Firas Zahabi was unaware his opinion on Nick Diaz had caused such a splash.
The Tristar Gym trainer didn't mean to stir controversy, he today told MMAjunkie.com (MMAjunkie.com
), but said Diaz dominates the inquiries he receives from fans in his native Montreal. That's why Diaz is his pick for No. 1 UFC welterweight contender to his prized pupil, champion Georges St-Pierre.
"It's just that the Diaz fight has been cooking for a long time," Zahabi said. "Wherever I go, people jump on me and ask me when he's fighting Diaz."
In an interview this past week, Zahabi said that while Diaz and Johny Hendricks are worthy contenders to the UFC welterweight title, which has long been held by St-Pierre, Diaz's resume justifies an immediate title shot.
The opinion prompted a stern rebuttal from the camp of Hendricks, who was earmarked for the same position following a first-round knockout of Martin Kampmann at UFC 154.
Mike Dolce, a weight and nutrition consultant, said, "Nick hasn't beaten anybody substantial in the welterweight division to earn that shot. Nick certainly will be in line soon. He's got to get a couple of wins. Johny's got those wins already."
Hendricks, meanwhile, drew the line on the significance of his next fight, saying he would only compete for a title. Both Hendricks and Dolce suggested Zahabi might be vying for an easier opponent for St-Pierre.
Zahabi, though, said he's simply offering his opinion.
"It's been years I've been answering that question," he said. "'No, he's not fighting Diaz. He's fighting (Carlos) Condit.' I have to explain it a thousand times. It's been on our mind for a long time. It's not about anything personal or anything else. It's just been cooking for a long time."
St-Pierre and Diaz were scheduled to fight at UFC 143, but St-Pierre was forced to withdraw when he tore his ACL in training. The Montreal-based fighter returned in the headliner of UFC 154 and unanimously outpointed interim champ Condit to defend his belt.
While Zahabi stuck by his opinion on the UFC's current welterweight picture, he seemed to shy away from commenting on a heavily anticipated superfight between St-Pierre and middleweight champ Anderson Silva.
Silva's manager, Ed Soares, recently told FUEL TV's "UFC Tonight" that he thought the fight wouldn't take place. Zahabi said he hadn't spoken to St-Pierre on the issue and said it wasn't his place to comment on the direction of the welterweight champ's career.
"I don't manage Georges, so I think that's a talk he has with his manager and they have with the UFC," he said. "When people ask me if I think he should fight, it's just my own personal opinion. I don't get calls from (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva.
"I think if that fight happens, it could happen in the near future or it could happen later on. I have no idea. I'd just be guessing. I asked him if he wanted to fight Silva. He told me yes. There's a lot to be negotiated, so I don't know much more than that."