiders, research spiders to get to know it more and understand what goes through its mind. By knowing more about it, your fear might go away a bit. You might be able to deal with it better. [St. Pierre pauses.] My mom read the book three times and she was crying because she now understands stuff that I was doing when I was young that she didn't understand [at the time].
SI: Like what?
St-Pierre: I was getting beat up in school and I kept it inside. I didn't share it with my parents because one time my dad [confronted] the kid's parents and it made me look like a coward because I complained. After that, I kept the pain inside and didn't share it with my mom and she didn't understand. Another thing -- I used to walk on my hands. I was falling down and kept hurting myself, but I kept persisting because of my OCD problem, my crazy mind problem where I'd have to do it until I fixed it. She never understood why I went through such pain, but by reading the book, that's two examples of what she came to understand about me.
SI: Your mother also talks about your transformation over time in the book. "He's always still the same Georges, but when I see him on TV, I see that he's created another personality," she wrote. There are a few more references from others about the two Georges.
St-Pierre: It is like two types of Georges. I think it's necessary if you want to be successful in business or different areas of life. You need to have two personalities -- one like Clark Kent and the other like Superman -- and that's what I do in my life and I talk about that a little bit.
SI: I would have liked to have read a little bit more about that. Later, you write about your need for authenticity and I think the reader might get a little confused with this and the two Georges.
St-Pierre: I am a public person and I have my private life. It's important for me that my private life stay private, that what I share with the people is my public personality. With this book, I didn't go totally private, but I went a little into my mind and shared some private stuff. This book is a way to get to know me, a little bit more [of the] private [side]. I try to protect my loved ones, the people I share my life with, because they don't have a public life like me. I want to keep their lives private out of respect for them. One day, another book will come and I will talk about all of this, but now there's a lot of things I can't talk about in my life because it's still happening right now. It's going to be a good second book, maybe, someday.
SI: You describe fighters as being in two groups -- the specialists and the generalists, who are proficient all around. You wrote that Jon Jones is the best example of a specialist, that he's gifted with the longest reach of any fighter in MMA history, which makes him a lethal striker. Is Anderson Silva a generalist or a specialist?
St-Pierre: Anderson's in a different class. There's only one Anderson Silva. I think he's a specialist and a generalist. Nobody can compare to Anderson Silva in this sport, or Jon Jones for that matter. Nobody can compare to Silva because he's so good, he can be both at the same time.
SI: Is that appealing to you, that you might face this one-of-a-kind fighter soon?
St-Pierre: Yes. It depends on the outcome of his next fight. He might have a good fight coming up and I might have a good fight coming, as well. We'll see.