Georges St. Pierre announced his retirement from mixed martial arts in early 2019, and in his speech he cited an inability to come to terms with the UFC for a mega-fight with reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov as one of the reasons behind his decision.
That doesn’t mean people aren’t still talking about the hypothetical matchup, however. In an interview with the fightTIPS podcast, Firas Zahabi, St. Pierre’s longtime coach at Tristar Gym in Montreal, discussed how a matchup with the Dagestani grappler might play out.
While Nurmagomedov has mauled the majority of his opponents with his suffocating pressure and wrestling, Zahabi believes that aspect of the fight would look quite different against St. Pierre.
“Even if Khabib would take Georges down, let’s give the best case scenario: I think Georges is getting up, personally,” Zahabi said. “He’s going to get up. Georges’ jiu-jitsu is impeccable. It’s impeccable. It’s not going to be like holding down anybody in the 155-pound division today. It’s another level. Georges, even if Khabib gets him down – and I love Khabib, I’m a mega Khabib fan, as a person and as a fighter, I’m a huge fan of his – Georges’ ability to get up is incredible, and I would be surprised if Khabib ever gets more than one takedown. It would shock me. It would surprise me, to be honest.
“Georges is incredibly hard to take down,” Zahabi said. “Look at his career: How many times has he been taken down? And when he was taken down, how long did he stay down? It was a fraction of a second. He’s always up. He’s a difficult human being to keep down.”
Nurmagomedov is known for his wrestling, but he has displayed some proficient standup at times — such as when he rocked Conor McGregor early in their UFC 229 showdown and when he battered Al Iaquinta with his jab to claim the vacant belt in a decision win at UFC 223. Still, Zahabi is confident “Rush” would have a clear edge on the feet, though he acknowledges that his viewpoint undeniably favors the former welterweight and middleweight champion.
“There’s no way I can tell you I’m not biased – I’m biased for sure,” he said. “But I think Georges’ kicking ability alone will bank him in rounds. They’re both good jabbers, actually. I think Khabib is a good jabber. But I think defensively, Georges is far superior – defensively. His boxing is longer and better, more precise. If you look at it statistically, I think Georges’ numbers are better, and he has a superior kicking ability.”
St. Pierre returned from a four-year hiatus in 2017 to defeat Michael Bisping for the middleweight crown at UFC 217. A battle with colitis prevented him from ever defending that belt, and eventually, he announced that he was calling it a career. Zahabi doesn’t think St. Pierre is interested in dealing with the responsibilities that come with being UFC champion, but a catchweight bout against the undefeated Nurmagomedov? That’s a different matter entirely.
“I don’t think he’s done,” Zahabi said. “I just think he’s so competitive that one day he’s going to see a guy that everybody think is unbeatable, and he’s going to want to come back. Khabib is one of those guys, but it has to be a 165 [pound] fight. Will the UFC do it? That’s the question.
“Georges doesn’t want to be champion at welterweight anymore because that means he would have to defend the title every three or four months, which I think that lifestyle, he’s done with.”