Firas Zahabi Speaks on Ricci, Loiseau, GSP and Florian
Inside a spacious gym, with open doors at the back letting in sunlight and a cool breeze, Crossfit Altitude’s BJJ students have the privilege of rolling with renowned trainer Firas Zahabi. Here in a suburb of Burlington, Ontario, ‘MMA’ could be an acronym for the latest designer drug rather than an ever-growing sport—but Zahabi’s visit signifies the effort he’s willing to make to draw in more participants to the sport.
April brought a disappointing KO loss for Zahabi MMA fighter Mike Ricci (5-1) to eventual Bellator lightweight tournament winner Pat Curran (13-3).
“He circled towards Pat Curran’s power hand and he was standing too tall—he made mistakes, he didn’t follow the game plan, and he was in awe a little bit.”
Tristar Gym regular David Loiseau (19-10) managed to overcome licensing issues to get his second ‘second chance’ at UFC 115, but once again, he came up short against Mario Miranda and was stopped in the second round.
“I didn’t see the fight either, but I talked to Dave—he’s ok. He fractured his orbital bone, he was in pain. The fight didn’t go the way he planned, but again, we win a lot, but we also lose here and there and it’s part of the game.”
Another exciting event for the entire coaching staff of Georges St. Pierre will be the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter. Zahabi expects to make an appearance somewhere around the middle episodes.
Also working as an assistant coach on the show will be French Muay Thai specialist Jean Charles Skarbowsky, who regularly works with GSP.
“I brought him in, first time around. Me, him and Georges really hit it off. He’s a great Muay Thai fighter—he’s fought everybody, he’s fought Buakaw (legendary two-time K-1 Max champion) as well.”
The TUF season will lead up to a highly anticipated match between GSP and American Kickboxing Academy standout Josh Koscheck. Although Koscheck lost their first encounter via decision in 2007, the strength of his wrestling credentials could spell trouble for St. Pierre.
“Regarding his performance as a fighter, the guy is dangerous. He’s got good boxing, he’s got a good double-leg, he’s got good conditioning, he’s got a good chin—most of all, he’s game.”
The Boston UFC in August will see a homecoming of sorts when Kenny Florian takes on Gray Maynard, potentially for the #1 contender slot to challenge the B.J. Penn-Frankie Edgar winner on the same card. Time spent at the Montreal Wrestling Club will pay dividends for Florian against former Division 1 wrestler Maynard.
Since Zahabi trains at the same club—Renzo Gracie’s Academy in New York—as Frankie Edgar, both are good friends, but there’s a question as to who Florian would prefer to face between Edgar and a rematch with Penn. Zahabi heads this off by saying that beating Maynard is the priority and that Kenny is ready to cross that bridge when they come to it.
In closing, Firas thanks Greg Jackson, BJJ coach John Danaher and Muay Thai expert Phil Nurse for their coaching expertise and contribution to the team. There are many more challenges on the horizon, but he has developed confidence in his fighters through rigorous preparation.
“The game plan is to win all the fights,” explains Firas, “but we don’t know if we do until after the fight.”