UFC - Vegas fans pay up to $450 U.S. to see Quebec athlete
Vegas fans pay up to $450 U.S. to see Quebec athlete
St. Pierre nearly unknown on the home front
ALLISON LAMPERT, The Gazette
Published: Saturday, March 04, 2006
Georges (Rush) St. Pierre is considered a top competitor, with expected earnings of $200,000 U.S. this year, in a combat sport that rarely makes local headlines - extreme fighting, also known as mixed martial arts.
That's not bad for a former skinny kid from the South Shore who began karate lessons at age 7 to defend himself against schoolyard bullies. Once, in Grade 3, he had his head slammed into a table because he wouldn't hand over $5.
Now, in Las Vegas, strangers follow the muscular welterweight and ask for autographs while husbands throw their squealing wives into his arms so they can snap pictures.
Last month, an event like the one being staged tonight at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino drew more than 10,000 fans and generated $3.8 million in ticket sales, according to the Nevada athletic commission.
That marked a new high for a sport that once depended on support from an online group of die-hard fans. It's now emerging from fringe status in the United States, with mainstream celebrities like Paris Hilton and Cindy Crawford among the spectators.
Inroads slowly are being made in Quebec, too, thanks to high-profile fighters like St. Pierre, 24, and Montrealer David (The Crow) Loiseau, 26, who's also on tonight's card.
Champs sports bar on St. Laurent Blvd. is screening the event live on pay-per-view. "It's going to be packed on both floors," predicted Carlos Moleirinho, one of the owners.
Yet, St. Pierre laments it's been a decade since his sport made the front page of Quebec newspapers - and that was only because a bout deemed too violent by New York State was moved to Kahnawake instead.
"They talk about the guy who's ranked 100th in bowling," St. Pierre says. "But they never talk about us."
Unlike boxers, extreme fighters compete using a variety of combat styles - grappling, karate and kickboxing, for example.
That's why they always have at least two advisers in their corner - one for when they fight standing, and one for when the bout goes to the ground.
In the U.S., the fights take place not in a boxing ring but in an octagon-shaped cage, giving added ammunition to critics who call the sport savage.
Since late December, St. Pierre has been training twice a day, six days a week, to hone his skills in various fighting styles and achieve a level of fitness that will allow him to get through three grueling rounds of five minutes each.
St. Pierre's training regime is as varied as a university student's class schedule - wrestling on Thursdays and Sundays, boxing on Wednesdays, weight-training on Mondays. On Tuesdays, he takes private kickboxing lessons at Tristar, a popular martial arts gym on Ferrier St.
One of his cornermen, Tristar instructor Victor Vargotsky, is a former kickboxing champ from Ukraine. He's also an ex-Soviet Union special forces sniper who served in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
"Georges, stab it in! Punch up like you're stabbing someone in the intestines!" is a typical Vargotsky command from ringside.
Tonight, for the first time, St. Pierre will square off against B.J. (The Prodigy) Penn, one of the toughest competitors in extreme fighting. Last May, the baby-faced Hawaiian grappler was charged with assaulting a police officer outside a Waikiki night club.
That's just page 1 of 3!
This a is a great article worth the read.
Too bad Ontario commissions are afraid of a little exercise!
Last edited by Phrost; 3/11/2006 11:49am at .