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Advanced stats in the service of Olivier Aubin-Mercier

EDMONTON - There is no bad idea when you want to get out of a lethargy. Confronted with the possibility of losing a third consecutive fight, Olivier Aubin-Mercier used all the means at his disposal in preparation for his fight against Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 240.

Some of the initiatives taken by Aubin-Mercier are part of a totally logical and conventional approach. The most significant has been to invite Georges St-Pierre to occupy a larger place within his group of coaches.

Others, such as the "Canadian Gangster", Montreal's furry alter ego, are more absurd. Like the one, for example, to have called a professional bettor to get a different look at the trends of his next opponent.

Aubin-Mercier shares this improbable idea with the utmost seriousness. Embedded in a sofa on the second floor of the hotel where the UFC has its headquarters in Edmonton, he says he discovered this unlikely collaborator on Twitter during research for a competition of predictions - a pool, in good French - that he launched on his podcast.

"With a friend, I started to take an interest in sports betting, to see if it was possible to beat the game, with the odds," says the 30-year-old Montarvillois. We found this guy. He had just started, he had been doing this for maybe two years, but his stats were crazy. "

At the suggestion of his friend, Aubin-Mercier came into contact with this American, whom he merely calls Josh. He asked him for his opinion about Tsarukyan. He received as a reply a document of five pages declining the habits of the Russian.

"We see in what situation and in what proportion he poses such and such a gesture. How he gets up, how he plays his fight, how he plays his standup. It's like advanced statistics. Of course I can not just trust that, but it's a good base, "says OAM.

"He linked pictures to the movements he was explaining. I loved how he edited his document, "adds Lévis Labrie, one of his coaches.

Aubin-Mercier and his team also realized that many of their secret spy's observations, which he says from a sample of five or six fights, were consistent with the game plan they had already developed.

"Everyone was going to the same conclusion. Everyone had the same strategy, everyone saw it the same way. I think we found the way to beat this guy. "

A sober camp

Aubin-Mercier did not just add to his training routine.

A month ago, former UFC lightweight contender Kevin Lee arrived at Tristar Gym to take in the knowledge of head coach Firas Zahabi. It was the weekend of St. John the Baptist. Aubin-Mercier candidly recounts the epiphany that struck her that day.

"I went to the cottage the night before and had drunk a little. I thought I was reasonable, but eventually I was hangover not bad. I arrived at the gym and Lee fooled me. "

The slap, literally as well as figuratively, made Aubin-Mercier realize that he had crossed the line that a conscientious professional athlete should have drawn. Accustomed to having a drink until the week before his fights, he decided to get ahead of his good resolutions and leave the bottle of red, which he ate with moderation, in the cellar for the rest of his training camp.

This apparently banal sacrifice had immediate repercussions on its form. "I went to see my dietitian a week ago and I was at the same weight as in my last fight, but with four more pounds of muscle," he wonders, admitting without giving too many details that he had also ended up taking revenge on Lee.

It is therefore with a healthy mind in a healthy body that Olivier Aubin-Mercier will return to the octagon after a break of seven months Saturday. The fear of losing for a third time in a row? Of course she lives there. But she does not paralyze him.

"It would be a pretty easy job if the only thing I would have to do would be to go into the octagon and beat myself. There must be some pressure from the outside. It's part of the game, it's part of the job. Am I stressed? Am I afraid for my future? Yeah. But I can not do anything. The only thing I can do is give my best. "

"It's a big fight spirit, but with which I do not have much to gain and much to lose. At first, for real, we were not very happy with the matchup, he continues. But this is probably the fight week for which I was the most excited of my career. It's because of the level of the opponent. I find it very good and I do not know what will happen, that's what is exciting. I can not wait to embark on the octagon. "

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