With the final day of sparing in the books Faris Zahabi looked around the Tri Star gym in downtown Montreal and knew that David Loiseau and Denis Kang would be ready on Saturday night for UFC 97.
“They both will look great Saturday night. Training was great and now we’re into the final week.” Zahabi says as he completes a phone interview late Saturday night on Easter weekend with me.
Zahabi is the head MMA instructor at Tri Star gym, which is quickly and not so quietly becoming one of the most respected MMA gyms in the world for talent, hard work and most importantly game planning, which Zahabi is a master of.
As a fighter Faris won many titles. He was the Canadian Muay Thai champion and won titles in Jui Jitsu as well. He was training as a fighter and sort of fell into the role as MMA coach.
“The original trainer had a growing business and didn’t have much time for MMA.”
Zahabi was known as one of the most technical fighters in the gym and how to break down a fight, so he was the logical choice to be appointed Head MMA Coach.
“I put fighting on hold and the team kept growing and growing. Eventually we started to put guys in the UFC (Loiseau and Georges St. Pierre were the first).”
Zahabi has grown into his coaching role so much, that he currently has no thoughts of fighting again. He brings an element to his training that many coaches can’t. Simply – he’s a 29 year old fighter in prime condition.
When pressed what separates him from other coaches, the overly modest Zahabi answers.
” get in there with the guys and we go at it. I spar with Georges and spar with him 100%. I stay in shape and keep developing along with our fighters. I’m trying to get better each day too.”
“Another thing that I do is that people are always coming to our camp with some different training methods – things that are new. Some of them are great and some maybe don’t fit as well into our camp. But the fighters can’t try everything. So I will try it myself and if I think it will fit in, then I bring it to the guys.”
Zahabi experienced some additional coverage when he was the focus of many segments of the UFC’s PrimeTime show, a hype building 3 part segment featuring St. Pierre and his opponent, lightweight champion BJ Penn. In what was one of the more memorable moments of one episode, Penn gathered with his training camp and told the camera that that after the fight, Zahabi should go and “F*$# himself.”
Leading up to that fight Zahabi, Phil Nurse and Greg Jackson prepared St. Pierre well enough to dominate Penn for 4 rounds and Penn eventually had nothing left after round 4 and his corner stopped the fight.
Asked specifically about working alongside the great MMA coach Greg Jackson, Zahabi has no hesitation.
“Greg Jackson is so great to work with. Greg has been a great influence on me as a coach and as a person. Greg puts the fighters first and I try and model myself after him. He is unbelievable.”
Check back tomorrow when Zahabi will discuss Kenny Florian training in Montreal, how St. Pierre will prepare for Thiago Alves and why Kang and Loiseau will both be great on Saturday.