UFC 94 is a week away but B.J. Penn is already taking shots at Georges St. Pierre, mocking the Canadian for using a sports psychologist.
“It’s good to hear that Georges has a psychologist that he has to go to. A sports psychologist,” Penn said mischievously during a media conference call Thursday in advance of their Jan. 31 mixed martial arts main event in Las Vegas.
“Does that help you out Georges? You got psychological problems or what?”
St. Pierre chuckled.
“Not at all my friend,” he replied. “I don’t have any psychological problems. It just helps me to perform better.”
“Fighting is not all about strength and technique … I think it’s very underrated. The mental part is very, very important,” he said later.
Penn, 30, likes a little niggle in the leadup to his fights, poking away at his opponents to see if he can strike a nerve. In contrast, St. Pierre prefers to do his talking in the ring.
St. Pierre, 27, turned to a sports psychologist after losing his welterweight title first time out to Matt Serra at UFC 69 in April 2007. Beset by family issues and injuries, he trained poorly for the fight and knew it as he walked to the cage.
The shocking upset led some to question St. Pierre’s mental toughness.
The Canadian changed his entourage and added a sports psychologist. Part of his advice was to write Serra’s name on a brick and throw it into the waters off Montreal’s South Shore. St. Pierre did and hasn’t lost since.
St. Pierre (17-2) won a split decision over Penn when the two met at welterweight (170 pounds) at UFC 58 in March 2006.
Penn, a former welterweight champion, subsequently dropped down to 155 pounds and won the lightweight title. St. Pierre bounced back to beat Serra handily and reclaim the welterweight championship at UFC 83 last April in GSP’s hometown of Montreal.
The two meet at 170 pounds at UFC 94, with St. Pierre’s welterweight crown on the line. Penn (13-4-1) has said if he wins, he will defend both the lightweight and welterweight titles.
“This is a massive fight,” said UFC president Dana White.
Big enough that the UFC boss believes it will exceed the record pay-per-view numbers from the Brock Lesnar-Randy Couture fight card at UFC 91 in November and the even bigger numbers for the Forrest Griffin-Rashad Evans UFC 92 card in December.
St. Pierre expects to walk into the cage at 185 to 187 pounds, a little over 24 hours after stepping on the scales at 170. Penn expects to be at 170 fight night.
In mid-November when the two fighters held their first news conference to publicize the bout, St. Pierre said he weighed 185 to 186 pounds at the time. Penn weighed 175 pounds back then. Neither fighter had started his training.
The Hawaiian fighter has taken exception to the St. Pierre camp reportedly saying the Canadian is superior to Penn in every aspect.
“That’s the disrespectful stuff. To me, I might say some stuff on the side but they’re disrespecting my skills and that’s a big mistake what they’re doing, by thinking they’re going to walk through me. … He’s tough and he’s all these things. But once I get through, he’s going to be empty on the inside and that’s how I’m going to finish him.”
“Well, I never said I was going to walk through B.J. Penn,” St. Pierre responded. “He’s a very skilled fighter … It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be very hard. It’s going to cost me a lot of things. But at the end, I’ll be the victor and my goal is to finish him.”