Tristar Gym head coach Firas Zahabi has established himself as one of the best trainers in the game today. His body of work can be seen through a number of top-level fighters in his stable, with the most notable one being two-division UFC champion Georges St-Pierre.
During an appearance on the recent episode of the JRE MMA Show, Zahabi touched on some of his training methods while working with St-Pierre. One of them is his manner of dealing with sparring partners.
“I brought the guys in a room, and I was watching them spar with Georges, and they don’t want to touch his face,” Zahabi told Joe Rogan (transcript via MMAjunkie). “This is when he was like a mega-star, when he was the champ. Nobody wants to try to double leg him; nobody wants to try to hurt him. They’re like, ‘I’m not going to come here in his house and try to show him.’”
“There’s a respect thing. They’re starstruck, these young kids.”
To remedy this situation, Zahabi sweetened the deal with a corresponding monetary value.
“I would bring in these young kids, and I would be like, ‘Listen, guys.’ I would give them a speech: ‘The first guy to double leg him, the first guy to put him out, I’ll give a $5,000 reward,” Zahabi said. “If you knock Georges out, I’ll give you 5,000 bucks. If you put Georges on his back, if you take him down, put him on his back, I’ll stop the whole practice and praise you for 20 minutes in front of everybody in the gym.’”
“And students don’t get praised by me very often,” he added. “Georges would be like, ‘Oh my God, these guys are coming after me!’ So he would get riled up. I would do this periodically. We’re talking about world title fights, stuff’s on the line.”
Zahabi, who says he prefers majority of sparring sessions to remain light, later explained that these methods are meant to prevent St-Pierre from being too comfortable and to check for holes in his game.
“I need these guys to show me where Georges is missing something,” Zahabi said. “Because when you’re having this ‘perfect practice,’ and you win all the time, what do you work on? Nothing went wrong, there’s nothing to fix. So there were times I would really red-light him.”