by Damon Martin
For the past few years, Jimmy Cournoyer has been the kingpin of one of the largest international drug rings spanning the United States, Canada and Mexico, running marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and other narcotics while working with the Bonanno crime family, the Hells Angels motorcycle club and the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel.
Now if you're wondering what his connection to MMA is, look no further than the biggest star in the sport and possibly the largest draw in UFC history.
Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre is actually a close friend of Cournoyer, but this isn't a rumor or based on a random paparazzi photo of the two of them that just happened to be snapped once upon a time.
No, St-Pierre is such a friend to Cournoyer that he actually wrote a letter in his defense ahead of his sentencing hearing after Cournoyer pled guilty last year to narcotics trafficking crimes that will yield him a minimum of 20 years in prison.
“Among the crimes Cournoyer was convicted of included his part in witness tampering and coercion in which he established a $2 million 'hit fund' to hire a hit on anyone who decided to testify against him or his co-conspirators in court.”
Cournoyer, 34, ran his operation out of Montreal, St-Pierre's hometown, and the two struck up a friendship in 2009 and actually traveled on vacation together and became so close that the former UFC champion considered him like family. The letter St-Pierre wrote in defense of Cournoyer ahead of his sentencing hearing that was just pushed back to August was released via the Montreal Gazette this week, in which GSP pled for prosecutors and the judge to give his friend the minimum 20-year sentence for a crime of this nature.
In the letter, St-Pierre talks about a vacation he shared with Cournoyer in which they visited the island of Ibiza and often sharing dinners together over the years.
"We had the time of our life (on vacation). Jimmy became like a brother to me. We traveled together, we trained together, we were going to restaurants, clubs and having a lot of fun. Jimmy is a very loyal friend who I respect very much," St-Pierre wrote.
"I've never judged Jimmy. Actually, what he was doing (with) his life wasn'™t any of my business. We have a very human relationship; we share the same passions, which is sport fitness and martial arts."
St-Pierre visited Cournoyer in jail twice since he was arrested and convicted last year. Cournoyer could face life in prison. Upon his arrest, Cournoyer had a $1 billion forfeiture levied against him with hundreds of pounds of marijuana seized during his arrest along with 83 kilograms of cocaine, 60,000 MDMA pills, firearms and ammunition, more than 800 marijuana plants and around $11 million in cash.
Among the crimes Cournoyer was convicted of included his part in witness tampering and coercion in which he established a $2 million "hit fund" to hire a hit on anyone who decided to testify against him or his co-conspirators in court.
"œHis mental toughness will help him go through this very hard ordeal in his life," St-Pierre said. "Jimmy is a very positive and strong person and I am sure he will learn huge lessons about all that. I am giving a lot of support to Jimmy because he deserves it. I told him last time I visited him that when he comes out of jail, I will have a place for him in my surrounding."