Like most everyone else in the mixed martial arts business, Montreal-based trainer Firas Zahabi has opinions on whom his most famous protege, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, should fight next.
Wait ... Anderson Silva at welterweight? Isn't that expected to be a catchweight super fight, if the bout is made?
Not necessarily, as far as Zahabi is concerned. On Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Zahabi told MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani that if Silva, the UFC middleweight champion who has competed several times at light heavyweight, wants to fight St-Pierre, then he should come down to GSP's weight class or at least get as close to 170 pounds as he can.
"I wouldn't want [St-Pierre] to move up, I'd want Anderson to come down," Zahabi said. "I don't know if Anderson can make 170 or something close to that. If Georges goes up, I know he won't be able to come back down, he's told me many times if he goes up he won't go back down, and I believe him when he says that because he'd want to spend some serious time getting extra size on him. and, ... I would want [Silva] to come down as close to 170 as possible if that was the case.
Most educated conjecture on the negotiations toward the potential super fight, which the UFC would like to host in May in either Dallas, Toronto, or Brazil, has the fighters splitting the difference and meeting at 177.5 pounds. But Zahabi is wary of the notion, point out that Silva would still have a significant size advantage after rehydrating between weigh-ins and fight night.
"You know, the thing is, the next day he'll balloon up over 200, and I don't think that's fair," Zahabi said. " I don't think that's a fair fight. If he can make the cut to 170, that would be great. Georges has to fight everyone at 170, and that's the case. Really I think it would be even and fair. Even if [Silva] would balloon up the next day, he would be weakened by the weight cut, there would be something there."
Meanwhile, Zahabi, St-Pierre and company are taking a little bit of time to relax and reflect on St-Pierre's unanimous decision victory, a compelling fight which was much more entertaining than the 50-45, 49-46, 50-45 scores would seem to indicate.
Zahabi was pleased with St-Pierre's performance in his first fight in 19 months.
"I think it was the way I expected him to look," Zahabi said. "Barring that [third-round Condit] head kick, I think he didn't show too many signs of ring rust. I think there were some signs of ring rust, but after last Saturday night, I think that ring rust is shattered, and his next performance will be even better."
The Tri-Star trainer admitted to being nervous when Condit drilled St-Pierre with a head kick to the right temple and nearly finished the fight. But as a true fight fan, he was able to express admiration for both St-Pierre's resilience in weathering the storm, and in Condit's tenacity and fight smarts.
"Oh yeah, that was not a good exchange for Georges and Georges didn't see that coming whatsoever," Zahabi said. "He was badly hurt and he showed what a heart he has. you know, a lot of people criticized him, ‘he's not a fighter because he wins all the time without getting hit too bad.' He showed, now you know he's a fighter. That's not an easy thing to come back from. Carlos did a great job, he got on top, he hurt Georges to the body, he didn't just attack the head that was already protected and covered. he went for the body as well. I was very impressed by how Carlos handled that, and I was very impressed that Georges got up and exposed his back in getting up. He took a risk and he took Carlos back down and really controlled the rest of the round well."
The visual of a bruised and battered St-Pierre at the UFC 154 post-fight press conference, pressing an icepack to the area where Condit kicked him, will no doubt be one of MMA's most enduring images of 2012. Zahabi, though, says that GSP's injuries look worse than they actually were, and if anything, the champ got a charge from engaging in such a battle.
"They were very cosmetic injuries, I think it invigorated him," he said. "It was a nice scrap and the crowd enjoyed it, it was at home, everyone was thrilled, it got fight of the night. It was a great experience for the crowd and for Georges, I think. He was really happy that everybody was entertained, and that was one of the things he holds most dear, he wants people to enjoy the fights. ...
"Georges will take a little time off, I know he won't take much time off from training, that's the kind of person he is, he'll get right back to it, and I'm pretty sure he'll be begging for a fight before April. I'm sure he'll be ready by then. Right now he can't train for a month, you know, no serious training for a month once you get kick in the head like that, just in terms of precaution, he's gotta take time off."
But will that next fight be against Silva, Hendricks, or Diaz? Zahabi is content to wait and see.
"At end of day, right now, we're just still enjoying the moment," he said. "I know that talk is going to come and it's going to come soon, you know, Georges has to figure out what he has to do with his management, but at the end of the day, there's still Nick Diaz, there's still Johny Hendricks, there's still some great fights out there, but again, 50/50, it could go either way."