Alves is GSP's toughest challenge

NEIL SPRINGER, SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 12:43 PM ET

Going into his UFC 94 title defence against BJ Penn, all eyes were on Georges (Rush) St-Pierre.

The hype for the fight was greater than any in the Montreal native's career, which included a prime-time special dedicated to building up the bout. However, with all the attention around UFC 100, the welterweight champion's title defence against Thiago (Pit Bull) Alves is being overshadowed somewhat by the Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir main event.

Media attention doesn't concern St-Pierre -- The Pit Bull does.

"I truly believe he is the toughest challenge that I've faced so far," St-Pierre said. "If you put Thiago Alves and BJ Penn in a fight, I would bet all my money on Thiago -- no doubt about it.

"For a lot of people, this fight seems less dangerous for me because Thiago Alves is a gentleman. He's not someone that needs to trash talk to promote himself. He's a very respectful guy. So that's what makes him even more dangerous."

Needless to say, Alves has remained polite and intends on letting his fists do the talking. During the UFC 100 media conference call, he had nothing but compliments for St-Pierre.

"GSP is the complete athlete -- the complete fighter and he's the champion," Alves said. "That's the thing with GSP -- he's dangerous everywhere. You have to be careful with him everywhere, not just with the takedowns. Takedowns are just another weapon (in his arsenal). He's a dangerous striker; he's got great Jiu Jitsu.

"I'm a big fan of the way he fights. He's a great fighter. I'm just very confident. I know it's my time (to be champion). I have no doubt in my mind. I know it's going to be a great fight and I'm ready."

The tough Brazilian poses a number of problems for the champion. Many consider him to be a superior striker than St-Pierre. His takedown defence is excellent and he's physically the bigger fighter.

"I'm going to tell you the truth; I don't think (size) will make a big difference because I always train with bigger guys than (myself)," St-Pierre said. "I truly believe that in this sport, skill and technique always beats strength and size. So the guy who will win this fight is the better fighter, not the bigger guy."

Though both fighters have looked unstoppable in their last few trips to the octagon, they have each had to deal with mental roadblocks in their respective careers.

Prior to his UFC 69 bout, St-Pierre panicked and was stopped by Matt Serra in one of the most stunning upsets in mixed martial arts history. St-Pierre admits he still feels the pressure before a fight, but that each day he continues to learn how to control it.

"The pressure is always there for me; I'm always very nervous," St-Pierre said. "I think it's that nervousness that keeps me sharp and makes me perform better on the night of the fight.

"Each time the pressure gets bigger. I'm really good at focusing on what I do and taking away all the distractions. The thing that makes me most nervous -- it's not the cameras or the hype -- it's the fact that I'm fighting a really good guy and I will not be allowed to make any mistakes. The reason I'm nervous is that I care about it."

Early in his UFC career, Alves suffered from inconsistency -- losing to both Spencer Fisher and Jon Fitch. He was also suspended for eight months after testing positive for a diuretic. However, maturity as a fighter stepped in and helped him keep his head in the game. He is currently riding a seven-fight win streak, with victories over Matt Hughes, Karo Parisyan and Josh Koscheck.

"I just grew up," Alves said. "After my loss to Jon Fitch, I said to myself, Man, what are you doing?' And after my suspension, I said, I can't do that to myself anymore.' There's only two ways to take this sport: you're either in it 100 per cent, or you're not. So if you're going to do this, take everything you've got and put it in this sport -- make that you're life. And that's what I did."

Alves said he's looking to shock the MMA world at UFC 100. St-Pierre said he has to be very cautious with Alves' striking, but that he has a game plan already worked out.

"Thiago has some of the best standing leg kicks, but that's not all he's got. He's got great knees, a great left hook and he has very heavy hands, too. I've been studying a lot of tapes and I have a specific strategy that I will use to take him out of his comfort zone. But it's like when you play cards -- you don't want to show your hand."


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