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Firas Zahabi - Quebec’s Top MMA Coach

Firas Zahabi - Quebec’s Top MMA Coach

1. Firas Zahabi’s Details

Firas Zahabi’s Details
Name Firas Zahabi
Nickname N/A
Born Quebec, Canada
Age 43
Date of Birth 5/2/1980
Height 5’9’’
Disclosed Career Earnings N/A
College University Concordia University
Rank BJJ Black Belt
Head Coach John Danaher
Favorite Technique Leg Locks
Lineage M. Maeda > C. Gracie > Helio Gracie > Carlos Gracie Jr > Renzo Gracie > John Danaher >  Firas Zahabi
Team Association Tristar Gym
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2. Firas Zahabi’s Biography

Firas Zahabi is a well-known MMA and BJJ coach from Quebec, Canada. He is the owner of the world-famous no. 1 Canadian gym, Tristar, the birthplace of many of Canada’s MMA fighters. Zahabi is Canada’s best MMA coach as he helped train various BJJ students who became big names in the grappling circuit.    

2.1. Athletic Childhood

Firas Zahabi and his brother discovered a love for sports during their early childhood. They were big fans of and loved to play American football. Zahabi even took part in local amateur football matches. At this point, the brothers had little exposure to martial arts. 

2.2. Introduction to Martial Arts

In 1998, Zahabi was introduced to MMA and grappling. He watched Royce Gracie at the UFC championship where he demonstrated his techniques and won the tournament. It was the second match of Royce Gracie. Young Canadian also watched his first match and was amazed to see his style of fighting. From then on, Zahabi was inspired by Gracie and resolved to create his own fighting style.

At the time, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu had not reached Montreal and there were no GJJ teachers. However, this did not discourage Zahabi as he began studying and practicing the movements in GJJ with his brother and friends.    

2.3. Joining Tristar

In 2000, a purple belt student of Renzo Gracie named Angelo Exarhakos moved to Canada and joined a local gym named Tristar. He started coaching Gracie Jiu-Jitsu at the gym. Zahabi took this as an opportunity to start his martial arts training at the age of 20 and joined Tristar. He trained in jiu-jitsu under Exarhakos. Later, he also started to train in Muay Thai (Thai boxing).    

2.4. First Two Coaches

Zahabi’s first two coaches who played a vital role in his development were Angelo Exarhakos and Wagnney Fabiano. As stated above, Exarhakos was one of Renzo Gracie’s students, while Fabiano was a black belt from Nova Uniao. In 1999, he moved to Toronto, though Zahabi made sure to visit him regularly.  

2.5. Blue Belt Promotion

Zahabi was a dedicated and motivated student that spent most of his time on the mat. Due to his hard work, he was promoted to blue belt just after six months of training. 

2.6. Coaching at Tristar

Exahakos could only visit Tristar three times per week. Tristar needed a full-time teacher and Zahabi was the most dedicated student at the gym. He was offered a job as a jiu-jitsu coach at the gym. He accepted and started his coaching career as a blue belt.    

2.7. Education 

While learning BJJ, Zahabi also attended classes at Concordia University to earn his bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Due to being busy at university, he could not compete regularly in jiu-jitsu championships. Although he rarely appeared in freestyle wrestling, kickboxing, and grappling.       

2.8. Officially Taking Over Tristar

Cornald Plas, the owner, and co-founder of Tristar, found he did not have time to run the gym. In 2007, he handed control of the gym over to Zahabi. He later bought the gym and became the official owner of Tristar.    

2.9. Interaction between Renzo Gracie Academy and Tristar

During the 2000s, Zahabi started visiting John Danaher at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York. His most well-known student Pierre also started visiting Renzo Gracie Academy in New York. This interaction between Zahabi and Danaher’s relationship helped both Tristar and Renzo Gracie Academy become closer as the students also benefited from this interaction. Both academies started exchanging their students as well as their ideas with each other. 

Interaction between Renzo Gracie Academy and Tristar

2.10. Major Influences

At Renzo Gracie Academy, Zahabi got the chance to train with famous fighters like John Danaher, Roger Gracie, and Braulio Estima. He often mentions them as major influences in his development.   

2.11. Promoted to Black Belt

Zahabi was promoted to black belt by John Danaher in 2011.    

2.12. Personal Life

Zahabi spent his childhood with his family in Quebec, Canada. His parents were of Lebanese descent. Zahabi is happily married to Melissa Gendron, whom he met at university. He has three children: two sons named Ayman Zahabi and Noah Zahabi and a daughter named Alissa Dean Zahabi.

2.13. Firas Zahabi’s Brother

Zahabi is the elder brother of Canadian mixed martial artist, Aiemann Zahabi. He is a bantamweight competitor in the UFC. His MMA record is 10-2-2. He won the “Performance of the Night” award once against Drako Rodriguez. 

Firas Zahabi’s Brother

2.14. Firas Zahabi’s Love for MMA

Firas Zahabi loves MMA and his life struggles also proved it. Firas Zahabi started MMA training without any coach and then nature made way for him. He took that opportunity and now he is a big name in the list of MMA trainers and BJJ coaches. Firas Zahabi said:

“I always loved martial arts more than I loved fighting. I didn’t do martial arts because I wanted to be famous or because I wanted to win a tournament. I always did it because I was fascinated with the art.”

According to Firas Zahabi, multiple people are born with the ability to fight or play other sports. Let your children discover themselves if they are interested and experts in a specific game, let them play that. They are born to play that game. His words are 

“People don’t know their history, Some people are born warriors. And those warriors, we need them. They have a place in our society. Let them play football, let them play basketball, let them box, let them do MMA. They’re born with that.”

3. Firas Zahabi’s Best Students

3.1. Firas Zahabi’s MMA Students

George St-Pierre

George St-Pierre, also known as GSP, is Zahabi’s most famous and accomplished student. He was also Zahabi’s first MMA student. Known as the greatest MMA fighter of all time, St-Pierre is the UFC champion in two weight divisions and has defended his title nine consecutive times.

Roger Sportsnet has given St-Pierre the Canadian Athlete of the Year award for consecutive three years, from 2008 to 2010. He retired from MMA as the 2013 Welterweight Champion. But he eventually returned to compete in the middleweight division and won the title of UFC Middleweight Champion. Due to health issues, St-Pierre finally retired from MMA in 2017.

St-Pierre had won multiple awards from several organizations and was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. St-Pierre also starred in multiple films like Death Warrior, Never Surrender, Cartels, etc. His MMA record is 26-2-0.

28 matches 26 wins 2 losses
By knockout 8 1
By submission 6 1
By decision 12 0

Arnold Allen 

Arnold Allen is a mixed martial artist ranked fourth in the UFC during 2023. Allen fought in three weight divisions, including the bantamweight division from 2012 to 2013.

In 2014, Allen fought as a lightweight competitor, then from 2014 onwards, he became a featherweight competitor. Allen won three times, performance of the night award. He also appeared in three fights in kickboxing and won all of them. His MMA record is 19-2-0.

21 matches 19 wins 2 losses
By knockout 7 0
By submission 4 0
By decision 8 2

Miguel Torres

Miguel Torres is a well-known and accomplished MMA fighter under Zahabi. He fought in three MMA weight divisions: bantamweight, featherweight, and lightweight. Torres is also the WEC Bantamweight Champion, having defended his title for three years. Torres also won “Fight of the Night” twice. He also won the “Submission of the Night” award at WEC. His MMA record is 44-9-0.

53 matches 44 wins 9 losses
By knockout 9 3
By submission 25 3
By decision 10 3

Rory MacDonalds

Rory MacDonalds is a mixed martial artist and the Bellator Welterweight World Champion. He has won multiple awards during his MMA career, including:

  • UFC Fight of the Night (once)
  • Performance of the Night (once)
  • Bellator Welterweight Champion
  • Canadian Fighter of the Year (2012) by Top MMA News
  • Fighter of the Year (2015) by World MMA Awards

MacDonalds announced his retirement from MA in 2022. His MMA record is 23-10-1.  

34 matches 23 wins 10 losses
By knockout 7 4
By submission 9 0
By decision 7 6
Draws 1

Denis Kang

Denis Kang is a middleweight fighter and a third-degree BJJ black belt. He won the “Fight of the Night” award in the UFC and ROAD FC. He has a high submission rate with 14 submissions out of 35 winning fights. His MMA record is 35-16-2.

55 matches 35 wins 16 losses
By knockout 15 6
By submission 14 8
By decision 6 2
Draws 2
No contests 2

3.2. Firaz Zahabi’s BJJ Competitors

Ethan Crelinsten

Ethan Crelinsten is a Canadian grappler who represented both Tristar and Renzo Gracie Academy in the grappling circuit. He trained from a white belt to a brown belt under Zahabi. When the two academies formed a closer relationship, Crelinsten was promoted to black belt by John Danaher in 2020.

Crelinsten, alongside Nicky Ryan and Craig Jones, announced the founding of their own academy, B-Team. He has a high submission rate, having won 22 out of 36 matches via submission. On the other hand, he lost only three matches via submission. Listed below are his BJJ achievements:

Year Event Position
2017 ADCC West Coast Trials 1st
2017 Onnit Invitational 4 2nd
2018 ADCC East Coast Trials 1st
2020 Jitz King Invitational 1st
2020 BJJ Fanatics 170 lbs GP 2nd
2020 P-Belum Invitational 2nd

Oliver Taza

Oliver Taza is a Canadian grappler of Lebanese descent. He represented Tristar, Renzo Gracie Academy, and New Waves in the grappling circuit. Taza started his BJJ training under Zahabi and trained at Tristar until he became a purple belt. Later, he started to visit Renzo Gracie Academy to train with Danaher.

Taza has a high submission rate and has won 72 fights out of 120 via submission. He lost only two fights via submission. He was promoted to black belt by Danaher in New York in 2020.

Year Event Position
2015 IBJJF World Championship – NoGi 3rd
2016 IBJJF European Open – Gi 2nd
2016 Canadian Kumite Grand Prix 1st
2016 ADCC US East Coast Trials 2nd
2017 IBJJF World Championship – NoGi 1st
2017 IBJJF Pan Championship – NoGi 2nd
2017 IBJJF European Open – NoGi 2nd
2017 IBJJF Rome Open – Gi 3rd
2017 IBJJF Rome Open – Gi 3rd
2017 ADCC European Trials 1st
2017 TUFF Invitational UK 1st
2017 ADCC US West Coast Trials 4th
2018 ACBJJ European Championship – Gi 1st
2018 UAEJJF Niagara Falls Pro – Gi 1st
2018 IBJJF New York Spring Open – Gi 2nd
2018 UAEJJF Grand Slam, LDN – Gi 3rd
2020 BJJ Fanatics Grand Prix 1st
2020 Jitz King Invitational 2nd
2020 Para Bellum Quintet Invitational 2nd

4. FAQs

4.1. Which books Firas Zahabi recommended the most?

Answer: Firas Zahabi recommended the book “Managing Oneself” by Peter Drucker multiple times. He is a big fan of this book. Other books Firas Zahabi recommended are “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, and “Time Warrior” by Steven Chandler.

4.2. Why does Zahabi not roll with women?

Answer: Zahabi stated in an interview,

“The fact that I say that I don’t roll with women… It should be applauded by every man.
Every man should say: “Yeah, I don’t want you to roll with my daughter, sister, wife.” Why? [Because] it might lead to something.”

“If you put a woman on top of me, I might have a sexual thought. It’s natural, I am a man.
That’s why I don’t want her on top of me, that’s why I don’t want to engage in these things! That’s the reality, guys.”

4.3. What are the techniques Zahabi uses to improve cardio?

Answer: Zahabi advises improving cardio to help improve your BJJ skills. If you are using the incorrect technique for a specific situation, you will become tired sooner. The most effective method to increase cardiovascular endurance is by running regularly.

Photo Credit: @firas_zahabi

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