Tristar Gym coach, Firas Zahabi, has confirmed that he used to offer members of his gym sums of money if they could KO Georges St-Pierre in sparring.
When Georges St-Pierre announced to the world that he would be returning to the sport of mixed martial arts as a middleweight after a period of nearly four years in a state of semi-retirement, there were plenty who were sceptical about his chances.
Ring-rust, though it has been beaten on many occasions, was cited as a factor in the doubts that many had voiced. St-Pierre was a great champion in his day, but time-off, age, and his size at 185lbs compared to his opponent Michael Bisping swayed predictions in favour of the Brit but when all was said and done at UFC 217, something very special had occurred.
Seemingly better than ever, GSP managed to silence the doubters – finishing Bisping with a stunning rear-naked choke in the third-round. It was a massive accomplishment – perhaps the finest of his career, and while the details of his truly disastrous fight-camp emerged in the weeks that followed, even with that aside it was a remarkable feat.
His coach Firas Zahabi spoke recently about his experience training Georges and how it was often difficult for some of his sparring partners to get over the awe that comes with taking on a fighter of his status.
Speaking on a recent edition of The Joe Rogan Experience, Coach Zahabi confirmed a story that his fighter had told on his own appearance on the podcast – claiming that his fighters were far too star-struck in the presence of the legendary Canadian before he added some extra incentive.
“Nobody wants to try to double leg him; nobody wants to try to hurt him. They’re like, ‘I’m not going to come here in his house and try to show him.’ There’s a respect thing. They’re starstruck, these young kids.
“I would bring in these young kids, and I would be like, ‘Listen, guys.’ I would give them a speech: ‘The first guy to double leg him, the first guy to put him out, I’ll give a $5,000 reward. If you knock Georges out, I’ll give you 5,000 bucks. If you put Georges on his back, if you take him down, put him on his back, I’ll stop the whole practice and praise you for 20 minutes in front of everybody in the gym.’
“And students don’t get praised by me very often. Georges would be like, ‘Oh my God, these guys are coming after me!’ So he would get riled up. I would do this periodically.” – (via MMAJunkie)
It’s a crazy thought, but it apparently worked a treat.
With GSP’s long-term future still unclear – who knows if we will ever see him inside the octagon again but if one thing is for certain, it’s that he managed to make his argument for G.O.A.T status watertight after staging one of the greatest career comebacks we will ever see.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena