Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has released a letter explaining his recent support for a friend – one who’s also a drug kingpin currently awaiting trial for trafficking and other crimes.

St-Pierre’s letter of support for Jimmy Cournoyer became public this past week, linking one of MMA’s cleanest-cut stars to the drug trafficker.

However, St-Pierre said he was unaware of Cournoyer’s crimes until his arrest and that he doesn’t “condone any of his criminal actions.” However, the Canadian fighter said “I believe in redemption, and I believe in loyalty.”

Cournoyer, who struck up a friendship with St-Pierre in 2009 thanks to their mutual admiration of martial arts, recently pled guilty in the U.S. on a number of trafficking charges for marijuana (earning him the nickname the “King of Pot”) and cocaine. As part of a plea deal, he also admitted to money laundering and taking part in a conspiracy from 1998-2012.

Cournoyer, 34, will be sentenced on Aug. 20.

Check out St-Pierre’s letter above, or read the full text here:

June 29, 2014

A letter I signed in support of my friend Jimmy Cournoyer, who has recently pleased guilty to a number of drug traffic-related crimes in the U.S., has generated a great deal of controversy over the last few days.

First of all, the letter I signed was a mistake – my mistake. I will not go into detail as to why and how the letter came about because it’s not going to right a wrong. I simply wanted to help repatriate Jimmy to a Canadian prison, closer to his family, if that was possible.

My friendship with Jimmy is based on our mutual passion for martial arts and going to the gym. I was not aware of Jimmy’s crimes until he was arrested by the U.S. authorities. I do not condone any of his criminal actions. He will and should pay for his actions. My position against the use of drugs has been on record for years, and speaks for itself.

I have been to visit Jimmy in prison – twice so far. We also had many conversations since his arrest. Why? Because I believe in redemption, and I believe in loyalty. I will continue to support him – as a friend. In fact, if Jimmy leaves prison one day, I should be there to help him start over in a better way.

I want to unconditionally apologize to those who have been offended by my actions. But I often say that the wheel of life turns and turns, causing ups and down for each of us. I was also taught that a real friend is there to offer support at the best and the worst of times.

George St-Pierre

St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC), the UFC’s former longtime welterweight champion, vacated his title and announced a break from competition following a November title win over Johny Hendricks. In March, he said a torn ACL would likely keep him out of action until 2015.

The UFC recently announced a December event intended to take place in Montreal, St-Pierre’s current home, has instead been pushed back to March 2015. A new location hasn’t been announced for the card, UFC 181, which takes place Dec. 6.

For more on the organization’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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