Fraternities get a bad wrap. After all, they’re filled with a pile of high-hormoned men looking to enjoy their last four years of freedom. When you throw alcohol into the picture, things get even more out of hand. But in the midst of the craziness and the partying, you’ll find true loyalty. A brotherhood that goes beyond measure.
And if it wasn’t for Ovince St. Preux’s fraternity brother, he’d never be fighting on one of mixed martial arts’ highest levels.
“I was at a point in my life where I was just trying to stay in shape,” admitted St. Preux in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “A lot of my old teammates put on weight and were out of shape after their football careers were over. I didn’t want that to happen to me.”
“A fraternity brother of mine found a gym in some dude’s garage and said it was a good place to stay in shape. I decided to check it out and it turned out to be my first experience with MMA. My fraternity brother, Chris Wright, called it kickboxing at the time. It was about a 45-minute workout where we started doing wrestling and practicing choke holds. I knew this wasn’t a kickboxing class,” laughed St. Preux. “But I was hooked after that first experience.”
After a few more trips to the garage, St. Preux was on a fast track to his first professional fight. However, it wasn’t necessarily his decision to jump in the cage for his fighting debut. Instead, St. Preux was tricked by his coach, Eric Turner.
“My coach actually tricked me into taking my first MMA fight. He pulled a dirty trick with some big gloves and said how I’d never get hit harder than when he hit me. He hit me with some 18-ounce gloves. Then I got into the fight and realized I’m fighting in some tiny little six-ounce gloves and I’m like, “oh no, I didn’t sign up for this!” The bell rang and I wrecked some poor dude, and the rest is history,” St. Preux recalled with a laugh.
St. Preux would continue to wreck foes en route to an eye-opening 11-4 record, including a 5-0 mark in Strikeforce play. This noticeable dominance led to a showdown with prestigious Strikeforce veteran Gegard Mousasi in December of 2011. It was the biggest fight of St. Preux’s life and one that wouldn’t go his way.
The Haitian-American’s eight-fight winning streak came tumbling down as he suffered his first loss in two years. But according to St. Preux, the loss taught him a valuable lesson, one that he’ll be able to use in his bright-lighted future.
“The loss was a learning experience for sure. Win or lose, I try to learn from all of my fights, and I learned a ton in that fight. The Ovince in the first minute of the first round of that fight, was not the same Ovince in the last minute of the last round of that fight. A lot like GSP’s first fight with Matt Hughes, where GSP admits to being overwhelmed by the aura surrounding Matt Hughes, I feel like I was just overwhelmed with Mousasi’s aura,” admitted St. Preux. “Give me a rematch, though, and just like GSP vs. Hughes II, you’ll see a whole different me in OSP vs Mousasi II.
“I don’t know if I’d change anything. That fight, more than any others that I’ve had, made me really concentrate on the mental aspect of the fight game. I was fighting the Mousasi in my head. The Mousasi that was a K1 champion, the Mousasi that had beaten up pretty much everyone in his path, I was fighting a top-10 fighter in the world. I was fighting the young legend, and I was fighting everyone except the Armenian dude in the cage with me. When I finally pushed all that aside in the third round, I realized that I could whoop him. That’s what I did that for the next five minutes. It was just a matter of too little, too late in that fight.”
St. Preux will have the opportunity to get his career back on the train tracks when he meets fellow light heavyweight, T.J. Cook, at Strikeforce’s upcoming event on Saturday, Aug. 18. at the Valley View Casiono Center in San Diego. Cook, who’s also coming off a loss, will look to prove he’s worthy of being put in the title talks. But, according to St. Preux, that won’t be the case.
“What do I know about T.J.? I know he’s going to get beat up on Saturday, that’s what I know. I mean, I heard he’s got heavy hands, he’s got nine knockouts in 12 wins, so that’s some knockout power there. But I also know that in his four losses, he’s lost by submission all four times. My coach had me doing some crazy, cool submissions that take advantage of my wrestling experience; expect to add a new submission hold to the lexicon after my fight on Saturday. On top of that, I’ve been working with Coach Billy Schreibe to tighten up my striking,” said St. Preux. “He’s the striking coach for guys like Brandon Vera, Dominick Cruz and Junior dos Santos.
“I’ve added a lot more power to my strikes as well as a lot more technique. I’m feeling really good there. My striking is on point, my wrestling is on point, and my submission game is off the hook. This is gonna be a great fight, for sure. Do I feel that this match-up favors me? You better believe it. My last five fights have been televised on Showtime; T.J. has never had a televised fight in his life. I just came off a loss to a top-10 light heavyweight in the world; T.J. is coming off a loss to some guy whose name I can’t remember. I’ve faced a murderer’s row of top talent in Rodney Wallace, Nik Fekete, Virgil Zwicker, Antwain Britt, Benji Radach, “Abongo” Humphrey and Mousasi. Who has T.J. faced? Who has he beaten? Who has he lost too?,” asked St. Preux. “Yeah, this fight favors me.”
“I think I have an advantage everywhere. He’s got a 71-inch reach; I’ve got an 80-inch reach. I’ve got more experience, power, technical versatility, and power. Yes, I said power twice. What is his strength? Punches. He’s going to have to throw caution to the wind and wing punches at me because his only chance, his only hope, is a puncher’s chance,” admitted St. Preux.
How can you expect St. Preux’s highly-anticipated bout to play out? Well, continue reading.
“My coach wants me to go into the second round, because I’ve had such a long layoff and he wants me to shake off the ring rust. I personally don’t want to waste the time, though. So, if I get my way, the fight will be over quick and mercifully,” said St. Preux. “If my coach gets his way, T.J. is in for a brutal, sustained beating before I finish him off in the second.”
St. Preux would like to thank his family at KMAA and Team Quest. His good friends, Virgil Zwicker and Puma. His coach, Billy, and his fraternity Omega Psi Phi incorporated. He would also like to thank the University of Tennesssee and all those who have supported him throughout his career.
Top Photo: Ovince St. Preux (R) battles Gegard Mousasi (Esther Lin/All Elbows)