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St Pierre's Olympic dreamPosted on Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 12:29 pm
by IDMA News
UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre said he's seriously thinking about taking a hiatus from mixed martial arts to chase a dream of winning an Olympic medal in freestyle wrestling.
"I really think about it, I think about it always, every day," said St. Pierre.
The Montreal-area native said that he hasn't made his final decision, but that he feels he would need 18 months of concentrated wrestling training to compete at the level he wants to reach. That means he'd have to make the decision shortly after his next title defense, on March 27 in Newark, N.J. against England's Dan Hardy.
I'll do it if I think I have a good chance to make it," he said. "I'm not doing it just to try. If I'm doing it, I'm doing it 100 percent.
St. Pierre first said he didn't want to give odds on which way he's leaning, saying it's a decision he's yet to make, but when pressed, said he's 50/50 on whether to make the jump.
Several MMA fighters over the years have attempted to make the Olympics in wrestling, but all were wrestlers who grew up in the sport and were near or already Olympic level before getting into MMA. In most cases, it was also during a period where MMA wasn't anywhere close to the level it is today in terms of public interest and money-earning potential.
Before the 2000 Olympics, Dan Henderson, Randy Couture and Matt Lindland were all training at MMA and used the sport as a way to help fund their Olympic team quest. Neither Henderson, who had made the Olympic team in 1992 and 1996, nor Couture, who had been an alternate for every Olympic team from 1988-1996, ended up qualifying. Lindland, on the other hand, made the Olympic team and won a silver medal in Greco-Roman competition.
At the time, their efforts had no effect on the sport of MMA since MMA was such a low-profile sport at the time, and Lindland wasn't well-known as a fighter.
St. Pierre noted that if he does well at high-level wrestling, he feels it will elevate the sport of MMA on a worldwide basis, and that even more, it will bring attention to the sport of wrestling in Canada, where it gets very little coverage.
He noted that he has not discussed this issue with UFC president Dana White, who would likely have a strong opinion about the loss of one of his biggest stars.
St. Pierre said that he would wrestle at 185 pounds instead of the 170 pounds he fights at. Right now he walks around at 193 pounds before cutting weight for his fights, so he would be very small for the weight class, where most wrestlers he'd be facing would walk around between 205-215.
The problem is the next lowest weight class for the Olympics is 163, and St. Pierre made it clear he is not willing to go to the extreme measures to make that weight.
"I'm not going to risk my health and put that kind of stress on my kidneys," he said when it comes to extreme weight cutting, which exists in both MMA and Olympic-level wrestling. "I train with guys a lot bigger them myself and I do very well against them. I train with Rashad Evans, Nate Marquardt, even Shane Carwin (a heavyweight who trains at close to 280 pounds). I'm in there with big guys and I'm not afraid of fighting big guys because I train with guys like that every day."
"I have to talk with all my trainers, my sponsors, all the people who help me I want to take care of," he said. "This will be much harder than mixed martial arts. With mixed martial arts, I'm the champion so I only have to beat one opponent. With wrestling, I would first have to qualify for the Olympic team. But just being on the Canadian Olympic team doesn't mean you would go to the Olympics, so I would have to win tournaments with the Americans, and Cubans. And then, at the Olympics, it's a completely different level."
St. Pierre clearly admitted that today, he is not a wrestler of that caliber, but he wants to see if he devoted full-time to the sport if he could improve to being that level.
Realistically, the odds are very long that someone without a competitive history in the sport could become a medal contender in a short period of time. For St. Pierre, with his popularity, particularly in Canada where he was voted by fans as the country\'s athlete of the year for the second straight year (the Canadian Press writers poll had him in second place behind hockey star Sidney Crosby), his quest would give exposure to a sport that isn\'t big in the country.
It would create an interesting potential story if he qualified for the Games and if he was successful, his personal marketability level, probably the highest of any fighter in the sport already, would explode like no MMA fighter in history.
But the risks are high. Chasing the Olympic dream would mean he would take two of his prime earning years and competitive years away from a sport that rapidly evolves, in favor of a sport that has little in the way of monetary upside.