What happens when GSP goes to his dark place?

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
1:35
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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Georges St. PierreAl Bello/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesUnchartered territory: Get ready to see a side of Georges St. Pierre you didn't know existed.
Georges St. Pierre is actively rooting for Nick Diaz to win versus his erstwhile training partner Carlos Condit this weekend at UFC 143.

Why? Because, when he returns from his knee injury, he wants to beat Diaz to a pulp himself and maybe teach him some manners along the way. Simply watching somebody else beat up Diaz isn’t going to cut it -- St. Pierre wants to lay hands on the man who essentially called him a coward. There’s just no satisfaction in doing this thing vicariously.

And as St. Pierre rehabs in California, this becomes his raison d’être -- to drag Diaz from the back alleys of Stockton, and blow him up large and in public under a thousand high-watt bulbs. It just so happens that he’s plotting Diaz’s comeuppance with boom mics hovering over his head.

All of this is, of course, a little bizarre.

Most diplomatic competitors pretend to have no rooting interest in a game/fight that leads directly to them. Any admission of wanting to play/fight a lesser opponent is a sign of disrespect or some overarching insecurity. Any preferential treatment the other way looks like chest puffing.

But as everybody knows, the fight game is always that much more literal and that much more uninhibited. Guys do not follow protocol, they’re not nearly as censored and most have only the vaguest idea of consequences. Maybe it’s because there are no metaphors in play. It is literally man against man, and the loudest man need only back it up.

The novelty is that it’s coming from Georges St. Pierre. That’s GSP, the Hobey Baker of MMA, who once said Dan Hardy would be the toughest challenge of his career (and believed large portions of what he was saying). If there’s ever been a gentler gladiator outside the cage than St. Pierre, I’d like to know who he is.
[+] EnlargeNick Diaz
Kari Hubert/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesNick Diaz' penchant for rubbing people the wrong way hasn't exactly attracted a legion of sponsors.

Yet in the most recent "UFC Primetime," the producers smartly yanked the plug on the Condit/Diaz spotlight to have the usually reserved St. Pierre weigh in on matters. In it, the French-Canadian did not speak in automaton clichés (as he sometimes does) or work rote phrases (such as, “I just want to the best Georges St. Pierre I can be”). This time, over a montage of him doing specialized training on the road back from knee surgery, he said he was hoping and praying that Diaz beats Condit. His dander is still way up, and he looms over Las Vegas this weekend like a storm cloud.

Which is fitting, because St. Pierre also talked about a dark place inside himself that Diaz couldn’t possibly fathom. This was the true revelation. The points were a little loose, but St. Pierre seemed to be saying that Diaz can outcrazy him, but not outblack his moods.

Somehow, in the exchange of Diaz not showing up at news conferences, getting plucked from the title shot and then disrespecting St. Pierre publicly after beating B.J. Penn at UFC 137, lasting impressions were made. In fact, the last insult made St. Pierre’s pupils turn black, and this is a version of St. Pierre that becomes fascinating.

Move over, Garth Marenghi, we’re about to visit Georges St. Pierre’s “Dark Place,” a place the media has never been able to get at. For once, the inner-workings of the usually stubborn professional are burbling up to the surface. And that counts as a new wrinkle.

It also makes the interim welterweight title fight between Condit and Diaz that much more fun, and it definitely makes GSP’s rooting interest the general rooting interest. Who doesn’t want to see Diaz-St. Pierre now? Who doesn’t want to see St. Pierre fighting with a grudge, against a guy who doesn’t give a damn about no feelings?

Now, with the UFC on Fox 2 playing out as the gateway to vastly riveting matchups between Chael Sonnen/Anderson Silva and Rashad Evans/Jon Jones, there’s this weekend, which joins right in. A supercharged, totally peeved St. Pierre is expediting his return because he wants to smash Diaz into a million afterthoughts as soon as possible. It’s another gateway fight that sets up a trilogy of ax-grinding title bouts for mid-2012.

And it’s a hard spot for Condit. Lose, and make everybody happy. Win, and snap St. Pierre back into the ordinary light.

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