While showcasing his outstanding athletic ability in the mixed martial arts world for years now, Patrick Côté has always stayed true to his roots. Known as “The Predator” in MMA circles, the Rimouski native, who grew up in Sherbrooke, can often be seen at the Bell Centre either watching a hockey game or throwing his weight around in a UFC fight.
You’ve already fought a few times at the Bell Centre. Is there something particularly special about getting in the octagon in Montreal in front of your fans?
Patrick Côté: The Bell Centre is definitely a special place. It’s where the team I grew up watching plays. Fighting in Montreal is crazy, especially when it comes to the crowd. I’ve fought in Brazil and Las Vegas in sold out venues, but nothing compares to the crowd here. The crowd in Las Vegas is loud at the start, but eventually they calm down. Here, people are loud from start to finish. People who say that you don’t hear what’s going on outside the octagon are liars. When they start chanting my name, shouting and encouraging me, I hear them.
You’ve fought in Montreal. You’ve also fought in Quebec City. Which town has better fans?
PC: It wouldn’t be fair to Quebec City to say it’s Montreal. When I fought in Quebec City, it was just a small gala with 6,000 people. It was an Ultimate Fight Night on a Wednesday night, so the ambiance just couldn’t be the same. But, for 6,000 people, I have to say that I definitely heard them. When you put four times as many people in a place like the Bell Centre, it’s really special.
How long have you been a Habs fan?
PC: Pretty much forever. When I was younger, my favorite player was Mats Naslund. I always got excited watching him play. I had his jersey. When I was born, there were the Canadiens and the Nordiques, but the Canadiens always had a bigger spot in my heart.
Did you play hockey growing up like the majority of youngsters in Quebec?
PC: Not really. Honestly, I played street hockey in front of my house, but that’s about it. I played a lot more soccer. I played for the Quebec squad, and I played for the National Junior Team for a year. I played elite level soccer, but I was on a completely different level when it came to other kids in hockey. Today, I’m often invited to play in celebrity hockey games for foundations. That makes me realize that I should have played more hockey when I was younger (laughs).
You attend those games? Are you able to hold your own on skates?
PC: I know how to skate, but I definitely can’t say that I’m a big-time player. We go out there to have a good time and it’s for a good cause. We raise money and we have fun.
What’s your favorite Canadiens memory?
PC: My oldest memory is that time when a brawl broke out before a game even got underway. Chris Nilan was there, but he didn’t want to fight. He backed away. It was during the warm-up and he wanted to play the game. The referees hadn’t arrived yet and he moved away from it all because he wanted to play and he didn’t want to get suspended. In the end, he didn’t have a choice but to get involved.
What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever watched a Canadiens game?
PC: It would have to be in Bosnia when I was in the army in 2002. The Canadiens were in the playoffs going up against the Hurricanes. We all got together as a group at the base and watched the games.
Your fights often go the distance. What does that really say about your fitness level and just how solid a jaw you have?
PC: I’d definitely prefer my fights not to go all the way. My goal is always to finish things off before then (laughs). But, I always want to be in great shape, especially for the weigh-in. Recently, some fighters are coming in a little overweight. That’s a lack of respect towards the sport, the organization and your opponent. I always show up in great shape. That’s also why I changed weight class. When I started in UFC, I was fighting at 205 pounds, then at 185 pounds for eight years. Now, I’ve gone down to 170 pounds because it was the logical choice. With the knowledge we’ve got today, you surround yourself with the best professionals out there. Nutritionists, coaches, neurologists, etc.
Things are probably a lot different than when you started, right?
PC: When I started, we were at UFC 50 in 2004. There was just one sponsor. When I started working with my nutritionist and my trainer, I thought I knew everything I needed to know. I quickly realized that it wasn’t the case.
We know that a lot of hockey players have incorporated martial arts into their training programs. Did you ever share a gym with a pro?
PC: I’ve trained with Simon Gagne before in Quebec City. Back then, we had the same trainer. Sometimes, my Montreal-based trainer, Jean-François Gaudreault, also works with players like Lars Eller and a few other Canadiens players at Mansfield Athletic Club.
In your opinion, which current Canadiens player would make the best fighter?
PC: Brandon Prust could certainly be good. I know that UFC fighter, Sam Stout, is a good friend of his. And, Brandon’s a big fan of the sport. He probably would’ve done well when UFC started out, when there weren’t any weight classes. He’s not a big guy, but he’s always ready to take anybody on. He would be a good fighter because he never backs down and he has confidence in himself.
Which NHL player would you like to go up against in the octagon?
PC: Probably, Brad Marchand. I don’t really like his attitude (laughs). I don’t know him personally, so I can’t say that I don’t like him as a person. But, with his attitude on the ice, it wouldn’t be hard to motivate myself.
And, on the ice?
PC: Nobody (laughs). I definitely wouldn’t drop my gloves out there.
Interview conducted by Vincent Cauchy. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
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