Exclusive: Firas Zahabi Said He Was Impressed By Conor McGregor's Boxing Debut

Conor McGregor's recent fight against Floyd Mayweather not only earned him the respect from those in the boxing community, but also from the mixed martial arts community as well.

Firas Zahabi, head coach of Tristar Gym, appeared on the "Holy Smokes MMA Podcast" at Fightful.com to discuss the August 26 boxing fight between Mayweather and McGregor. McGregor may have lost to Mayweather via 10th-round TKO, but Zahabi said he thoroughly enjoyed the fight and it exceeded his own expectations.

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"I loved it, I thought it was a battle both men put it all on the line. The action was jam-packed from round one. I have zero complaints, loved it," Zahabi said. 

With the fight being better than what Zahabi expected, it stood to reason that McGregor performed much better than what Zahabi expected. Zahabi expected the undefeated boxer to take command late in the fight, as Mayweather did, but was surprised McGregor not only fared well early on in the fight, but even landed some good punches, especially a left uppercut to Mayweather's chin in the first round of the fight.  

"I think he did better than I thought he would. He hit Mayweather with a beautiful counter left uppercut in round No. 1. I thought I saw Mayweather stumble a bit. I thought he did get surprised and realized that McGregor is a very seasoned counter puncher. He stays on the outside. McGregor knows how to use the reach and he knows how to be patient, and he'll pick them apart. Mayweather changed gameplan [during the fight]. He adjusted and he took down McGregor in the later rounds like I thought he would. The beginning was very surprising. I didn't think Mayweather would get countered so effectively," Zahabi said.

One thing that McGregor could feel proud about fighting Mayweather is that he landed 111 punches in the August 26 fight, 30 more than eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao when Pacquiao fought Mayweather in 2015. Zahabi did say even though McGregor landed more punches than Pacquiao, Mayweather's strategy in the McGregor fight was to be more aggressive, which left Mayweather open to receive more punches from the UFC Lightweight Champion. 

Zahabi also had an interesting comparison when talking about Mayweather's strategy to press forward and called it similar to former world heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson's aggressive fighting strategy.

"I think it's a very different fight, a completely different strategy. [In the McGregor fight] Mayweather looked more like Mike Tyson. He was moving forward. McGregor has a really long reach, is very quick on the outside. I think Mayweather, at one point, was telling himself, 'I can't fight this guy on the outside. I got to press the fight.' When you do that, you get hit more often. Whereas in the Pacquiao fight, Mayweather had the longer reach and he could fight on the outside. It's very different, just a very different type of fight," Zahabi said.

The "Holy Smokes MMA Podcast" with "Showdown" Joe Ferraro and Sean Ross Sapp is live every Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET. Zahabi's comments can be seen in the video above.

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