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FIRAS ZAHABI: "I SEE A LOT OF ST. PIERRE IN HIM"

By Percy Crawford | August 05, 2009
FIRAS ZAHABI:

"He is probably the most lethal human being pound-for-pound on the face of the earth. He's a phenom and he's proving that he is the Michael Jordan of MMA. He's incredible. If Georges was to fight him, all of the coaches would have to sit down together with his manager Shari Spencer and his reps and put our brains together and talk about what are the terms that we would do this fight on...if he has to get ready for Anderson Silva, he's got a great partner in Jon Bones. He's got the tall, lanky body type, he has incredible Muay Thai; a tricky style of Muay Thai as well and he has the reach like Anderson Silva. I think he would be a very good training partner for Georges if that fight ever happens," stated Firas Zahabi, head trainer of UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, as he talked about the future plans of GSP. Check out what he head to say about a potential clash with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, the addition of light heavyweight Jon "Bones" Jones to Zahabi MMA and much more.

PC: Thanks for taking time out to talk with me. How are you doing man?

FZ: I'm doing fantastic my friend, thank you!

PC: St. Pierre is coming off of a very impressive win against Alves. I saw him saying he pulled his groin. How is he doing?

FZ: He's doing a lot better. He's getting treatment every day. Of course he isn't doing any training yet. We will wait until next week to see how he is feeling and play it by ear so to speak. It's not as bad as we thought. It's a pull and not a tear like we originally thought, but it's still going to take time because we want it to heal properly because we don't want it to come back again. We gotta keep him as healthy as possible.

PC: You said he will be back in the gym soon. Do you like to keep him in the gym or does he generally take some time off between fights?

FZ: I don't keep him in the gym I keep him out of the gym as much as I can after fights (laughing). Usually he fights his way back in. He just won't go away. He's a trainaholic. Luckily, now its doctor's order, so he can't come back in the gym. He can't train because it's doctor's orders so it's really nothing he can do about it. He can't train, so we're going to wait until next week and we will do some light upper body work; nothing too strenuous. I think he needs some time off. He's had a lot of fights in the last 2 years. I think he's had about six fights. But he's on schedule and doing fine. I think he needs about 2 or 3 weeks off. Most fighters take 2 or 3 weeks off, but Georges takes 2 or 3 days off, so I'm glad to see him take 2 weeks off and I want to give him another week off before we start light upper body work or whatever we're going to have him do. We're going to evaluate him again and see how he's feeling and how his range of motion is and we'll see from there what to do.

PC: How easy does it make your job to have a guy that's motivated to train and stays in pretty good shape like Georges does?

FZ: Well, it's easy for me because I don't drag anybody in the gym. If a guy wants to come train, he's going to come. If he doesn't come, then I don't bother with him. But the thing is if I'm working with a guy every day because he has a fight coming up, I will make the call and make sure that he's at practice. If he has a scheduled fight and he misses a practice, then I will give them a call or have a talk with him because I won't send a guy into a fight if he's not prepared. He's got to be totally prepared from A to Z. You have to come to the gym to get ready. There is a dangerous element to MMA. You can get hurt if you don't prepare yourself properly.

PC: I know GSP is motivated for every fight, but what was his motivation like for the BJ Penn fight because he calls that his biggest win?

FZ: He was so motivated by far. The team was. We've never been so motivated to fight someone. Not just Georges, but I mean the whole team, all of the coaches and sparring partners. Everyone wanted to make sure that Georges got that win. One reason was because it was the biggest fight that we've ever had. It was the most important fight that we've had as a team, so we wanted to get Georges that fight and plus he was very aggressive with his talking. He was very disrespectful to us as a whole group and we just pulled together on that one.

PC: Did you ever fear an emotional letdown being that Thiago Alves wasn't really giving him that fuel?

FZ: No, Georges is a very motivated person. He's a really motivated guy. He loves what he does. If you're going to be good at something you're going to do, you have to love it because it takes a lot of extra work to be the best. Georges still has that passion. He hasn't lost his love for martial arts. I don't see it dying whatsoever. He's still very excited about training; he's still very excited about learning new things and still very excited about coming in and sparring. He still tells me before sparring that he's feeling nervous. He still gets the butterflies before sparring. It's just something he's been doing his entire life and I don't think he can see himself doing anything else. If there were no such thing as the UFC or there was no place to compete and show off your skills I think Georges would be the kind of guy that would be working a job and doing martial arts on the side. He just loves his work.

PC: You were a fighter as well Firas. How much does having that element help you relate to your fighters and sense when they're not feeling a gameplan or just when they're not themselves?

FZ: You know what? Me and Georges spar on a regular basis, we wrestle on a regular basis and we do Jiu Jitsu on a regular basis, so if I'm teaching him something and I'm sparring with him and he can't do what I'm trying to explain to him, then he won't have much faith to what I'm teaching. I like to keep it as real as possible and I like to wrestle with the guys. I wrestle with the pros, I box with them, I do everything with them. I practice what I preach. Obviously I can't train as much as them, but when I get a chance, I'll put on the gloves and I will roll around with them. I do a lot of grappling and wrestling with them. I may not be able to box with them as much because that's my background and I have to watch the boxing. The boxing coach should be observing the boxing more than anything else. A grappling coach most of the time will get the chance to wrestle with him and then another coach will wrestle with him so he can feel how well he's doing. So it's a privilege for me. We're very close in age. We're only a year apart, so I can get on the mat with him and it's a pleasure to get a chance to wrestle and box guys with such high caliber.

PC: Thiago Alves was supposed to be the guy to give GSP a tough test. He hung tough, but Georges dominated the fight over 5 rounds. What do you do next with him?

FZ: Well, I want him to keep getting better. I don't believe in that "there is no one else for us to fight at welterweight" stuff. I think there are so many good guys out there. I think there are a ton of guys who are watching what we are doing and idolizing what we are doing and trying to find holes in our game and we gotta keep Georges on his toes. We gotta keep him advancing and keep him from repeating the same type of moves and the same type of attacks as usual because people are going to figure him out. We have to keep stepping our game up and we have to make sure that there are no holes in our game. For Georges, I can't see him losing to a welterweight right now, but I wouldn't want to say it's possible for the fights to be boring. I think there are still a lot of challengers there. I still think Jon Fitch is a threat, I still think Thiago is a threat and Koscheck is a threat. These guys are getting better and better. If you look at Fitch, I mean, he has lost 1 fight out of I think 10 fights and that was against Georges. I mean, the guy does have an incredible amount of wins. He's a very hard-to-beat guy and I can see him coming around the block again. I can see Swick or Kampmann reaching that level where people respect them as true contenders. They are very good. They have so many guys that sometimes, one or two guys get more limelight because they're fighting each other at some point. But they have so many guys out there. Swick, Kampmann and Condit are all very dangerous fighters. They are very well-rounded fighters that are always improving. I wouldn't count the welterweight division out.

PC: I totally agree. A lot of people think GSP is one of these welterweights that walks around at about 200 pounds and that's not the case.

FZ: No, he doesn't walk around at 200 pounds. He walks around at about 185 or 186 when he's in shape. Anderson Silva is a tall order. I won't lie to you and say he's not dangerous. He's the most dangerousÂ…he's probably the most dangerous guy in the world pound-for-pound. He is probably the most lethal human being pound-for-pound on the face of the earth. He's a phenom and he's proving that he is the Michael Jordan of MMA. He's incredible. If Georges was to fight him, all of the coaches would have to sit down together with his manager Shari Spencer and his reps and put our brains together and talk about what are the terms that we would do this fight on because when you fight a bigger guy, the truth of the matter is you risk getting injured and you give him an advantage because he's bigger and stronger and that counts for a lot; especially when a guy is as seasoned and experienced as Anderson Silva. He will be able to use his size and reach and his weight to his advantage.

PC: David Loiseau recently got another crack at being in the UFC and dropped a decision to Ed Herman. They released him after that. So how is he doing?

FZ: He's still training. He's just going back to the drawing board. With David Loiseau, he's a great talent and a great fighter. I've seen him spar often with many high-caliber fighters and he does very well. He's got good takedowns and very good standup, but unfortunately, when he gets to the UFC, ever since his loss to Franklin, I think he's had a bit of a traumatic experience with that. He's got some demons in his head. He freezes up and he doesn't perform like he should. It's very mental. The guy trains. I train with him every day. He does the sparring and the workouts very good. He's a very dangerous fighter. But once he steps in the cage, he doesn't have that fire or that aggression ever since he's fought Rich Franklin. For me, I think it's going to take him some time to get over it, but it's all mental with David Loiseau. I really hope to see him get past that because he's a great talent to have and hopefully we can see what he can really do.

PC: I recently spoke with Kenny Florian. He came up and trained with you guys on a couple occasions. He had nothing but complements for you and your team. How do you like his chances against BJ?

FZ: We know a lot about BJ because we've been watching him for years. I've always been a big fan of BJ's style. I still am. I've always been a fan of BJ's style and I've always looked up to BJ because the guy is so gifted. I think I was able to help Kenny out as far as strategy and what to train to do. The thing is he has very different tools than Georges St. Pierre, so I don't think he's going to be doing exactly what Georges did. They are 2 different fighters and they don't have the same repertoire. But Kenny has some serious tools of his own. So when he came up here, I tried to sharpen up a few things and his brother Keith came down. He actually showed us a few things. He is a brilliant MMA coach who probably does the most amount of work with Kenny, but people don't believe that because that's his brother and they assume that's why Kenny has him around. But he is a tremendous MMA trainer. We learned a lot from the Florian's as well. Their approach to MMA is second to none. They're brilliant. I think Kenny will use his tools to attack BJ and he has a very good chance of becoming the new lightweight champion! I really hope that happens for him. He is a really great person. I couldn't imagine it happening to a better person than Kenny Florian.

PC: Firas, it has been a pleasure man. I hope to speak to you on a regular basis. Is there anything you want to say in closing?

FZ: We have Jon "Bones" Jones training here at Zahabi MMA and Tri Star Gym, which is my MMA club. So now we have Georges, if he has to get ready for Anderson Silva, he's got a great partner in Jon Bones. He's got the tall, lanky body type, he has incredible Muay Thai; a tricky style of Muay Thai as well and he has the reach like Anderson Silva. I think he would be a very good training partner for Georges if that fight ever happens. Of course, we're going to be training with him whether that fight happens or not. But yeah, we have Jon "Bones" Jones joining us right now.

PC: You having a 21-year-old Jon Jones in your camp is going to be insane. I can only imagine how good this kid is going to get out there.

FZ: (Laughing) I'm going to do my best to mold him. We're going to be working with Greg Jackson of course and the entire team that works with Georges St. Pierre will be working with Jon Jones. I expect a lot from this kid man. This kid is the real thing. I trained with him this morning and I've trained with a lot of fighters; this kid is the real thing. I see a lot of St. Pierre in him!

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