Exclusive Interview With GSP Trainer Firas Zahabi
I was on a mission recently to get an interview with UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre before his big fight against Thiago Alves at UFC 100. Coming from Montreal like me, I really wanted to get the interview for you guys. I was able to contact his trainer Firas Zahabi who was also my trainer when I did Mixed Martial Arts.
Unfortunately, Georges' schedule was full and an interview with him was impossible before UFC 100. Firas was nice enough to offer me an interview with him instead and I gladly accepted. Firas is a great guy as you will find out in this interview.
First off Firas, thanks for accepting the interview. I wanted to know how you met Georges St-Pierre and what has been your impact in his MMA career so far?
Me and Georges met when we were still amateur fighters. MMA was still illegal in Quebec and we fought in an Indian reserve for an organization called Full Contact Jiu-Jitsu were I was the champion. David Loiseau and Georges St-Pierre were just beginning their MMA careers so we decided to form a team together and I became their coach. With time an MMA organization was created in Quebec called UCC and we brought in alot of guys and alot of champions to help with the training. I have won many championships and medals in the sport and I eventually became Georges' full time trainer.
Georges' rise to the top was pretty quick, from fighting in small organizations to going to the UFC and then becoming champion. Did the stardom affect Georges in any way?
Oh no it didn't affect him at all. Georges has always been a very humble guy and that didn't change. He,s very simple and a down to earth human being. He's very nice and very sweet to everybody, fame didn't change him at all.
Georges will be defending the Welterweight title against Thiago Alves at UFC 100, how has the training been like for the fight?
The training has really been awesome. We brought in alot of great Muay-Thai fighters because we know that's Thiago's strength. Those guys that have been coming in to help are even better then Alves when it comes to Muay-Thai and Georges has been doing great.
What is the strategy against Alves, do you take him down or beat him at his own game which is the standup?
It's no secret That Thiago wants to keep the fight standing, that's his strength. Being the great wrestler that he is, we want Georges to take the fight to the ground for sure, but we are not depending on that either. We know that Georges is more dominant then Thiago wherever the fight goes, whether it's standing or on the ground. We really want to throw him off, so when he thinks we'll wrestle him to the ground, we'll be striking with him and vice-versa.
Thiago Alves said in a recent interview that he was faster and stronger then St-Pierre. He also said he would KO him out cold and become champion. What do you have to answer to that?
Well if Thiago wants to win the fight, he has no choice but to KO Georges, it's his only chance. Thiago won't win a decision and he won't win on the ground either. I mean, he landed some powerful shots on Josh Koscheck but he wasn't able to finish him and Hughes walked into the knee so we're not too worried. I'm not saying Thiago can't KO Georges, all I'm saying is that the odds of it happening are very small.
If Georges is able to beat Thiago, what's next?
We are not thinking about that right now, Thiago is a big threat to the welterweight crown and we we want to focus on him. Once the fight is over we will have a meeting with the coaches and Georges and see what would be the next best move to do. Right now, Thiago is the only thing on our mind.
There has been alot of buzz lately about an eventual fight between Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva since both men are considered to be two of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. Do you see this fight taking place and if so, how do you see the fight going?
If the fight does take place, we want to be sure Georges is ready. I would personally recommend Georges to take time off, maybe up to six months so he can gain enough weight for the fight, if he fights Silva, I would like him to weight around 195 before the fight. The last thing we want is to go into this fight and give Anderson a 15 pound advantage and a reach advantage too. We don't want to fight Anderson Silva and have a good performance, we take the fight to win and win impressively, so we need to put all the chances on our side.
Would Georges be interested in fighting Anderson?
Georges would love to fight Anderson Silva, he talks to me about it but like I said, we want to go in there prepared and be impressive. I think Georges needs to work on some things before rushing in there, but he would love to take that fight.
Georges has also been filming a movie called "Death Warrior". Can you tell us a little about how the project has been going?
No (laughs), he has been filming the movie, but I haven't followed him on the set. This is really a side project for him, he does it for fun. Since I don't go on set, it's pretty complicated to tell you how it's been going or what the movie is really all about.
With the grease incident that took place at UFC 94 against BJ Penn, do you think we'll see BJ Penn vs Georges St-Pierre III soon?
I don't see this fight taking place, at least not soon. Before BJ thinks of getting back up in the welterweight division and fighting Georges for the title again, he needs to defend his title against Kenny Florian at UFC 101. Kenny came to our camp to train with us, so we have been preparing him as much as possible for BJ. We think Kenny is a very big threat to BJ's lightweight title because he's dangerous everywhere. I am positive that we will all see the best Kenny Florian we have ever seen so far. BJ needs to worry about Florian instead of Georges right now, if not, he'll lose the title.
If BJ can beat Kenny and he wants another shot at the welterweight title, I think he needs to move up and fight a top contender and crush him. Then we may think of BJ vs Georges 3, until then, BJ shouldn't even think of Georges after the beating he got at UFC 94. The grease wasn't a factor at all anyway, it had no impact on the outcome of the fight. GSP was the bigger and stronger fighter, he was passing BJ's guard at will and anyway, have you ever seen BJ submit a guy from his guard?
I don't recall...
Well neither can I, it may have happened once, but I'm not even sure. The grease didn't affect the fight at all, there wasn't all that much anyway. You can't hold a bigger and stronger guy on top of you without a Gi, it's very complicated.
In your opinion, who is Georges' biggest threat at 170 right now?
I think his biggest threat is himself. Georges needs to train hard and prepare well for every fight. If he does that, he's better then everybody in the welterweight division. A loss would only mean that he didn't prepare well enough.
Do you consider Georges to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world?
Well this may sound a little biased, but yes I think he is. I know Anderson Silva and Fedor Emelianenko are up there with him, and alot of people argue as to who is the best, but I think it's Georges. Wrestling is such a huge base to have, when you can take your opponent down and keep him there, there is no better advantage. Georges has the advantage of being better then Fedor and Anderson when it comes to wrestling and he also has better conditioning. Fedor has a very good Judo background, but it's not very helpful in MMA without a Gi. As for Anderson Silva, he has no wrestling skills what so ever, he never takes a guy to the ground and gets taken down often. This is a huge advantage Georges has over both fighters.
In recent years, MMA has become the fastest growing sport in the world. Do you think Georges helped make MMA more popular in Canada and Quebec?
Georges is the first fighter to ever have a sponsorship from Gatorade, that's huge, no other fighter can say that. I think he represents the sport very well, he's a great guy and he doesn't talk trash before fights. Before the BJ fight, BJ was saying how he was going to stop Georges and look what happened, he got dominated and alot of fans were let down because BJ had promised them a beating. We don't talk trash, we don't say we'll finish a fight in the first round, if it happens that's great, but we don't brag about it. Georges is different, he represents Quebec very well.
Do you have anything to add, any last words or special thanks?
Yes, I would love to thank all the fans for the support. You guys may not realize it, but your support is very important. I receive alot of messages on Facebook and I read all of them. We receive letters, presents and packages and it's all very appreciated, thanks alot.
Well thanks alot for the interview Firas, it was an honor to do this interview with you.
No problem, it was a pleasure for me too, talk to you soon Jessy.
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