At 35 years old and approaching his 18th UFC fight this Sunday in Boston against Ben Saunders, Patrick Cote is still as ambitious as ever. A world championship is on the “to do” list, and he also wants to surpass countryman Georges St-Pierre as the Canadian with the most fights in the UFC.
If achieved, both goals would put the Quebec native in the history books forever. But as far as impact goes, Cote’s influence might be felt even more strongly in an area that has nothing to do with what he does on fight night.
These days, Cote doesn’t fight solely for the money, and he doesn’t fight because he has to. He truly competes for the love of the game, and it’s because he’s already prepared for life after the final bell has sounded.
“The thing is, every morning I wake up and I still enjoy this,” he said. “I still enjoy going to the gym, and the day I will not enjoy it anymore, I’m just gonna stop. I’ve built my after career for three or four years now, so if I don’t fight, I’m okay. I can live exactly the same life and not change my lifestyle. I did what I had to do, and now I’m fighting because I want to and not because I need to. It’s still fun after 13 years of professional fighting. I still enjoy it and I feel that I’m not getting younger, but I’m getting better and better every year.”
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The proof is in the Octagon, where Cote has won five of his last six bouts, four of those victories coming in the welterweight division. But it was a fight for the middleweight championship in 2008 that let Cote know how easily a pro sports career can end.
“The starting point was when I got injured against Anderson Silva,” he said of the title fight that ended when he blew out his knee in the third round. “I was pretty smart with my money, even at that time, but I was out for a year and a half and I didn’t have everything that I have right now outside the cage. So I was living off the money I was putting in the bank and I was still able to live well because I was smart with my money before. When I went back to fighting, I said ‘man, this thing can end very, very quickly. So I have to do something in a smart way to protect my life after fighting.’ And that’s exactly what happened.”
Today, Cote has taken advantage of the opportunities afforded him by his spot on the UFC roster and built a life for himself outside of fighting.
“I have a real estate company, I’m working a lot on TV, and it’s all because I was a professional athlete and I was building my name in this organization,” he said. “So you have to see farther than just the present. It’s easier to say that at my age, because when I was 24, 25, 26 years old, I was just living in the moment. I wasn’t thinking about my future. When you’re in the UFC, everything is going well, you make money in a short period of time, but you have to understand that if you get injured or something is not going well, you don’t have welfare, so you have to focus on something else if something bad happens. And that’s what I did.”
“The thing is, every morning I wake up and I still enjoy this. I still enjoy going to the gym, and the day I will not enjoy it anymore, I’m just gonna stop." -- Patrick Cote
That freedom was never more evident than in Cote’s last fight against Josh Burkman in August, a bout that saw the two veterans leave it all in the Octagon en route to winning a Fight of the Night bonus.
“That was fun,” Cote said of his third-round knockout win. “I had a blast in that fight. Me and Josh, we’ve known each other a long time, we been fighting in the UFC for a few years and have been on the same card a couple times too, and there’s a lot of respect there. We had fun, we enjoyed the fight, and with a KO like that at the end, for me that was just the cherry on the sundae.”
But there’s still more to do, and Cote wants it all. For all the right reasons.
“The goal is the same – to be the world champion,” he said. “I had a chance once, and I know I have the capacity to go to another title fight. I’m 35 years old, I’ll be 36 in February, but I’m still enjoying it.”