Interview: From UFC to UFOs with Georges Saint-Pierre

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) legend Georges Saint-Pierre speaks about his entry into the fighting world, the evolution of his sport and his interest in UFOs in a wide-ranging interview with Monaco Life.

The two-time UFC World Champion recently assumed the role of the President of the Jury at the recent Sportel awards in Monaco, which is where we catch up with the now-retired legendary fighter.

When one asks Saint-Pierre a question, you never know exactly where he will take you, and which tangent he will lead you on. That’s all part of the charm of the smiley Québecois, who delved into the sad circumstances that led him into the sport as well as the positive and negative evolution of MMA and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). But, during our interview, in no context is he more loquacious than when talking about an interest outside of the cage: UFOs.

Monaco Life: Whilst MMA has rocketed in popularity in recent years, that wasn’t the case when you first entered the sport in 2002. What pushed you into the UFC Octagon?

Georges Saint-Pierre: I started doing martial arts because I was a victim of bullying at school. I started doing ‘self defence’ to defend myself and saw that I was very talented. I worked really hard and the ‘self defence’ transformed into a passion. Following on from that, I did competitions, I won titles and I developed a lot of love for it. And now, I earn my living from it.

From the outside, MMA is a sport based very much on respect for one’s opponent. Is that how it is from the inside as well? 

Certain fighters use intimidation. It’s a very mental sport, lots of guys use psychology. They use Mohamed Ali’s quote: “Love me, hate me, but don’t ignore me.” Conor McGregor, for example: he wants to get himself noticed to make money. And that’s what attracts people too. If everyone was kind, we wouldn’t interest anyone! Me, I stay authentic to who I am. Martial arts have taught me values that I’ve transposed into my life – respect in particular. However, that’s not to say that fighters who show off, who are arrogant, are bad people. It’s just that, for him, that’s the best way of making himself known. I don’t need to do that, personally. I stay true to myself. And that works well for me.

You’ve already referenced McGregor: he has been the face of the sport for the past few years. During that time, would you say that the sport has changed? 

There have certainly been changes [in the sport]. We’re in a universe where everything is online with social media. Everything is made fake. We don’t have human interaction in the way that we used to. Before, when I’d meet a woman, we’d go to a bar and have a drink. Now, it’s on online apps. People work like that.

The world has changed, it’s another generation. I’m old – I’m 41 – and I can only observe the change. Some people have difficulties adapting. The fighters adapt and want to show off, even if that means receiving insults online. They want to get people talking about them. I’m not like that. I advocate for respect, but I know other fighters who like to be arrogant with their components because they win on a psychological level. This puts them at an advantage. It allows them to put more weight on their shoulders to perform better. It’s a different strategy.

Has that ‘different strategy’ tinged your love for the sport at all? Do you still tune into every fight? 

No, I don’t watch all the fighters, there are too many now. I watch those who I like the most. I watch the champions because they’re very high level. By watching them, I can continue to learn. There was one really interesting one last weekend (Islam Makhachev defeating Charles Oliveira) who won from a masterful performance. I like watching fights sometimes.

UFC has a strategy: crush the competition. They decided to do more galas to flatten down the little organisations who were looking to climb. It’s a strategy they’ve used that has worked really well because they have the monopoly. It’s a shame for us, the fighters, because when we renegotiate our contracts, there’s no competition. It’s UFC or nothing.

Despite the clear issues within the sport, do you still believe that there is a positive momentum around MMA?

Yes, it’s on a positive path. Sooner or later, there will be a union in the sport to allow the athletes to have better conditions. Currently, the athletes are underpaid. We only hear from the ‘headline acts’ like me, Conor… The reality is the successes are really slim. The majority of athletes don’t have money at the end of their career. They’re physically injured too. It’s a sad reality.

Since ending your illustrious career in 2019, you have devoted time to other projects such as starring in films and TV shows, but you’ve also had to field repeated questions about UFOs. Could you explain this? 

I’ve seen a UFO. However, I’m not qualified to define such an object, I’m not an astrophysicist. There were five people in the car, known athletes including Ali Abdel Aziz. We were in New Mexico and we saw something in the sky while we were driving. We saw the thing move in a way I’d never seen, it lasted a few seconds. We said, “OMG, what was that?!” The most special thing is that when we describe what we saw, we describe it in different ways. People take us for liars. We witnessed the same event, but when we describe what happened, we don’t perceive it in the same way. That’s what’s special. I’ve read a lot of books and I know that when the European colonies arrived on boats, the Native Americans didn’t see the boats because they were outside of their frame of reference. You can’t describe something that is beyond what you know. I describe UFOs in this way because I’ve never seen anything else like it. It could be a natural phenomenon that I can’t explain.

It piques my curiosity. I’m a rational person. When I’m not capable of explaining something, it drives me mad. I find it exciting, especially since the Pentagon has declassified some research projects and made them public. I find that even more fascinating. NASA has declared only one team studies this kind of phenomenon. We are living in very exciting times. Even people in the army are no longer afraid of being ridiculed for talking about it.



Photo source: Sportel

Interview: Award winning composer and concert pianist Georges Tomb

At just 29 years of age, it is hard to believe that Georges Tomb is already an award-winning composer and concert pianist. But that’s just the start of it. 

Georges Tomb is a child prodigy. He has actually been making music since the age of five. Born in 1992 in Beirut, Lebanon, Georges was raised in a family of professional artists.

His father Samir Tomb is also a composer, pianist and orchestrator, his grandfather and uncle are eminent painters, and his three aunts – Amale, Ronza and Fadia Tomb – are all celebrated singers, not to mention the angelic voice of his grandmother, Georgette. Georges’ mother Guitta was his biggest supporter on his musical path alongside his piano professor Liza Tutunjian.

Georges Tomb has had many achievements in his career so far. He was the youngest in his country to have his music performed by the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Lebanese-American conductor Dr. Joanna Nachef (2014). He then gave a concert with the National Orchestra of Jordan at the Royal Cultural Centre in Amman under the patronage of Queen Noor Al-Hussein (2015). That same year, some of his compositions were played by the Vienna String Orchestra, conducted by Dimitrie Leivici, at Baden Castle, Vienna.

But it was in February this year that Tomb received his biggest accolade, winning ‘Best Music for a Feature Film’ at the Hollywood International Golden Age Film Festival in New York. It was for the music he composed for the film Enough! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour by Daizy Gedeon, a heart-wrenching, awareness-raising documentary about the country’s corrupt political system, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. For this soundtrack, he also picked up the ‘Outstanding Excellence Award for Original Score’ at the 2022 DWB Film Festival in Delaware and the best musical feature at the Hollywood International Golden Age Festival in New York.

“I love the classical world, and cinema is my passion,” Tomb tells Monaco Life. “Writing music for film has always been my dream. Imagine watching a film without music. How would you feel? How would you feel Titanic’s vibe without the music; how would you feel about Schindler’s List without the music? I really believe that music is the language of a film. It is how we feel the emotions.”

In a solo piano concert this September, Tomb inaugurated the David Lynch Ceremony and the Better World Fund at the Venice Film Festival in the presence of Catherine Deneuve. He played his original music, including the many soundtracks that he composed for various projects, and announced the music United Against Violence campaign that will be launched next year.

He is now scoring the music for the next film of Mario Kassar, the Hollywood producer behind blockbusters The Terminator, Basic Instinct, and Rambo, the song for the movie Sicilian Holiday produced by Oscar winner Adam Leipzig, Michela Scolari and Ivo Romagnoli, as well as the music for Hollywood film Siege of Tyre produced by Tony Haswani.

He is also the commissioned composer of Pinocchio, an Italian ballet to premier in 2023 by Balletto del Sud at Lecce Opera House with the participation of award-winning choreographer Freddy Franzutti. The ballet will launch at the Opera di Lecce then embark on an international tour including the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Kings Theatre in New York, Paris, Dubai and Monaco.

“The ballet is different because there is no discussion, there is no talking,” says Tomb. “The talking is the music, so whenever Pinocchio is ‘talking’ to his dad Geppetto, the flute is speaking. You are just imagining the conversation and discussion via the music.”

Writing for the ballet is something composers do later in life, says Tomb, because it is very difficult. “But I was very blessed with this project,” he says, “especially as I am the only non-Italian on the staff.”

He writes the music without seeing the choreography, without seeing the dancers.

I ask him what his creative process is like.

“I’m old school. I don’t use electronics, just a pencil and paper. The music just shows in my head, I’m not really sure how. Then I write it out.”

Georges Tomb at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival

“For film, I have the scenes in front of me, I watch them and then write the music. If the movie has a Turkish influence, for example, I need to have the music reflect a Turkish style.

“But writing music has never been hard for me. All instruments are parallel. I was five when I realised I could do this. It started when I saw an ad on TV for Miss Lebanon. I heard the music and went to the piano and started playing it. My parents went crazy! They took me to the conservatory the next day and I started playing there. The piano helped me to write music in a more logical way. It gave me a foundation. Composers who have classical foundations are rare in the business. They use more effects and electronics nowadays.”

So, which contemporary artist does Georges Tomb look up to? He says it’s the American composer, conductor and pianist John Williams, who he describes as his “orchestral mentor”.

Composer and pianist Georges Tomb

But his dream project would be to score for a film on the life of Beethoven. “Though they would use Beethoven’s work for the film, I would like to take some of his piano music and orchestrally arrange it my way. He’s my mentor. I listen to his music every day. He went deaf from the age of 30 and continued to compose.”

Tomb has just finished writing a new Ave Maria dedicated to world peace. He is set to compose music for a large circus show in Europe, and he is also working on the music for an Armenian Genocide film, produced by Emmy Award-winning Nelly Achken.

It just doesn’t stop for this young composer.

“It’s a bit too early to announce anything, but we’re also going to have something this year with the orchestra, the ballet and a solo piano performance in the French Riviera and Monaco,” smiles Tomb.

“Monaco is amazing, it is such a beautiful country. But I felt when I came here the first time that, although it is absolutely gorgeous, it needs some new music, new magic and I don’t know why I felt it, but I am ready to do this here.”



EU pushes for instant bank transfers

Instant bank transfers and payments could soon become the norm for businesses and individuals in Europe.  

If the European Commission’s latest proposal makes it through parliament, secure instant payments will soon be possible across the continent, allowing businesses and individuals to transfer funds within a matter of seconds.  

Currently just 11% of transfers in the EU are instant. Typically, money is sent to a payment service provider during business hours, usually arriving to the receiver’s account the next business day. If the request comes in outside of business hours – say on a Friday afternoon – the transfer could take three days to arrive. 

“Instant payments are fast becoming the norm in many countries,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People. “They should be accessible to everyone in Europe too, so that we stay globally competitive and make the most of the innovation opportunities offered by the digital age. People gain with more choice and convenience; businesses gain with better control of their cash flow and lower operational costs. [This] proposal will strengthen our economy, make it more efficient and help it to grow.” 

“Moving from next day transfers to 10 second-transfers is seismic and comparable to the move from mail to e-mail,” declared Mairead McGuinness, Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union. “Yet today, nearly nine out of 10 credit transfers in euros are still processed as traditional ‘slow’ transfers. There is no reason why many citizens and businesses in the EU are not able to send and receive money immediately, the technology to provide for instant payments has been in place since 2017.” 

The proposal will ensure that the instant payments are universally available and affordable, ensuring fees never exceed traditional transfer fees. It also will be safe, with providers being obliged to verify the match between IBAN and account holder, in case of possible human error when inputting one or the other. Finally, it will also make sure those who are under EU sanctions are not receiving illicit cash via a daily verification process. 

McGuiness adds, “This facility to send and receive money in seconds is particularly important at a time when bills for households and SMEs are increasing and every hundred counts. This initiative will directly benefit EU citizens and businesses.” 



Photo source:

Free menu for pooches at Crazy Pizza

In collaboration with a high-end pet food brand, Monaco’s Crazy Pizza is now offering lucky pups gourmet doggie menus for free when accompanied by their owners.

Who says humans have all the fun? At Crazy Pizza, a Monaco eatery founded by Italian businessman and Monaco resident Flavio Briatore, four-legged friends now have their own bills of fare: tempting treats developed just for them.  

The chain is giving away meat or vegetarian snacks such as the premietto, a bite-sized delicacy made of chicken, beef and pork. Owners can also ask for a second course, consisting of a hamburger served with vegetables or tofu, all presented in a cute box, which is then served up in proper pet bowls.  

The project, a collaboration with high-end pet food makers Genuina, is making tails wag all over the region and is available at several locations. In addition to Monaco, pooches can also eat for free at Crazy Pizza in Rome, Porto Cervo, and London.  



Photo source: Crazy Pizza

France to increase taxation on vacant and holiday homes

The housing squeeze in towns and cities across France has brought about significant changes to taxation on empty and holiday homes in crisis areas.   

An amendment to the proposed 2023 Budget will see the rate of tax on vacant property – the taxe sur les logements vacants or TLV – increase from 12.5% to 17% in the first tax year and from 25% to 34 % in the second.  

“Ten years after the last reform of this tax, this controlled increase aims to send a “price signal” to owners who do not occupy these dwellings or rent them out when it is necessary to use all real estate assets available to reduce land pressure and ground artificialisation,” reads the amendment.  

This latter phrase, artificialisation du sol, refers to the transformation of a natural space into something man-made. This change of land use can be detrimental to the environment by causing soil erosion and increasing risks of flooding as well as assimilated issues such as the build-up of contaminants in soil and water sources.  

Review of zone tendue status 

The TLV is currently only applicable to homes in designated zones tendues. These zones are governed by strict criteria such as having at least 50,000 residents in a concentrated area of urbanisation. Key issues in zones tendues include the imbalance between supply and demand of housing as well as high rents, elevated demand for social housing and inflated house prices.  

An additional amendment to the budget will see these rules relaxed to allow municipalities outside of the existing definition to apply the zone tendue rules to their area, which include taxing vacant properties. It will allow small touristic hotspots, such as quaint coastal destinations and alpine villages, where great numbers of second homes cause rifts in the housing market, to adopt the zone tendue status.  

Second homes potentially affected 

The amendment also mentions allowing local authorities in this revised list of communes – expected to number closer to 5,000 than the current 1,000 – the option of increasing taxation on second homes via a surtaxe. The choice to increase taxation is totally at the discretion of local mayors, with the possibility of increasing existing tax rates by as much as 60%.  

A revised list of communes is expected to be published by governmental decree soon.  



Photo source: Michael Kroul

Monte-Carlo Jazz Festival celebrates 16th season in style

The 16th edition of the Monte-Carlo Jazz Festival is featuring 11 dates with an eclectic schedule of performers ranging from 1960’s progressive rock legends Jethro Tull to Cuban Jazz with Bona/Rodriguez.

This year’s Monte-Carlo Jazz Festival is going to be one to remember! Running from 9th November to 4th December at the Opera Garnier Monte-Carlo, the line-up is sure to have something for everyone.

The event starts off with a reunion of the electric quartet of Redman, Mehldau, McBride and Blade: A Moodswing Reunion on 9th November, followed by a special Master Class conference with Alex Jaffray at the Salon Eiffel at the Hermitage Hotel on the 12th.

Then on 23rd November, classic rock stars Jethro Tull return to the stage with their quirky brand of flute-infused rock. The next night on the 24th will be Jazz and Cuba with Richard Bona and Alfredo Rodriguez featuring Michael Olivera and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, with Matt Brewer and Eric Harland playing hip-swinging, get up and dance jazz with a Latin twist.

Next up on the 27th are French jazz rockers Magma and the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra playing side by side in a show blending two worlds to great effect. Two nights later on the 29th is Jazz and Modern Music, a special event put on by the young talents from the Académie Rainier III.

Then there’s two concerts in one on the 30th with Cécile McLorin Salvant and Sullivan Fortner and Sofiane Pamart performing jazz and rhythm and blues numbers.

On 1st December, to start the month off right, there will be a Tribute to Chet Baker film screening at the Audio-Visual Institute of Let’s Get Lost by Brice Weber. The following night, on the 2nd, a concert by sultry American singer and composer Melody Gardot will hit the spot for true jazz aficionados.

On the 3rd, Richard Galliano and Anour Brahem will share the night but not the stage in a two-fer concert experience. The Anour Brahem Quartet will play their brand of instrumental music whilst Galliano will demonstrate a different approach with his New York Tango Trio.

The last night has been set aside for Chilly Gonzales. The Canadian musician, songwriter and producer comes for one night only, closing the Festival on the 4th and bringing down the house with him.




Photo credit: Philip Ducap, Monte-Carlo SBM. This article was originally published on 7th September.