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Friday, November 15, 2013
Montreal camp has Story's confidence high

By Brett Okamoto

Rick Story, Johny Hendricks
Rick Story's experience having defeated Johny Hendricks drew the attention of Georges St-Pierre.
UFC welterweight Rick Story has spent the past eight weeks of his life living out of a suitcase in a hotel located in the west end of Montreal.

If that sounds unpleasant, it's probably because it most likely is. The best thing Story could think of when it comes to staying in a hotel for that long?

"It's kind of nice," he mumbled unconvincingly. "All the accommodations are here as far as toilet paper and shampoo -- and stuff."

Got it. And at the top of the many general reasons one might want to avoid this situation, Story doesn't speak French. Meaning, a large fraction of the French Canadian television channels available in his room are completely worthless to him.

"I've been killing time watching Netflix," Story said. "I've been watching a lot of Netflix."

Pause. "A lot of Netflix."

In addition to streaming online movies, Story spent his time in Montreal developing his craft at Tristar Gym alongside UFC champion Georges St-Pierre. It's the first time Story (15-7), who meets Brian Ebersole at UFC 167 on Saturday in Las Vegas, has held a fight camp outside his home state of Washington.

The idea of Story temporarily joining the Tristar team was first broached in March, in a locker room the two fighters shared at UFC 158 at Bell Centre.

St-Pierre was headlining the card in a welterweight title fight against Nick Diaz. In the co-main event, Johny Hendricks was set to take on Carlos Condit. Everyone in the building knew if St-Pierre and Hendricks won, they'd fight each other next.

And as fate would have it, there was Story -- the only man with a win over Hendricks -- scheduled to fight Quinn Mulhern on the preliminary card, sharing a locker room with the Canadian champ.

"[Tristar coach] Firas Zahabi was very persistent in getting us to come," Story said. "Pat White is my coach and he and Pat talked that night in Montreal.

"Originally, we thought it would be better if Johny beat Georges, because I'm the only one to ever beat him so it would make it easier to get a title shot sooner. Firas was so persistent, though. He kept emailing Pat, calling Pat, calling the gym."

Eventually, the deal Tristar offered was too good to pass up. In addition to the benefit of high-level sparring partners including St-Pierre, Zahabi worked a deal that covered the cost of Story's entire eight-week stay.

"I don't know exactly how the deal was worked out, but we had our hotel paid," Story said. "Pat and I have separate rooms, he's been here with me the whole time. Our food is paid for. It was like, a great deal."

As much as St-Pierre obviously wanted Story in his camp, the timing of this experience probably couldn't be better for Story as well.

That signature win over Hendricks in December 2010 is a fairly distant memory. A six-fight winning streak had him cracking top-10 lists in early 2011, but Story has endured a 2-4 skid in his past six fights. He suffered a split-decision loss to Mike Pyle in his previous performance at UFC 160 in May.

Physically, Story says, he has been fine during this stretch. It's been a mental issue. Every fighter handles a loss differently. In Story's case, for whatever reason, it was difficult to get going again once the winning streak was broken.

"I don't want this to sound the wrong way, but you walk the walk for a long time, you get knocked off course and then it's kind of hard to get back on the horse," Story said.

"I lost to [Charlie] Brenneman and then there were some fights that I wasn't completely focused on. I wasn't doing the things I needed to be doing to go into the fight with confidence. It was really cool being able to come here and do that for this training camp, with no distractions. My confidence is through the roof right now."

Confidence, a few new techniques, and all of the free travel-size shampoo bottles he can handle -- maybe Montreal wasn't so bad to Story after all.