By: Brian J. D’Souza
Georges St-Pierre’s new book The Way of the Fight is a smashing success as a representation of all of St-Pierre’s ideals, both as a fighter and as a human being. Meshing the genres of biography, philosophy, and self-help, the resulting story yields an enjoyable read that is greater than the sum of its parts. Even more remarkable — the book is devoid of any trace of a bitter or vindictive tone that could taint what is essentially a book about one man overcoming adversity at every turn.
Still, this book is not a comprehensive biography of St-Pierre. As Jacob McArthur Mooney of The National Post notes, “The Way of the Fight is an account of the GSP brand…and the book’s occasional head-feints to the ‘real Georges’ are never more than teases.”
There are critical reasons why any UFC fighter should tread carefully when publishing a book. Look no further than the debacle that ensued between BJ Penn and UFC president Dana White when Penn released his own autobiography Why I Fight in 2010. Or Anderson Silva’s autobiography being pulled off the shelves in Brazil after his former manager Chute Boxe founder Rudimar Fedrigo engaged him in legal action.
But what was so controversial that it was left out of The Way of the Fight? Here’s a primer with four aspects of St-Pierre’s life and career that weren’t touched upon.
The Way of the Fight is divided into five sections, each focusing on a critical figure in GSP’s development. The last section is called “Conscience” and is centered on Rodolphe Beaulieu, St-Pierre’s current manager, with his other co-manager Philippe Lepage being given a brief mention.
Two names that never come up in this book are Stephane Patry, St-Pierre’s first manager and the promoter of the (now defunct) Quebec-based promotion TKO, and Shari Spencer, St-Pierre’s second manager. Why omit the two most critical people to St-Pierre’s business relationships who played a role in bringing him to superstardom?
Said GSP to YA Magazine of the time period when Patry was managing him, “In my entourage and my management, I got screwed. A lot of people were stealing money from me.”
When Patry was unceremoniously dumped as St-Pierre’s manager in 2007 after St-Pierre’s shocking upset-loss to Matt Serra, Patry still held a valid management contract over St-Pierre that extended for multiple years. Patry sued and St-Pierre eventually settled the matter outside of court. The legal settlement with Patry most likely involved a clause making St-Pierre unable to comment on their business arrangements.
Shari Spencer, who took over from Patry, was supposed to be an improvement. While St-Pierre acquired several brand-name sponsors, he was also paying out a hefty commission to certain agencies. Spencer also had free use of an expense account. Like with Patry, any legal settlement would have precluded St-Pierre from really explaining why he rid himself of Spencer in January 2011.
Not being able to discuss the ways in which Patry and Spencer hurt St-Pierre — personally or financially — made erasing their contributions from his narrative an easy choice.
Virtually all credit for the GSP we see today is ascribed to French fighter Kristof Midoux for his early mentoring of the young St-Pierre, Tristar coach Firas Zahabi for becoming GSP’s coach after the devastating Matt Serra loss in April 2007, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace John Danaher whom GSP learned from on his frequent trips to New York City. Without any doubt, Midoux, Zahabi, and Danaher were the cornerstones that helped GSP build the skills that make him legendary today, but The Way of the Fight entirely omits several people who were also critical in St-Pierre’s development as a mixed martial artist.
Kickboxing coach Victor Vargotsky helped strengthen St-Pierre mentally after GSP’s first loss via first-round armbar to Matt Hughes in 2004. Yet there isn’t even a mention of his name in GSP’s book.
“If it wasn’t for the way Victor broke Georges down after the Matt Hughes fight, and built him back the way that he did, he would never have become Georges St-Pierre the way people know him today,” said Alexandre Choko, former owner of the Tristar Gym in Montreal.
Wagnney Fabiano was St-Pierre’s first BJJ coach; Fabio Holanda came next, with both Fabiano and Holanda teaching St-Pierre in his native city of Montreal. Neither rated a mention in The Way of the Fight, with John Danaher getting exclusive credit for GSP’s BJJ skills. It’s hard to believe that St-Pierre spent more time on the mat anywhere besides Montreal, especially during the early days of his career when he struggled to pay the bills.
While St-Pierre fell out with Vargotsky and Holanda, their omission from the narrative is partially to do with crafting a concise book about St-Pierre and partially due to the revisionist history St-Pierre wants to craft about himself.
Anderson Silva, who fell out with his first Muay Thai trainer Fabio Noguchi, and Rudimar Fedrigo’s Chute Boxe academy, still mentioned both men and their gyms in his autobiography. Whether Noguchi and Chute Boxe were more positive or negative for Silva’s career is a matter for spirited debate, but that those coaches and trainers influenced Anderson Silva cannot ever be denied.
On the next page: GSP’s sex life and the UFC’s business practices — a gentleman never tells.
All athletes and entertainers have fans. Some of them happen to be female. Many prominent MMA fighters have interesting stories about the constant attention and casual encounters they had during their time in the limelight.
Take this exchange from an interview Bas Rutten did with Quinton Jackson in 2011:
BAS RUTTEN: “What has changed the most for you since PRIDE?”
RAMPAGE JACKSON: “I got less Asian groupies!” (laughter)
Yet The Way of the Fight gives us no glimpse into GSP’s overflowing cup of good fortune. It’s just the opposite — St-Pierre relates a story of his early travels to John Danaher’s academy in New York where his then-girlfriend tells him she finds BJJ expert Sean Williams “very good-looking.”
“Let’s just say I started going to New York alone after that trip,” says St-Pierre, who makes no mention whatsoever of the attention he was getting, even at that time in his MMA career.
That GSP often whitewashes over many personal details is no secret to fans. Justin Kingsley, the individual who co-wrote The Way of the Fight, works as vice-president of the media and public relations division of “Commercial Creativity” (marketing) company Sid Lee. Kingsley merely continued the process of airbrushing GSP’s public persona in order to promote a controversy-free version of the GSP brand more suitable for mass acceptance.
THE UFC’S BUSINESS PRACTICES
There is little or no mention of dollar amounts or contractual details between St-Pierre and the UFC. That St-Pierre did not disclose this information is a sign of intelligence, as it’s believed that the juicy bits of information BJ Penn revealed in Why I Fight were the reason why Dana White publically lambasted BJ Penn upon publication of Penn’s book, and fired the book’s co-author from his freelance work with the UFC.
St-Pierre has plenty of praise for his current co-manager Rodolphe Beaulieu, devoting an entire section of the book to his business dealings. Yet even outside GSP’s compensation from the UFC, there are points of contention with regards to the rights St-Pierre has signed away to the UFC for the privilege of risking his brain and body for the organization’s benefit.
There was no UFC fight footage of St-Pierre in the 2011 documentary The Striking Truth, which centered on the lives of GSP and his longtime friend/training partner David “The Crow” Loiseau. Consequently, the documentary suffered the same way James Toback’s Tyson would have if footage of Mike Tyson‘s fights were not available for use in the movie. If manager Rodolphe Beaulieu has any business acumen, he will find a way to get permission to use UFC fight footage for the upcoming St-Pierre documentary The DNA of GSP, due out in fall of 2013.
In a similar vein, St-Pierre made the terrible decision to sign away his video game likeness rights to the UFC for video game manufacturer THQ to utilize in their Undisputed video games. St-Pierre got an endorsement deal to promote video game Sleeping Dogs, but the game did not feature his likeness. If GSP were allowed to license his own image for video games, the possibilities — and profits — would be endless.
There are a myriad of contractual clauses in St-Pierre’s UFC contract that restrict both St-Pierre’s earning potential and his freedom. Credit to co-managers Beaulieu and Lepage for scoring St-Pierre blue-chip sponsors, book deals, movie parts, paid signings, seminars, and a host of other “passive income” opportunities. But they have to look at the big picture of not allowing the GSP brand to be drowned out by the static and cacophony of the UFC brand.
St-Pierre told SI.com’s Loretta Hunt, “One day, another book will come and I will talk about [my private life], but now there’s a lot of things I can’t talk about in my life because it’s still happening right now. It’s going to be a good second book, maybe, someday.”
A book that conflicts with either the current brand GSP has created or the UFC brass is likely years away from publication. Whether St-Pierre can surmount the legal obstacles inherent in speaking of his business dealings is another matter, altogether.
The Way of the Fight delivers as advertised, and gives readers much more. We should not overlook the brilliance of what St-Pierre has given us so far by measuring it against a future book. But even St-Pierre knows that he’s just scratching the surface so far.
GSP is writing a new page in his story each day. When it’s time, when he feels ready, he may dazzle us again with an exponentially superior book. The fans will be waiting.