10/03/2014 11:15 EDT | Updated 12/03/2014 05:59 EST

St-Pierre slated to take his training up a notch, but future still unclear

HALIFAX - Georges St-Pierre is on the verge of returning to mixed martial arts training. But whether he fights again is still up in the air.

Longtime coach Firas Zahabi believes the former UFC welterweight champion is not short of motivation as he continues his comeback from knee surgery during his hiatus from the sport.

Zahabi, in Halifax to corner five fighters including No. 2 welterweight Rory MacDonald on Saturday's televised UFC card, says GSP is scheduled to take his training up a notch.

"He's been cleared now to do some martial arts training," Zahabi said this week. "We're going to take it one step at a time. We're going to get back in the gym, try to have some fun. You know he hasn't kicked and punched in a long time so we're going to have some fun with it first."

St-Pierre (25-2) vacated his title last December saying he needed time away from the sport. But he kept training.

He underwent surgery in April after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during a workout. GSP had reconstructive surgery on his other knee in December 2011.

The 33-year-old St-Pierre has denied recent reports that he is returning to action.

"No decision," St-Pierre said in a text Friday to The Canadian Press.

Zahabi says he can't speak for the former champion.

"But I believe there's still a lot of fire in him," said Zahabi. "I just think he needs to balance his life a lot more. When you run, you trip.

"He did too many fights too soon, too much. I think he's just got to space them out. He can handle that. He just needs to have some personal life as well."

After a controversial razor-thin split decision over Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks at UFC 167 last November, the battered champion seemed a man on the edge.

"I can't sleep at night now. I'm going crazy,'' he said in the post-fight news conference. "I have issues. I need to relax. I need to get out for a while. I don't know what I'm going to do.''

He announced his hiatus weeks later, without going into detail on the issues bothering him.

Hendricks went on to claim the vacant 170-pound title, beating (Ruthless) Robbie Lawler. The two are scheduled to fight again Dec. 6 at UFC 181.

Like Zahabi, UFC Canada boss Tom Wright also has his own opinion on St-Pierre.

"I don't have any facts whatsoever. My hunch is that Georges will come back," said Wright, who also heads up UFC operations in Australia and New Zealand. "But Georges will want to come back on his own terms.

"I'd like to see nothing better."

Since stepping aside, St-Pierre has talked of the need for more stringent drug testing in his sport.

Wright points to the two different camps on GSP's fighting future. One wants St-Pierre to retire at the top of his game. The other says he has unfinished business and perhaps wants to go out on different terms.

"Who knows," said Wright.

UFC president Dana White has said that St-Pierre could return to a title fight.

St-Pierre has already cemented his legacy in the sport. The win over Hendricks was a record 19th in the UFC for St-Pierre, one more than former welterweight champion Matt Hughes. It also moved GSP past former middleweight champion Anderson Silva for most wins in UFC title bouts at 12.

St-Pierre holds the record for career fight time in the UFC at five hours 28 minutes 12 seconds.

He also owns the UFC mark for most championship rounds fought (52). UFC 167 was St-Pierre's 14th championship fight, one behind Randy Couture.

St-Pierre exited leading the UFC records in total strikes landed, significant strikes landed, takedowns landed and takedown accuracy rate, according to FightMetric.


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