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Firas Zahabi: ‘Georges’ health is fine’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Oh, the Monday after.

Two days after Georges St-Pierre defended the 170-pound title with a controversial split decision victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 there were rumors, speculations and concerns over the champion’s personal problems and health. The big question: Was Saturday night the last we’ll see of St-Pierre?

The champ had appeared weary of the fight game after the five-round bout on Saturday night, and he brought home the point that he suffered memory loss and blurry vision from being brutally knocked about for all five rounds. He said he needed to step away for bit, citing personal reasons, but never said he was definitively retiring. This put UFC president Dana White on edge, which became very clear in the post-fight press conference when he said the welterweight champion owed the company, the fans and Hendricks more than that (among other things).

This then set up a firestorm among media and fans. Dana White, who was half fuming over the judging in a fight he thought Hendricks clearly won, had come off by turns as a despot and an ingrate, just as St-Pierre, who showed up late and in tatters after being stitched up at a Las Vegas hospital, alluded to some personal issues that were overwhelming him. White and St-Pierre talked things over after the press conference, and White said he felt better about the situation in the media scrum.

But what is the situation?

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St-Pierre’s manager and friend from Tristar Gym, Firas Zahabi, appeared on the MMA Hour to discuss things. Though he was pressed on the issue of what "get out for a while" meant, Zahabi preferred to leave it up for St-Pierre to explain if and when he’s ready.

"I have no idea," Zahabi told host Ariel Helwani. "I don’t think Georges knows at all. I think that’s something that we’re going to know shortly. I think over time his mind’s going to settle and he’ll sort out his emotions and figure things out, like people do. But I can’t answer for him. That’s his answer, that’s him to make that call, I have no idea. I’m waiting as well."

There are plenty of rumors into what’s plaguing the UFC’s longest-tenured champ. The tabloid TMZ reported on Monday that St-Pierre’s father was gravely ill, and that he’d also gotten a woman pregnant accidentally. If that wasn’t all, Stephane Patry, GSP’s former manager, had gone on radio in Montreal and said that St-Pierre was being sued by his other former manager, Sheri Spencer. Perhaps this was what was bothering St-Pierre?

Zahabi wouldn’t comment on any of that, but did caution everyone to consider the source on the former as he sort of doused the flames on the latter.

"You know what? A lawsuit to Georges, I don’t think he’d care," he said.

Zahabi said that St-Pierre’s mood had improved since Saturday, and that he didn’t suffer any major injuries in the fight, the most significant being a scratched eye. When asked directly if his health was okay, with all the talk of brain trauma going on, Zahabi was emphatic.

"Georges’ health is fine, yes," he said. 

Firas, like the growing minority of media and fans who are taking a second closer look at the fight, thought the judges were right in awarding St-Pierre the decision. And, like so many others, he saw rounds 2 and 4 clearly for Hendricks, and rounds 3 and 5 definitively for his man, leaving the back-and-forth first round as the pivot.

"That’s the round that everybody can’t agree on," he said.

It’s academic at this point, as the victory belongs to St-Pierre, who took a lot of punishment to get it. As to whether or not he'd like to see his long-time friend and student fight again after more than twenty UFC battles and such a long run as the welterweight champion, Zahabi said he’d support St-Pierre one way or another.

"I would love to see him fight again, because I’m a fan," he said. "I’m a big fan of Georges St-Pierre, and if he wants to fight again I’ll be 100 percent there to back him up."

And after a couple of nights to reflect on things, what did he think of White’s declaration that St-Pierre owed more to the fans and promotion? Here Zahabi chose not to dip his toe in the boiling pot.

"I don’t know," he said. "I don’t know about owing fights, I don’t know what that means. [Georges has] put the most hours in the Octagon than anybody else. He’s put his heart and soul into competing. I can’t step on what the guy has to do. He’s got to decide."

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