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St. Pierre has his mind set on regaining UFC crown

Since losing his Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title as a huge favorite to Matt Serra in Houston in April, Georges St. Pierre has been thinking of what went wrong.

It turns out thinking might have been the problem in the first place.

St. Pierre will take the first step toward regaining his belt when he meets Josh Koscheck tonight in UFC 74 at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

St. Pierre was considered to be at the top of the list of the world’s best fighters in any weight class and was on a roll through the UFC, knocking off the top challengers and eventually capturing the title.

In his first title defense, Serra blitzed St. Pierre and took away the belt with a first-round stoppage.

“All the people and all the reporters were saying that I was almost untouchable or invincible, and what did I do? I started to believe it,” St. Pierre said.

The loss was tough to take for the 12-1 favorite.

“When I lost, it took me a couple of weeks to get back from it,” he said. “I didn’t want to hear about (anything) from (anybody).”

Part of his training this time around was getting his mind back in focus. He turned to sports psychologist Brian Cain.

“I always thought that sports psychologists were for crazy people or weak people, but I realized the mental game is so important,” St. Pierre said. “I worked a lot on my mental preparation. Right now, I’m on top of my game.”

While many experts still consider St. Pierre to be one of the world’s best all-around fighters, Cain taught him talent and ability are not always enough.

“I truly believe that I am the best fighter in the world, but that’s not everything,” St. Pierre said. “In baseball, it’s not always the best team that wins, it’s the team that plays better that night. I need to be on top of my game every time I fight.”

While all of the former champion’s theories sound good lying on a couch, tonight will go a long way toward determining whether St. Pierre is back to his old form.

Koscheck is a controversial character who has drawn the ire of many fans, but disputing his recent success is difficult.

Since losing for the first time as a professional to Drew Fickett in October 2005, the former NCAA wrestling champion has rattled off five straight wins, including a unanimous decision over Diego Sanchez in April.

Koscheck also wants a shot at the welterweight title, and if he can beat St. Pierre, he probably would get it. UFC president Dana White announced Thursday the winner of this fight will meet the winner of the December matchup between Matt Hughes and Serra.

One fighter who has the mental aspect figured out is 44-year-old Randy Couture, who will defend his heavyweight title against Gabriel Gonzaga in the main event.

Rising star Roger Huerta continues his busy year by taking on unbeaten Alberto Crane. It will be the fourth UFC fight of 2007 for Huerta, whose year includes an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Las Vegan Joe Stevenson will face a tough challenge from Kurt Pellegrino, and Kendall Grove looks to remain unbeaten in the octagon when he takes on Patrick Cote.

The undercard features the return of Las Vegan Frank Mir, who will meet Antoni Hardonk. The former heavyweight champion, a Bonanza High School graduate, has had a long road back from injury and most recently has been involved outside the ring as a color commentator for the World Extreme Cagefighting broadcasts on Versus.

The first bout is scheduled for 5 p.m., with the live pay-per-view telecast at 7.

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