Firas Zahabi Says St-Pierre’s Return is 50/50
UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre announced that he will be taking some time off from the sport of mixed martial arts after his most recent title defense against Johny Hendricks at UFC 167. The announcement left many fans – along with Hendricks and UFC President Dana White – confused and demanding that St-Pierre fight Hendricks in a rematch. St-Pierre’s head-trainer and good friend Firas Zahabi, however, says that’s a decision GSP will have to make for himself.
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
Firas Zahabi, the head trainer of long-time UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, spoke to Sportsnet in a recent interview regarding the champ’s plans for the future.
Following his most recent fight, a 5-round split-decision victory over challenger Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, St-Pierre left the Octagon after announcing that he would be taking some time off. His announcement puzzled many, including UFC President Dana White, who vocally demanded that St-Pierre give Hendricks a rematch.
Since then, rumors spread like wild fire regarding St-Pierre’s decision; stories that were denied almost as quickly as they were created. But if you ask Zahabi, who has long been St-Pierre’s trainer and good friend, the fighter just needs personal time.
“Right now it’s just about clearing his emotions,” Zahabi said, “finding out what he wants to do with life – he’s been fighting for so long, he’s been putting off his social life for so long, making a lot of sacrifices. It’s been almost 7 years that he’s champion, he’s had 22 fights in the UFC, logged in I don’t know how many 5-round fights. I think he needs to settle down, settle his mind and figure out what he wants to do.
“I don’t know. It’s 50/50 and I don’t think he knows either,” Zahabi would continue, talking about the chances of GSP’s return to the Octagon. “I think if he ends it this way, it was good. He ended up with Fight of the Night. An incredible seesaw battle. He showed heart, he showed guts, he showed he’s a fighter.”
That fight, however, has left many confused and upset – among those, Dana White and Johny Hendricks. The judges’ decision has been described as anything from controversial to a robbery. Zahabi said the entire GSP team watched the fight as soon as they returned to the hotel.
“I agree with the judges’ decision,” Zahabi said. “I really believe it came down to one round. I think rounds 2 and 4 [are] Johny’s, rounds 3 and 5 are Georges’ unarguably, and round 1 is the only one that could have gone either way. I gave it to Georges because Georges was a little bit more aggressive, and he connected a little bit more with significant shots. Johny Hendricks scored his shots from the clinch. I think from the clinch, you’re never going to see a knockout from body-to-body, it doesn’t matter how powerful you are, you’ve never seen a single guy get knocked out from body-to-body with the exception of maybe knee to the head sometimes, which didn’t happen in the fight. Georges landed, I think, 14 strikes from the standing position, Hendricks landed one from the standing position – all his work was done in the clinch. And when you’re in the clinch, not the Thai clinch, the wrestling clinch, you can’t get your bodyweight behind it as much, I give it less significance. Georges landed more strikes, and the head kick, so I really do give it to Georges.”
In a later interview with Fight Now TV, Zahabi responded to Dana White’s assessment of the fight where he said GSP only won one round.
“I was most surprised he saw a landslide,” Zahabi said of White’s reaction. “I didn’t see a landslide. Nobody saw a landslide. You look at the polls on the internet, 10% more people gave the fight to Georges than to Johny. There’s a lot of opinions out there. Dana White, I respect him a lot, is one opinion. It definitely wasn’t a blowout, as he said.
“It’s one man’s opinion. It’s an important opinion, but for me, I’m very comfortable to say Georges won that fight.”
Victory aside, many fans want to see St-Pierre fight again. Some wish to see the champion fight a rematch with Hendricks, others want to see the champion fight some of the rising young talent in the UFC’s 170-lb. division. For Zahabi, he thinks St-Pierre will have to make that decision for himself.
“He has 22 fights in the UFC, alone. That’s a lot of training camps. That’s a lot of years of sacrifice. He can’t go out. He can’t do this [or that]. He can’t have a wife and kids. He can’t have a steady girlfriend. He can’t have anything normal in his life. He’s living a very unbalanced life. How long does he want to do that for? He’s 32. When is he going to start living his life? At 40? It’s a hard decision for him to make and he’s got a lot of things going on in his life. He has to decide what he wants to do. Nobody can decide for him.
“I tell him, it’s about motivation. Do you have the motivation to do this again? If yes, and you want to put your life on the back burner and do another camp, let’s do it. If you don’t have the motivation to do it, don’t do it. You’re just going to go out there and get hurt. You’re going to cut corners and be miserable and you’re going to go out there and you’re going to get hurt.”
And the world waits with bated breath for Georges St-Pierre to make that decision.
(Quotes from MMA Fighting’s Transcription)