Tidiani Biga no longer climbs in the ring to fight, but he is never very far from it.
A French, European and World Champion, this famous fighter has never lost his passion for the sport that he loves: Muay Thai. At only 28-years-old, he ended his career as a fighter, unaware that his destiny would guide him towards another sport, MMA, and another champion, GSP.
After years removed from the ring, nak muay Tidiani Bigi began to doubt himself. But the former champion knew he had much more to give to the sport that had given so much to him.
"Once I made the decision to stop competing, I decided to earn the certifications needed to teach muay thai. I have always wanted to pass on what I had learned. I started at age 14 or 15 with André Zeitoun before making the move to Nanterre with Kouider. Today, I have my own club, BMTC and welcoming Georges St-Pierre to the club was an honor for me. He's a very simple person, an ideal student because he constantly strives to learn more and he's capable of putting instructions into practice perfectly. Georges is like a sponge and for a coach, that's very rewarding. With Georges, and all of my students, I try to use all of the difficulties that I've experienced in my career to help competitors or young guys who just like to train to excel by concentrating on their qualities, as my coaches did for me when I began.”
Who would have thought that this muay thai purist would one day find himself involved in mixed martial arts? Not him, not when he first met the Canadian champion.
"I met GSP through Moïse Rimbon and Francis Carmont who were training at the Cercle Tissier with Lass about three years ago. They wanted to work on their muay thaï and so they came to the BMTC. Today, we continue to work together, but we have also become friends."
Tidiani talks little about himself, but doesn't hesitate to discuss his relationship with GSP with a heavy focus on the champion's physical abilities: "When I see Georges and he has a new challenge in front of him, we work on a very precise strategy. I take into account what has been decided by the rest of the team and I adapt my muay thai to the opponent that he will face."
And that's how GSP seems capable of always finding a way to win. Tidiani continues his description of the champion, mixed between the objective view of a coach and the more passionate view of the fighter he once was:
"Georges has this ability to apply what we work on in the gym while remaining unpredictable for his opponents, because he works on all aspects of MMA, he can do it all. With Lass who has been by my side in this adventure since the beginning and who is by my side at the BMTC, GSP works his boxing, and together we work on what we see when he comes to our gym".
This meeting between the two men is not as simple as two athletes or two disciplines. It is the crossing of two fabulous destinies, those of two warriors of the ring and the octagon who constantly strive to learn. A thirst for success and a will to win for both of them, as well as a common value: respect. The UFC champion has a profound respect and great confidence in his trainers, whose authority and expertise he never questions. A champion who, beyond training, maintains human and authentic values at the heart of his preparation.
Tidiani Biga confirms this every time they meet.
"When I'm in Canada for example, we have a mission, but there is also a family feeling lead by Georges who is very open and who accompanies us to dinner. We share much more than just the gym and it's a real pleasure for me to have crossed the path of an athlete like Georges, who has managed to remain humble despite his achievements in the UFC, the biggest MMA organization in the world. I love this simplicity that we find in Georges and in Francis Carmont. We're a little like a family, Georges, Francis, Lass and me, but we never forget our mission: to give Georges the tools to learn at our side, and to continue to apply what we teach him even after we have left the Tristar Gym or he has left the BMTC."
And Georges will have to devote himself to his role as a nak muay, as he will be taking on the number one contender Johnny Hendricks at UFC 167 in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 16.
Tidiani Biga, who doesn't know yet whether he'll attend the fight that all UFC fans are waiting for, explains the link between the two sports :
"Muay thai is a tough, evolving sport, just like MMA. There are UFC events every two weeks and all of the fighters are hungry so you have to train constantly in order to stay ahead. With Georges, we work on muay thai adapted for MMA because the rules and the techniques are specific. For example, we pay a lot of attention to foot placement, and by extension leg placement based on the techniques that we're working on. The distance, the rhythm or the speed of a kick thrown during a fight can completely change the outcome. Because in MMA, everything is linked together, nothing can be neglected”.
And those who know something about combat sports know that in the Octagon, you're better set if you're able to anticipate and to counter any attacks, wherever they may come from, if you want to avoid a premature end. Tidiani Biga knows it, and shares that knowledge with GSP:
"Georges leaves nothing to chance, he works incessantly on all aspects of high-level MMA. You also need athleticism or gymnastic ability. He is constantly searching for ways to improve, which is rare at this level of competition. He has a will to win, but at the same time he has a kind of internal force that allows him to remain lucid while others would let their emotions get the better of them.”
And this control of his emotions is going to be important, at least until UFC 167 on November 16 when GSP will make his way to the MGM Grand Garden Arena to defend his UFC world championship belt, a title that he has successfully defended nine times since he first won it from Matt Hughes at UFC UFC 65, against number one contender Johny Hendricks.
That same night, if Tidiani Biga is not in the legendary MGM Arena, he will no doubt be in front of a screen cheering on his student and friend, all the while remembering the great times he spent in rings in Thailand.