Since St. Pierre is a man who has admittedly had problems with the mental aspects of fighting, the logical question should be: How is he going to handle that thought? Especially when he looks across the cage, for on the other side of the octagon, Matt Serra will the perfect picture of confidence.
The brash Long Islander will be in an arena filled with 22,000 hostile fans anxiously awaiting his destruction, yet Serra will not betray a hint of self-doubt.
In fact, the champion will have a chip on his shoulder. Despite holding the belt in one of the sport's most competitive weight classes, Serra will come in as the decided underdog as well as taking second billing in this major attraction.
"When that cage shuts, it's just us two," Serra said. "So all the hype, all the critics and everything they can say, they can have an opinion. That's great, but I'm the one who controls my own destiny."
When you break down their respective games on paper, St. Pierre looks to be the solid favorite. He's the better all-around athlete, has the superior striking (last April notwithstanding), and has phenomenal wrestling skills. While Serra has the edge on the ground, it is in all probability the only area in which he holds a true advantage.
Mike Chiappetta / NBCSports.com
UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra talks with the media on Wednesday.
It says something that when St. Pierre was asked about his biggest advantage in their rematch, he immediately mentioned the ancient battle philosophy book The Art of War.
"Battles are won by momentum," he says. "And if you look at last year, I was coming off an injury and Matt was on a winning streak. He was on fire and he beat me. Now it's like the scenario is totally reversed. Matt Serra is coming off an injury and I'm on a two-fight winning streak, so I think I've got the momentum on my side and I think it's going to help with the fight.
The fact that GSP is weighing career momentum so heavily may or may not point to a manufactured rather than real confidence, but that's for armchair psychologists to debate. But then there is the very real aspect of the momentum and motivation supplied by the 22,000 fans filling the Bell Centre, many of whom it's safe to assume will be shouting themselves hoarse in support of their hometown hero.
"Yeah, I don't really expect to get cheered walking to the ring," Serra said. "So it's not a problem and I think I'm finally going to feel what Tim Sylvia feels when he fights anywhere. But it's fine, man. I have my trainers and sparring partners boo me on a regular basis, so I'm getting mentally ready for it."
Despite all the subtext and a few cross words in the fight's promotion (Serra took exception with GSP's talk of a personal issue that led to his loss; GSP was angered by Serra calling him "Frenchie"), the two do genuinely like and respect each other. So while this fight won't have the personal venom of, say, next month's Sean Sherk vs. B.J. Penn fight, all the other storylines make it compelling nonetheless.
In the leadup to the fight, Serra, a movie buff, compared the setup to Rocky IV, when Stallone goes to Russia and vanquishes the unbeatable Ivan Drago on his home turf.
Rocky, always the ultimate underdog, doesn't always manage to pull off the win, even in the movies, but always performs nobly in trying. He at least always forces his opponent to raise his game to the highest level in order to beat him. GSP will have to do the same, to ignore the countless reminders of his past loss, to stay mentally sharp, to stand up to Serra in the stand-up game, to hang with him on the ground.
He may be the favorite in the fight, but has he convinced himself of that? That is the question that will be answered Saturday.
"I train to fight an army, not a single person," said St. Pierre. "I've been sparring every week with high-caliber fighters and fresh guys every round with me. So if an army can't break me, one man will never do it."
Video: MMA from NBC Sports
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