Since getting his start in professional mixed martial arts in front of approximately 300 people, Olivier Aubin-Mercier has never let up in his drive to keep climbing the ladder, which is why he joined Ultimate Fighting Championship less than three years later. Now 28 years old, the Quebec fighter continues his ascension up the UFC ranks, in addition to occasionally helping his mentor, Georges St-Pierre, in his pre-fight training. On the occasion of his appearance as a guest commentator at the 1909 Taverne Moderne restaurant for UFC 217, we sat down with Aubin-Mercier to get his thoughts on Saturday's event, as well as on his friendship with a young Canadiens hopeful.
You will be at the 1909 Taverne Moderne on Saturday for the viewing of UFC 217, the fight between Georges St-Pierre and Michael Bisping. Are you excited to take part in the event?
OLIVER AUBIN-MERCIER: I'm really excited to give my thoughts on the fights on Saturday. I think people are going to have fun. I'm the kind of guy who likes to enjoy himself and who likes to provide sarcastic commentary! (laughs)
Do you think the experience will be that much more unique given that you'll be watching on a 46-foot screen?
OAM: My goal in life is to one day have a TV that size, so I'm very excited to see my future TV! (laughs) It's going to be pretty impressive. It's like we were going to be in a mini-cinema inside a sports bar. It's going to add a special touch to the night, we're really going to be able to feel like we're inside the cage with Georges.
What are you expecting to see from Georges after his almost four-year absence?
OAM: I think it's going to be a tough fight. He's put himself up to a big challenge, which is pretty much the way Georges does it. He's always liked that. I'm pretty confident he's going to leave Madison Square Garden with the win.
What's your prediction for the GSP / Bisping fight?
OAM: I'm feeling that Georges is going to win it in a the judges' decision, because several of his fights have been decided that way. He's always fought against the best. I think Bisping is very good at defending against submission holds. On the other hand, he has a "chin problem" and he could be vulnerable to that. That said, Georges has never been known for his strike force. He's for sure going to fight to his strengths and take advantage of his technical skills.
Are there other fights on the card that have piqued your interest?
OAM: I think the semi-final between T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt will be really interesting. I'm expecting a very passionate fight. I'd like for T.J. to win it. He's really spectacular and he has a special style, but Garbrandt is very powerful. Anything can happen.
You've fought at the Bell Centre before, at UFC 186. How did you like the experience of fighting at home?
OAM: It was really special to have Montrealers behind me. The crowd was hysterical. I remember between the second and third rounds, Georges came to the side of the cage and yelled out some things he thought I should be doing. For someone who took up mixed martial arts because of him, it was very special to be at the Bell Centre and to have him in my corner. We've been training together for a few years. I've really helped him in his preparation against lefties. Georges is like a mentor for me and even if I'll only be providing commentary on the fight, Saturday will be a big night for me, too.
UFC president Dana White recently announced that he wanted to organize an event in Montreal in 2018. We imagine that hasn't fallen on deaf ears!
OAM: When he came to Montreal a few weeks ago, I had a feeling he was going to meet the Bell Centre management to organize a future event. I was pretty happy to hear that. Fighting at the Bell Centre means fighting in front of my own. I'm going to do everything I can to be a part of the next event in Montreal.
We've seen on social media that you've trained with Zach Fucale in the past. How did that start? Did it happen often?
OAM: I knew he had boxed with some of my friends and after meeting him, I invited him to come train at AMM. That's how it started. I still train with him, sometimes at Tristar or at H2O.
Does Zach do as well with boxing gloves as he does with his goalie mitt?
OAM: You know the player who did the "Superman Punch" recently [Kevin Bieksa of the Anaheim Ducks], I'm looking forward to the day when Zach starts up with him! (laughs) I'm ready to put $5 down on Zach. He hits pretty hard and is pretty good on the ground.
To make a reservation for Saturday's event at 1909 Taverne Moderne or for any other information, visit the restaurant's website.