- By Jillian Bullock
In December 2011, UFC’s Welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre, was training to prepare for a title defense against challenger Nick Diaz. The fight was scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, NV in February 2012, but it never happened. The French-Canadian fighter blew out his ACL on the right knee. Since that time many have wondered if St-Pierre would be able to return to the octagon after such a severe injury and if he does will he be as good as he once was.
St-Pierre went through ACL reconstruction with meniscal repair on his bum knee, which had been a problem for him even before his scheduled fight with Diaz. In fact, St-Pierre had been dealing with issues with both knees for quite some time according to his doctor Sebastian Simard.
To understand just how important the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is to athletes see the definition from this article in The Huffington Post:
The knee-joint is primarily comprised of three bones: the femur, or thighbone, the tibia, or shinbone, and the patella, or kneecap. The ACL, which connects the femur to the tibia, is one of four ligaments that help support and stabilize the knee. Together, these ligaments allow the knee to act as a hinge. A healthy ACL is especially important for elite, professional athletes…whose games are predicated on the ability to sprint, tackle, change direction and absorb heavy impact.
Many athletes never return to their sport after an ACL tear. Those who do often don’t move the same for a variety of reasons; one being they instinctually think about their injured knee either not being able to hold up or that it will get injured again. Also, an ACL injury often leads to problems with the opposite knee due to an increase in muscle imbalance. Since St-Pierre already had issues with both knees, this could prove even more problematic for the champion.
When St-Pierre was injured a press conference was held to explain the extent of his injury and how long his trainers and doctors predicated he would be out of commission. In an article posted in SB Nation, Dr. Simard originally stated that he expected St-Pierre to make a full recovery “within 6-9 months. The success rate for this surgery is above 95 percent.” However, that didn’t happen.
After 19 long months St-Pierre will return to the octagon to defend his title at UFC 154 on November 17, 2012. Scheduled to face the current interim UFC Welterweight champion Carlos Condit the fight will take place at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Condit secured a unanimous decision victory over Diaz at UFC 143 on February 5, which earned him the right to be first in line to fight St-Pierre.
As St-Pierre trains to prepare for his upcoming match, he has employed several new trainers at the TriStar gym in Canada. Along with head trainer Firas Zahabi, Phil Nurse and new track coaches, Renzo Gracie was hired as St-Pierre’s Jiu-Jitsu coach. Gracie was excited to see how quick and explosive the champion was considering the horrific injury he endured.
“His (St-Pierre’s) Jiu-Jitsu was already good before, but when he came in here and trained [a couple weeks ago] I could tell he must have been doing a lot of work.”
During the last few months of training, St-Pierre has been generating a great deal of media coverage considering the anticipation of the St-Pierre-Condit fight. Fuel TV’s UFC Ultimate Insider followed St-Pierre during his intensive recovery time, including ACL surgery, rehabilitation and they highlighted the mental and emotional battles he faced during his recovery and journey to reclaim the title of undisputed UFC Welterweight champion.
In the video entitled “The Comeback,” St-Pierre talks about how this injury has opened his eyes to what’s truly important in life.
“You can have wealth and success, but health is the most important thing,” he stated.
Zahabi also stated, “Georges is looking phenomenal. Actually just finished practice with him not too long ago, he’s looking in incredible shape. I think the only thing is when you’ve been away for so long, you kind of lose a beat. But, Georges has been fighting since he’s young… when you’ve been fighting from such a young age it’s just like riding a bike.”
Standing in GSP’s Way
Condit, who has earned the moniker “The Natural Born Killer,” is definitely a warrior who doesn’t back down from any fighter and he is exceptionally skilled at finishing matches; something St-Pierre has struggled to do. According to statistics provided on Inside MMA, Condit of Albuquerque, N.M., has an impressive record of finishing close to 93 percent of his opponents during his mixed martial arts career. With a professional MMA record of 28-5, he is also known for striking, submissions and endurance.
St-Pierre may have his own challenges as he prepares for this upcoming fight, but so does Condit, who will be squaring off against the champion in his hometown. In an interview for MMA Underground Condit noted:
“Fighting in front of Georges’ hometown might throw a lot of other guys off, but mentally I’m pretty strong. I’ll be able to put all that stuff aside and just do what I came to do. I’m on the precipice of achieving my life goal. I want to fight the best Georges and beat that guy.”
Proving He’s Still One of The Best Fighters
Stepping into the octagon on November 17 St-Pierre (22-2) will defend his championship belt for the seventh time. Although he is still considered the champion, he stated during a news conference at the Montreal Science Center that he doesn’t actually feel that way.
“In my contract, I was supposed to defend my title every year and I couldn’t do it because of my injury, so the champion to me is Carlos Condit.” Therefore, it will be up to St-Pierre to prove he is the true UFC Welterweight champion. “It’s up to me to take the title, so I’m going for the title. That’s how I see it.”
Getting back to 100 percent from an ACL tear can be very difficult for any athlete. St-Pierre’s challenge won’t just be his repaired knee, which he said is completely healed, but his lengthy time away from fighting. In fact, the French-Canadian superstar hasn’t fought since April 2011 when he beat Jake Shield in Toronto. We’ve seen several fighters, like Mauricio Rua, who were never quite the same in terms of explosiveness after horrible knee injuries. Although St-Pierre acknowledges there will be some ring rust, he is confident he will retain his title and also prove to people why he is pound-for-pound one of the greatest mixed martial artists ever.
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