Georges St-Pierre fought the toughest battle of his entire career on Saturday night according to his head coach and trainer Firas Zahabi, but whether or not that will serve as his final fight remains to be seen.
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Zahabi sat cage side in St-Pierre’s corner to help coach him to victory, and now that the fight is over he’s had a chance to go back and re-watch the entire fight. He believes the judges got the call correct and St-Pierre rightfully retained the UFC welterweight title.
"I think it came down to the last round and I think Georges edged it out," Zahabi told FOX Sports on Monday. "He was more active in that last round, he landed more significant strikes, he got the two takedowns, Johny didn’t score any takedowns that round and he had control.
"Anybody who won that fight won it by a hair, there was no landslide. I don’t know who the hell saw a landslide."
If there was one factor that Zahabi and his coaching staff didn’t account for from Hendricks it was his speed in the Octagon. Zahabi says that Hendricks’ jab was one mitigating factor in the fight they were surprised by, and he used that weapon very effectively. Still when the fight was over, Zahabi is confident the right man won.
Prior to the fight ever taking place, rumors about St-Pierre’s possible retirement abounded throughout the MMA world. When St-Pierre finally took to the microphone on Saturday following the win over Hendricks he left a somewhat cryptic message about his immediate future saying he needed to ‘hang his gloves up for a little bit’. He never uttered the word retirement, but St-Pierre certainly sounded like he needed a break.
During the UFC 167 post fight press conference, St-Pierre alluded to personal issues that were keeping him up at night and literally haunting his every waking moment. While he chose to keep his private life to himself, gossip mill TMZ.com reported on Monday that the two underlying issues involved an unplanned pregnancy as well as his ailing father.
St-Pierre’s sister shot down the rumor about their father being ill on Monday when speaking to LaPresse in Canada, and Zahabi had no comment about any rumors regarding St-Pierre’s personal life. The fact is, according to St-Pierre’s coach, his personal life is private and whatever decision the UFC’s welterweight champion makes it up to him and only him. No one can tell him he should return or by any means owes it to anyone to return to action if that’s not what St-Pierre truly wants.
"Honestly, I have no idea. I’m not inside of Georges’ head," Zahabi said. "I know Georges is a warrior, but I have no idea. Listen, he’s spent more time inside the Octagon than any other human being. Everybody’s got a limit how long they want to do this for. How many rounds they want to do, how much fight they have in them and everybody’s got a limit. Georges has literally done more than any man on the planet. Does he still have more? I don’t know, that’s up to him. It’s a really personal thing."
Another factor after the fight was St-Pierre’s admission that he lost memory of certain parts of the battle against Hendricks, which brings up the uncomfortable subject of brain injury and trauma in MMA. St-Pierre may be one of the greatest champions the sport has ever known, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t taken significant damage over the last decade that could also be a factor in his ultimate decision of whether to return or not.
Zahabi says if you put the personal issues aside, St-Pierre has been a fighter for most of his life and those scars obtained in battle start to add up at some point.
"You can’t put too much miles on the head. The head has a limit of mileage, the amount of punching it can take. Georges has been fighting since he was a child," Zahabi explained. "He gets cut easily, his last few fights he’s been cut and even before that. Ever since (Jon) Fitch, Georges gets punched in the face, he gets cut. He’s got a lot of mileage on him. He’s spent more than five hours in the Octagon, he has the record. If he still owes, everybody owes. If he still owes, he’s punched in more than anyone, everyone owes."
For now, St-Pierre is taking some much needed time off and when he makes his final decision, Zahabi will be by his side supporting whatever happens. If St-Pierre comes back, Zahabi is positive he will return 100-percent, with a fire to go out and defend his title for a record 10th time. If he does decide retirement is the best choice then Zahabi will happily support that option as well.
"If he went back in, he’d make sure he’s prepared. That’s the type of guy Georges is. He’s not going to go in there fat, out of shape, and disappoint the fans. If he does go back in, he’ll back in 100-percent. Of course you can’t keep fighting every three or four months, non-stop and get into wars three or four times a year. The guy’s 32 years old, he’s not 22 years old anymore. So he’s got to be smart and he’s got to make his own decision." Zahabi said.
"Georges’ last fight was a brutal war. I think he needs to let his emotions settle and then he’s going to decide on what he wants to do. At the end of the day, it’s his personal choice."