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Georges St-Pierre: humble beginnings and how to take down a banana

In the course of his fighting career, long-time UFC Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre (known to fans as GSP) has stepped into the ring many times, with some of the most feared fighters in the world—and won often (his UFC record is 25-2). Audiences will learn from the movie Takedown: the DNA of GSP that St-Pierre instinctively knows how and when to take his opponent to the ground. On this day, in a suite in a downtown Toronto hotel, there is one opponent that GSP is determined to take down: a banana. Just like with his adversaries in the ring, he will find and expose the weakness of this opponent.

Luckily for those assembled, GSP is extremely willing to talk strategy: “You know a monkey, the way they open a banana, it’s never like this, (At this point, St-Pierre mimes the traditional way to open a banana – from the top, but does not actually do so). So when a human being, we think, we open a banana mostly like this”: (Once again, St-Pierre mimes peeling a banana, from the top, but does not do so). “Next time you have a banana, try to open it from the bottom. See how well it goes” (And here, St-Pierre actually does open the banana, from the bottom. Throughout the next twenty minutes, St-Pierre alternates taking bites of the upside-down peeled banana and speaking…GSP never speaks while eating). Regarding his technique, St-Pierre goes on to apologize: “I’m sorry I learned that very recently; it’s actually quite interesting. (A) banana, you open the other side; a monkey, that’s how he does it. (Softly) It’s true, (rising in tone) it’s true, it’s true”.

Throughout the course of Takedown: The DNA of GSP, a documentary which should be watched by fans and non-fans of the sport, the day-to-day realities of the champion’s life fascinate the viewer. Many intriguing moments involve GSP philosophizing while enjoying a meal. I made sure to ask St-Pierre about a particularly poignant scene, involving him eating at a Montreal landmark, the Orange Julep – which is actually shaped like a giant orange.

In response, St. Pierre offered these bon mots: “I think it’s important to remember where you come from. As for the Orange Julep…I’ve been going there for like fifteen years, the last fifteen years (St-Pierre turns 33 on May 19th). And I have not always been rich, and I’ll say the real thing, and I’m rich now. I’m rich and I’m happy. But I still go to the Orange Julep because I have gone for a long time when I was young. I like the spaghetti there. People are like ‘Are you crazy, you going to eat this? The hot dog joint?’ The hot dog spot? Yeah! I like it! It’s like a five buck spaghetti. I love it! I go there every week! Even when the Orange Julep people see me, they’re like ‘Are you kidding me? It can’t be Georges St-Pierre?’ Like, yeah! I love it!”

Eating seems to provide a window into the philosophical nature of GSP: “I still do the same things that I used to do back in the day when I was not who I was, you know? When I first (went) to Orange Julep place, nobody (cared) about me. I was by myself, doing my own thing. Now, it changed, but I’m still doing the right thing. I think when you do something, and you’re successful at it, you have to keep doing it. (I) stick with the same people, that I was (with) back in the day, that were there for me when I was the real Georges St. Pierre. Not the athlete I became, the famous guy, and to stick with the people who were there from the beginning. I always remember where I (came) from, and I think it’s important to me. People lose that sometimes, when they have success, you know?”

GSP’s folksy nature can also be seen in his interactions with his family in Takedown. When GSP visits his mother in his childhood home in St-Isidore, Quebec, he always insists upon enjoying a fresh home-cooked meat pie, a tourtière, with her. The joke is on GSP, though, as his mother reveals to the camera that she always has meat pies ready in the freezer, and then heats them up when he arrives. He complains about a reference to him growing up in a “dusty basement” in a UFC feature interview, as if people would think less of him because of it.

And with that, after giving some birthday wishes over the phone, signing some posters, and being recognized by some business types in the lobby, GSP is gone: home to Quebec, and hopefully, back to the Orange Julep, or to his mother’s tourtière. “It’s important to stay real, to stay authentic, you know?”

Takedown: The DNA of GSP, a Remstar release, will open in 100 theatres across Canada as a part of the Cineplex Front Row Centre Events on Thursday February 20 at 7:30pm, Saturday February 22, 4pm, and Monday, February 24, 7:30pm.