Georges St-Pierre on Q

England's Dan (The Outlaw) Hardy, right, tries to evade a punch from UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre during a 2010 bout. (Josh Hedges/Canadian Press)

First aired on Q (09/04/13)

Mixed martial arts, or MMA, is not for the faint of heart. It's a full contact sport in which the combatants blend techniques from fighting disciplines, including boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, and jiu-jitsu, in an effort to score a knockout, submission, or decision victory.

There have been times in MMA star Georges St-Pierre's life where people have thought he may be faint of heart. Today, he's the reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title holder. But, as a child, growing up in Saint-Isidore, Quebec, he was small, skinny and a target for older bullies.

"They used to throw gum in my hair, used to beat me up, steal my lunch money," St-Pierre told Q host Jian Ghomeshi during a recent interview.

Eventually fed up with the abuse, the young St-Pierre threw himself into karate lessons, which sparked a lifelong passion for the martial arts. But it also led to a relentless drive to improve himself physically and mentally. He fought back against the bullies. Sometimes he won, and many times he lost, he said. But his self-esteem grew with every encounter, and with every karate belt earned. He held his head up higher when those bullies were around.

"That's what martial arts taught me. It taught me confidence ... Even if you're not confident, to act like you are confident. And you become confident."

gsp-way-of-fight-110.jpgIn essence, martial arts and fighting gave him important tools to use in his life, which is a prominent theme in his new book The Way of The Fight. The memoir, told by St-Pierre but ghostwritten by other writers, sketches out his long journey from that vulnerable kid in the schoolyard to the international sports icon he is today.

He watched his first UFC event when the controversial sport was in its infancy. He was still a teenager and it changed his life, he said.

"I believed in it. I truly believed in it. When I first saw the UFC, I had this flash, I had this idea, I knew this sport was going to be great and popular and it just happened to me... like a revelation. Boom! I knew right away what I wanted to do."

He had learned through his martial arts training the value of persistence, whether it's mastering a difficult technique or achieving a lifelong goal. His persistence to become a professional MMA fighter was tested many times, as he took various jobs as a bouncer and garbage man while training as much as he could. Those early days trying to make ends meet were exhausting and probably a little unusual to outsiders who couldn't understand why he would put himself through this to get his head punched in for a living.

"Back in the day [it was] very hard, [but] I always believed that one day I would see the light at the end of tunnel."

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