MMA: St. Pierre, Hardy headline UFC 111 in Newark
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — Georges St. Pierre wears a fancy suit. Dan Hardy wears a mohawk. St. Pierre is the face of mixed martial arts. Hardy has the always-moving mouth.
The two 170-pound fighters are about as different as can be, from their pedigree to their bravado, but they have the same thing on their minds: St. Pierre's welterweight title.
The two headline a loaded UFC 111 card from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Saturday night, along with former champion Frank Mir against unbeaten Shane Carwin in an interim heavyweight title fight. A sellout crowd of more than 17,000 is expected.
"There's a lot I could say about Georges St. Pierre, but there's not much I need to say," said UFC president Dana White, grateful that the well-mannered and exceedingly popular champion from Canada has become such an ambassador for mixed martial arts.
"And then there's Dan Hardy, he's a strong, explosive athlete," White added. "He came into this fight as an 8-to-1 underdog, and I don't think he's an 8-to-1 underdog now."
St. Pierre (19-2) is among the sport's biggest attractions, with a resume that rivals anybody in MMA. He's fought in the UFC's cage the last six years, defeated Matt Hughes to win the welterweight belt, and is on a six-fight win streak that includes another victory over Hughes and a win over Hawaiian sensation B.J. Penn.
He's trained in karate and several other disciplines to go with a world-class wrestling and boxing background. He's worked with Renzo Gracie, a member of the first family of Brazilian jiujitsu, and will have a bit of a hometown advantage having trained in New York City.
"A lot of my training partners who can't come see me fight will be there to support me that night," St. Pierre said. "I feel like I'm fighting a little bit in my second home."
Hardy, meanwhile, will rely on a small but vocal contingent of fellow Brits who came across the Atlantic earlier in the week. They showed up at an open press conference Wednesday at Radio City Music Hall, waving flags and singing his praises.
The 27-year-old from Nottingham, the same hometown of the fictional character Robin Hood — from which Hardy derives his nickname "The Outlaw" — is unbeaten in four fights since joining the UFC. But this is only the third time in his professional career that he's fought in the United States, and the first time in a major show.
"I know a lot of people aren't giving me a shot in this fight, but I hope people are tuning in to watch," he said. "When you fight someone of this standard, you have to raise your game."
Like most fighters in mixed martial arts, what greets the eye is usually just the surface.
Scratch away any sense of pretension, and Hardy reveals a number of layers: He's a skilled artist, an ardent fan of punk music, and even spent two months training in China with Shaolin monks, after which he returned to England and eventually turned pro.
Hardy (23-6) will have plenty stacked against him when he faces one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world, but he'll also have some help. He's been working with former champion Matt Serra, who handed St. Pierre his most recent loss in April 2007.
"Matt's a great guy. He's been in there twice with Georges, and you can't get better information than that," Hardy said.
While the welterweight match is sure to garner the headlines, the heavyweight fight between Mir and Carwin might be the more intriguing matchup.
Mir is back in the cage for only the second time since dropping his title to Brock Lesnar at UFC 100 last July, a loss he has struggled to put behind him. He recently told a Pittsburgh radio station: "I want to fight Lesnar. I hate who he is as a person. I want to break his neck in the ring. I want him to be the first person that dies due to Octagon-related injuries."
Mir (13-4) has since apologized for the comments, but that anger lingers.
If he can get by Carwin (11-0), a 35-year-old mechanical engineer and former All-American wrestler and football player, Mir will almost certainly get his chance to avenge that defeat.
"To win the title back, I have to get the interim title first," Mir said. "Any dreams to move on will end pretty quickly if I don't take care of business on Saturday."