In a world full of high-caliber mixed martial artists, most will concede that Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) is at or near the top of the list when it comes to talent and ability.
Since his introduction to the world of professional MMA in 2002, the 26 year old from St. Isidore, Quebec, has run roughshod over a litany of fighters considered the cream of the crop. Not only has he beaten them, he's also made it look relatively easy.
The first sign that alerted the international community that "Rush" was someone special was when he defeated Pete Spratt (Pictures) in 2003. St. Pierre was already popular around Montreal then, but Spratt was fresh off a win over Robbie Lawler (Pictures) at UFC 42 and was considered a heavy favorite.
The Spratt win garnered St. Pierre a coveted UFC invitation, and he made the best of it, winning exciting fights over Karo Parisyan (Pictures) and Jay Hieron (Pictures). His next bout was his first shot at the welterweight title. With less than one second remaining in the first round, though, he lost via armbar to champion Matt Hughes (Pictures).
Obviously disappointed at the time, St. Pierre admitted afterward that he had lost before he ever stepped into the Octagon. He had regarded Hughes as his idol, not as someone he could beat.
Five more victories followed for St. Pierre before he got another shot at Hughes, and this time the outcome was different. St. Pierre's destruction of a fighter who had ruled the welterweight division for three years was so overwhelming that it shocked everyone, especially Hughes.
It was as if St. Pierre had ascended to a place previously unseen in the sport. But what happened next was just as shocking: In his first title defense, St. Pierre lost. Not only that, but he was beaten by an opponent everyone agreed had little chance.
Matt Serra (Pictures) came out of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show with a shot at the title, and to his credit, he defied experts and fans alike by demolishing St. Pierre with his heavy hands.
St. Pierre has always tried to find a positive way to view anything that happens to him. This time was no different, and after a period of disappointment, he realized that the loss was actually a good thing. A valuable lesson was learned: Take no opponent lightly.
Next for St. Pierre were dominant performances in a meeting with up-and-comer Josh Koscheck (Pictures) and a rubber match with Hughes.
That's where things stand now. So what's next?
Although not officially announced by the UFC, one of the promotion's worst kept secrets is that St. Pierre will be fighting Serra at Montreal's Bell Centre on April 19.
Speaking to Sherdog.com from Colorado, where he was helping Nathan Marquardt (Pictures) prepare for his upcoming match against Jeremy Horn (Pictures) at UFC 81, St. Pierre discussed his upcoming rematch with Serra, his long-term goals and his recent win over Hughes.
Even after his two seemingly effortless victories over Hughes, St. Pierre remains magnanimous.
"Hughes is an amazing fighter," he said. "I just had a good night that night, and he had a bad night."
And if somewhere down the line they have a fourth bout? "If we fight again, I don't think he's going to beat me, but he will probably come closer," St. Pierre said. "Maybe he had a bad day -- it's a matter of circumstances as well."
St. Pierre couldn't confirm that the rematch with Serra would indeed be happening on that date in Montreal, but his manager Shari Spenser believes so.
"That is my understanding of the plan," she told Sherdog.com, "but we have not signed anything yet so I can't confirm it -- but we'd like that."
"Fighting in front of my people would be a dream for me," St. Pierre exclaimed. "The most fans I've ever fought in front of in Montreal was 5,000, maybe 6,000 at UCC/TKO. My people are very hot blooded, and they're going to give the UFC a show like they've never seen before."
Spenser revealed that she and St. Pierre have a long-term strategy that will give the fighter options when he reaches the end of his career.
"Right around the time we started working together, Bjorn Borg was putting his Wimbledon trophies up for sale on eBay," Spenser said. "And that's not where we want to be. We don't want to see the UFC belts for sale."
Spenser's discussions with St. Pierre -- she's handling everything outside the Octagon, and he's handling everything inside it -- have led to steps that will allow him to reach his goals for 10 to 15 years from now.
The first step in this plan is of course to win the championship back from Serra. St. Pierre wants it made very clear that him winning the rematch is the only possible outcome.
"I am going to come with a specific strategy, and it's going to be a different story," he said emphatically. "They're going to see my eyes when I step into the Octagon. I'm going to have a different look. I'm going to look like a totally different guy, and people will understand when they see that fight."
After watching St. Pierre's most recent dismantling of Hughes, it's easy to believe he means what he says. One of the things he credits for the rebound was his decision to see a sports psychologist after the learning the impact it had on some Olympians.
"I used to think that people who needed to see a psychologist were crazy or weak," he said. "But at a certain level you need it. Visualization and positive imagery are very important. People underestimate the power of the mental aspect; it helped me a lot."
After the Serra fight, St. Pierre's long-term plan gets only more ambitious.
"He wants to leave a legacy," Spenser said. "He wants to be the most dominant fighter the UFC and MMA has ever seen, and he intends to accomplish that by dominating the 170-pound weight class, moving up to the 185 weight class and then eventually the light heavyweight class."
That's a pretty daunting goal, but Spenser thinks if anyone can do it, Georges has shown that he's the one. "If he does that," she said, "I don't think there's a doubt that he will be the best fighter to ever have graced the sport."
So when might this move up weight classes happen? St. Pierre is not too sure.
"When it's going to be time, it's going to be time," he said. "It's going to depend on the circumstances. It's going to be for the challenge."
Spenser added: "That's going to be a discussion we have with the UFC after this next fight. They've got some contenders that they've proposed down the road. We don't have an exact plan as to when that would occur. There's definitely a few more fights at the 170 level."
Asked how close he is now to being the fighter he wants to be, St. Pierre answered that he will never be perfect.
"I'll get closer and closer, but I'll never reach perfection because perfection is impossible," he said. "I'm still learning new techniques ... getting better."
Still getting better? Maybe he is.
Regardless, Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) has already begun writing his legacy.