QUEBEC CITY — During fight week, the questions and answers often seem to slide past each other like a game of chicken. Athletes have a way of slipping past trouble spots. In the case of fighters, that makes sense; part of their training teaches them to be escape artists, or at least to blunt the point of impact.
So when you listen to them talk, you pay attention to the nuances. If they speak long enough, something will come out. With anticipation and excitement and sometimes fear coursing through their bodies, how can it not? And then you are left to wonder what it means.
When gentleman like Patrick Cote are involved, that process heightens even further. Cote embodies the martial artist philosophy or respect and discipline, and has never been the type to badmouth an opponent. This week, as he prepares to fight Kyle Noke on the TUF: Nations Finale, is no exception.
All the talking points are there. He has respect for Noke’s all-around game and will be prepared for the best version of himself the Australian has brought to the cage. And while that’s surely genuine, he can’t help but draw comparisons on their pasts when figuring how their Wednesday night future lines up.
"This is not like when I fought Anderson Silva or Cung Le," he said. "Those guys are very unique, very one of a kind. Nobody else is doing what they’re doing inside the cage. With Kyle, it was very, very easy to imitate his style in training with my training partners. Nothing is going to surprise me Wednesday night. I’ll be ready for everything he’s going to try, and I’m going to give him all the answers to the problems he’s going to try to give me."
If he wants to continue chasing his UFC title dreams, he better be right.
At 34 years of age, Cote is not old, but he’s not young, either. Not after over a decade of pro fighting experience, including 13 fights in the UFC octagon.
Because he’s been on the big stage so long, most fight observers believe they have a firm grasp on Cote’s ceiling. He’s fought in three weight classes, making it as far as the middleweight division’s No.1 contender’s spot and a title shot against Anderson Silva back in 2008. Since then it’s been a roller coaster. He was cut from the promotion after losing three in a row. Then he won four straight and was brought back into the fold. Finally, he moved to welterweight, where he currently resides with a 2-0 record.
This is the spring of the welterweight division. After the long reign of George St-Pierre, suddenly there are possibilities. Anything can happen. Within the last few weeks, Johny Hendricks became champion. Within the next two months, Tyron Woodley or Rory MacDonald might be named top contender.
Cote isn’t currently ranked in the top 15, but how else is he going to get there than by winning big?
"He’s finished 75 percent of his wins, so he’s a finisher," Cote said. "But at the same time, he didn’t fight opponents like I fought in my career. I think my advantage in this fight is big. I’ve fought better guys than him, and I’ve been in bigger fights than him. I’m going there to make a statement at 170. I’m going to finish the fight and that’s it."
The fight is the culmination of their season coaching Canada and Australia, respectively, on TUF: Nations. Cote, who has all four of the finalists, will claim victory as a coach, but he’s not ready to think about anything other than fighting as a full-time profession. After earning his first win as a 170-pounder against Bobby Voelker almost a year ago, he’s had plenty of time to educate himself on his new body and fine tune everything about his weight cut and conditioning. The result, he hopes, is something just as powerful as what he brought to 185, but quicker and far better conditioned.
He’s also rounded out his team with a physiotherapist, a nutritionist, sports psychologist, and doctors that have helped him improve his reflexes. Along with his regular coaches, it’s a potent mix. Throw in the fact that he’s fighting in his home province, where he’s a perfect 5-0 in his last five fights, and Cote feels primed to put on a show.
More than that, at 34, he aims to show that he’s still got something left. That he can surpass those expectations that have been built over time.
"I feel awesome," he said. "I’m at the top of my game physically and mentally. I took the time to make my adjustments. I’m not blind. I know that in my new division, it’s like 80 percent wrestlers, and that’s been my weakness. But I’ve taken care of my weakness. And on my feet, if somebody wants to strike with me, I’m not scared with anyone in the world at my weight class."