Georges St-Pierre is defending his UFC welterweight crown on April 30th against American Jake Shields. He’s become the subject of a great deal of media attention due to his status as a dominant champion in Mixed Martial Arts. So much so, that a publisher elected to capitalize on his popularity with an unauthorized biography written by veteran author and seasoned journalist Jerry Langton.
The book is entitled ‘Fighter: The Unauthorized Biography of Georges St-Pierre’ (Wiley, May 24, 2011), with the French-Canadian star making it clear he played no part in the development or creation of this book.
“What [Langton] says—it’s not official about me, because people try to make money all the time on me, on my back,” St-Pierre told me in a February interview.
A flip through the book’s slender 236 pages reveals a hastily-produced product that is padded with superfluous details, such as the origins of the music artists Dan Hardy chose as his entrance music in his fight against GSP. The majority of the body of the work is an elaborate play-by-play of Georges’ fight library, with almost no new material.
Industry insiders have been critical of the book, with many complaining that Langton got several key facts wrong. A lack of time or effort on the part of the author and publisher are blamed for inconsistencies.
An example of such glaring (and easily verified) errors includes stating that BJ Penn was “the UFC lightweight and welterweight champion” at the time of his 2004 win over Matt Hughes. In fact, Penn had failed to capture the UFC lightweight title in two previous attempts, losing to Jens Pulver and drawing with Caol Uno. The lack of proper research continues in the same paragraph, with Langton stating that Penn then left the UFC for rival organization K-1 due to “immaturity and a lack of proper perspective.” In fact, the much more favorable pay offered in Japan ($187,500) over the UFC’s typical miserly wages (after the 2004 win against Hughes, Penn was offered $30,000 per fight by the UFC; he was willing to settle for just $40,000 and was rebuffed) was a strong factor in Penn’s decision.
Did Langton interview a single close confident, friend, or trainer who knew intimate details of Georges’ personal or professional life? When pressed for an answer, the author was purposely vague to mask his lack of access:
“It was intentional not to mention too many names. Most of the people I spoke with asked for at least some level of anonymity, so I kind of have to respect that. Believe me, I’d love to name names, but I gotta keep my word,” said Langton.
Even the original cover for ‘The Fighter’ had to be scrapped due to some sort of dispute, most likely with Zuffa (which also owned the rights to the cover photo licensed through Getty Images).
“There was a disagreement on the rights to the image and we opted to change the cover despite having licensed the image from a reputable photo agency,” explained Wiley publicist Erin Kelly.
The decision to bar Wiley from using the original cover follows Zuffa’s precedent. Former UFC light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz was issued a ‘cease and desist’ order by Zuffa in 2008 when his autobiography, entitled This is Going to Hurt’ had a cover featuring Ortiz wearing the UFC light-heavyweight title. Zuffa explained the belt was intellectual property of the UFC; its use in promotional materials requires the company’s approval per the terms of its standard contract.
Georges St-Pierre was never a controversial sports figure; perhaps Langton couldn’t find any interesting details about GSP’s life because the aforementioned details just didn’t exist to be found.
The end result of ‘The Fighter’ is a book that can be judged by its new cover, consisting of a black silhouette set against a grey chain link fence: bland, generic, and representative of just how little planning or thought went into this book.
Brian J. D’Souza is a Canadian writer who has covered Mixed Martial Arts for ESPN.com, FoxSports.com and FIGHT! magazine.