UFC 107 Preview: Kenny Florian vs Clay Guida Forces Greg Jackson to Corner Against a Close Friend

Kenny Florian and Firas Zahabi (front row black t-shirt) with Georges St Pierre and others.

Heavy.com gets the backstory:

Heavy.com: I guess the biggest change in your training has been your move to a new camp. What drew you to Firas Zahabi? Was it a spiritual MMA thing or just the success he's had with his fighters? And have you trained with Greg Jackson at all?

Kenny Florian: Yeah, I'm training with Firas at Tri-Star Gym in Montreal. They're associated with Greg Jackson, of course. I haven't gone to New Mexico to train with Greg or anything like that. Actually, Clay Guida has been training over there, so that would be a little awkward.

But training with Firas, bringing him on as my striking and MMA coach, he's been phenomenal. He's doing things that no one else is even close to thinking about. So for me, I feel that between having my brother Keith as a coach and Firas as well, with my boxing coach Peter Welch and all the incredible people I've had a chance to work with for this camp, it feels like I'm in my Ph.D course for mixed martial arts. So it's been really enjoyable with these guys. I've improved my game leaps and bounds for this fight.

Heavy.com: Will Firas be in your corner for the Guida fight?

Kenny Florian: Yes, he will.

Heavy.com: That will be a little bit strange, won't it? Greg Jackson and Firas facing each other?

Kenny Florian: Yeah, they will be cornering against each other. They're not sure exactly how that's going to work. I know they are very good friends. But I know that Clay was preparing at Greg's camp for this fight.

For those who don't know who Firas Zahabi is, he's GSP's head trainer. This Yardbarker piece explains his relationship with Greg Jackson:

Firas Zahabi has been in GSP's training camp for eight years. Starting off as an assistant trainer, Zahabi moved up to the position of head trainer after UFC 69 when Georges lost his title to Serra. Over the years TriStar has associated itself with a strong network of trainers.

Although GSP was happy with his level of training, being the best in your camp is not always the best way to develop as a UFC champion. It was time to bring in a group of MMA fighters that would challenge St-Pierre's skills so a co-operative was formed with Greg Jackson's camp for GSP's 3rd fight against Hughes in Dec, 2007 UFC 79.

"Greg and I have a really wonderful relationship. We see eye to eye on a lot of things and consider ourselves one really big team." Comments Firas. "One big advantage of our relationship is we always have a ton of guys in the gym to train with". "Donald Cerrone, Keith Jardine, Rashad came for one week, Nate Marquardt flew in to Montreal the week before". In preparation for Georges' fight with BJ Penn.

It's inevitable that complicated situations like this will occur more and more often in MMA as the top fighters seek to get the best training possible and also refresh their training partners and coaches frequently.

It certainly complicates the game planning when two coaches know each other so well.

On the up side, we've seen the dramatic improvements in Joe Stevenson's game, especially his striking, since he began training with Jackson. It will be very exciting to see if training with Jackson can trigger similar improvements in Guida's fairly limited game.

And for Florian's part, a change in trainers could portend a new approach to the game.

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