FOR THE BETTER part of a decade, Georges St-Pierre was a hegemonic fighter: He won the UFC's welterweight belt in 2008 and then defended it nine times. But after a particularly violent fight in '13, GSP walked away from the sport.
Even at the height of his powers, St-Pierre was a measured, perhaps delicate soul. In his distinct Quebecois accent, he was always able and willing to talk about matters beyond kicking and hitting. After a four-year interregnum, St-Pierre, now 36, is returning to combat. On Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden he'll move up to 185 pounds and headline the UFC 217 card, fighting Michael Bisping for the middleweight title.
SI: Why come back?
GSP: Why not come back? I'm better than ever. I'm in my prime. I have a different set of skills. If I didn't come back I would regret it.
SI: What has your adjustment after four years off been like so far?
GSP: I was always training. So this return has been more mental, more about the competition. But I can't remember heading into a fight feeling this relaxed. I'm a better fighter than ever, and mentally I rejuvenated myself.
SI: What does fighting mean to you at this point in your life?
SI: To what extent is this a sport; to what extent is this a job?
GSP: Both. There are things I don't like to do. The press conferences, the stare-down, the trash-talking. I like the fighting and the training.
SI: The physical strain of MMA is obvious. What are the mental strains?
GSP: The pressure that comes with risking your life. There's stress that comes with the risk of being humiliated. But for me there's stress that comes with working so hard, making these sacrifices, and then losing, not seeing the value of everything you've invested.
SI: What's the most Quebec thing about you?
GSP: My accent.
SI: People reading this won't appreciate that.
GSP: O.K. then, the food I love to eat. After a night of partying, have you ever had poutine?
SI: Hope you're not eating that when you have to cut weight.
GSP: Absolutely not. But November 5th....