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SportsColumnistsMark La Monica

UFC fighters together for world tour, alone for fights

Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and challenger Johny Hendricks

Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and challenger Johny Hendricks do their staredown at the New York City stop on the UFC World Tour 2013 at the Beacon Theater. (July 31, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Mark La Monica

Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate don't like each other. Jon Jones isn't ready to move up to the heavyweight division but wants one day to be heavyweight champion. Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos will try to do something different when they fight for a third time this October.

Nothing new there.

Georges St-Pierre drank too much water and needed to leave the stage at the Beacon Theatre momentarily.

That was a first.

And so went Wednesday's New York City stopover on the UFC's 11-city, five-country world tour this week. More than 1,700 pounds of humans and 60 pounds of championship gold were front and center as the most successful mixed martial arts promotion in the world continued to generate buzz for its final four pay-per-views in 2013.

"I've always had this philosophy that lots of people want to watch great fights -- as long as they know they're on," UFC president Dana White said. "We've never had a situation where we had such a stacked end of the year like we do this year."

The amassing of eight fighters -- four champions -- in one place for a media event when it's not fight week and they're all on the same card is a rare sight.

Flying from city to city and country to country in a five-day span builds a certain level of camaraderie among these face-punchers. But that ends once a face gets in the way of a fist.

"In fighting, these guys go out there alone, they go out there by themselves," White said. "Mentally and physically and emotionally, what it takes to become a fighter, there's so much pressure."

News conferences and media events happen all the time leading up to a fight. That's nothing new. But it is still a situation somewhat unique to MMA and boxing -- sharing the same stage with your opponent shortly before competition. Rarely, if ever, does that happen in another pro sport. If it does, the athlete got lost on the way from the locker room to the team bus.

"It's weird, but this is part of it, build the fight up," said Velasquez, who defends his heavyweight title against Junior Dos Santos at UFC 166 in Houston on Oct. 19. "Me and Junior have it easy where there isn't much trash talking between us. We're respectful of each other. But, yeah, when fight time comes, it's all business. We gotta go out there and take care of business."

But not before they go to Houston on Thursday and Brazil on Friday.

At times, it was about winning the news conference on charm, such as when St-Pierre called himself a nerd and hugged Rousey.

At times, it was about the fight as well, such as when Johny Hendricks, welterweight challenger to St-Pierre, said "He's been a great champion. Now, it's just time for somebody else and I believe that's me."

Hendricks and St-Pierre continue the talk Thursday in Montreal, GSP's hometown, then go to Dallas on Friday. Lots of co-mingling for two guys preparing to make the other guy suffer at UFC 167 in Montreal on Nov. 16.

At times, it was about giving the fans what they ask for, such as when Jones stared down with Velasquez.

Jones and Alexander Gustafsson did their staredown photo op shortly thereafter, signed a few autographs, then were whisked off stage, into a vehicle and to an airport so they could catch their flight to Stockholm, Sweden, for Thursday's stop on the world tour. On Friday, the two light heavyweights will be in London to talk about how they're going to beat each other up in Toronto at UFC 165 on Sept. 21.

There were genuine answers to questions as well, such as when Tate admitted she underestimated Rousey the first time they fought, didn't respect her enough and let the trash talking they did affect her mindset.

And, of course, there was chance to score points with the judges. Fans, that is.

"Her idea of respect seems to be to smile to your face and then do something behind your back," Rousey said about Tate. "I think it would be more respectful if she told me off to my face than to smile to my face and talk behind my back."

Rousey and Tate, opposing coaches on the upcoming season of "The Ultimate Fighter," will fight one another at UFC 168 on Dec. 28. But not before they share backstage and center stage on ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Thursday and then a fourth appearance of the week on Friday in Chicago.

It all makes for one interesting week in the fight game. Expect little such chivalry and friendliness to reappear during fight week.

New York Sports