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Firas Zahabi: Don’t blame Edmond Tarverdyan, but other trainers could be better for Ronda Rousey

Esther Lin/MMA Fighting

For Edmond Tarverdyan, being Ronda Rousey’s head trainer has its benefits when things are going well; such as becoming a household name (for better or worse), a cut of big purses like this, among other perks.

But, when things go south -- as they have over the last year -- things aren’t always rainbow’s and sunshine for the trainer. That’s because he’s constantly at the center of heavy-criticism from all angles.

Case in point, after "Rowdy" suffered a 48-second knockout loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 on Dec. 30, 2016, many were calling for Rousey to dump her longtime striking coach for his questionable gameplan. But according to famed trainer Firas Zahabi, it’s not entirely Edmond’s fault Ronda’s striking isn’t top-level.

"I think Ronda has got power. What Ronda doesn’t have, is fluidity, a technical speed. She doesn’t have a smooth coordination. She’s very jittery, she’s very mechanical when she punches, and she’s very wild and telegraphs very much. Her punching level is not at an expert level. However, is that her coach’s fault? I would say no, it is not," he told Bloody Elbow.

Firas — who is known for training high-caliber athletes such as Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald — does his best to defend his statements

"I know a lot of guys are blowing your tops off now, but it’s not his fault. She is not the first athlete in MMA to fail at developing a striking game," he said. "I know what you guys are going to tell me, ‘Ben Askren is a better striker than Ronda Rousey. Maia’s striking is better than Ronda Rousey’s. Why is Rousey’s striking is very stiff and mechanical?’ Is it because of his coach? I don’t think it is. Before you start burning your computers, hear me out. Take for instance, Ben Askren, great fighter. His coach, Duke Roufus, is an extremely competent striking coach. No one can debate that, and he has proven himself over and over again. Why isn’t Askren’s striking like Anthony Pettis? Is it Duke Roufus’ fault? No it is not.

He continues.

"The reason why a Ben Askren or a Ronda Rousey’s striking usually — not always — doesn’t hit that high level, is because they’ve spent so much time wiring their brain and their body and their nervous system to fight in one particular way. It’s opportunity cost. Every time you do one thing, you’re costing yourself in another."

That said, Zahabi wasn’t too impressed Team Rousey’s gameplan against Nunes and says there could be other trainers out there (like this one) that can up Ronda’s striking.

"Is it Edmond’s fault? I don’t think it is. But I think there are coaches out there that can do a much better job than what Edmond did. That I will agree with," he said. "I don’t want to be negative towards anybody, but the job that he did out there against Amanda Nunes was as bad as it can be. That’s the legitimate criticism that I cannot defend.

"I don’t believe he’s incompetent. I think he’s a legitimate striker. I’ve seen his fight videos, I’ve seen him standing up. He legitimately knows what he’s doing standing up. Is his stand up style good for Ronda? Is his approach to training stand up good for Ronda? I would say it’s not."

As for Ronda, Firas is confident she can pick herself back up and mount another comeback, but would be better of if she ventured out and up her game somewhere else.

There are options.

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