Head coach at Montreal’s famed Tristar Gym Firas Zahabi, as the coach of the longest reigning UFC welterweight champion of all time and one of the top welterweight contenders in the world, is often asked about the problem of teammates fighting one another. His answer: wait until one of them retires.
The welterweight landscape, once dominated by Zahabi’s most famous student, Georges St. Pierre, has been shaken to the bedrock the last six months. St. Pierre suffered a highly-publicized tear in his ACL and is currently rehabilitating his knee after surgery. At the same time, St. Pierre and Zahabi’s teammate Rory MacDonald has been on a tear that would normally put a fighter on the short list of the title mix, dominating Nate Diaz, Mike Pyle, and Che Mills over the course of one year.
While the fans and analysts are already salivating at the thought of a title shot for the exciting new contender, Zahabi, who will be teaching at the Paradise Warrior Retreat in NY this weekend, and his team won’t even entertain the idea unless some things change.
“Georges is the champion of [MacDonald's] weight class,” Zahabi told The Fight Nerd.com. “They’re teammates and they won’t fight each other. We’re going to have to wait until Georges retires. I don’t think that’s going to be soon…. Also, one of them could change weight classes. That could also solve the problem.”
Zahabi has hinted in the past that he thinks the welterweight champion could make 155 pounds. But, with MacDonald still only 22 years old with a lot of room to grow, title contention is not the top thought in the trainer’s mind.
“I’m not worried about the title right now,” Zahabi added. “I’m just worried about making sure Rory keeps winning. You know, making sure he’s on the right side of the judge’s decision, the knockout or submission.”
Read more about MacDonald, Zahabi and their upcoming trip to New York for this weekend’s Paradise Warrior Retreat after the jump
Still, Zahabi was glowing in describing the young up and comer and was confident that when MacDonald eventually gets his shot, he will make the most of it.
“[Rory's] great,” he said of his protege. “He’s a hard working kid, he wants to be champion one day and he’s got all his eggs in one basket. What I mean is that he doesn’t do anything else but train.”
Known for his work ethic, St. Pierre has not let a little thing like ACL surgery keep him out of the gym. However, the welterweight kingpin and his coaching staff are playing it safe when it comes to the champion’s recovery.
“Georges’ is with us every day,” he said. “His training is very light, low-impact. Right now we’re waiting for his graft to set and that takes time. There’s nothing you can do to speed that up.”
Both Zahabi and MacDonald will be joining the legendary Renzo Gracie, former world kickboxing champion Rob Kaman and former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans this Saturday and Sunday for the Paradise Warrior Retreat at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City. Zahabi feels that PWR is a unique experience among training seminars.
“I’ve done a few [Paradise Warrior Retreats] before and it’s always a great experience,” Zahabi said of the seminar. “In other seminars you normally only get one guy and one way of doing things. With Paradise Warrior Retreat you’re having a summit of all the elite, elite fighters and trainers out there…. I’m going to be there as a student, also, to see what the others are doing and add it to what I’m doing.”
For more information on the upcoming PWR, see the Paradise Warrior Retreat website.