As far as insults go, this one was pretty bad if you ask UFC welterweight Siyar Bahadurzada. So as he prepares for his Saturday meeting with Dong Hyun Kim, the Afghanistan native has turned a business trip into something very personal.
“When the UFC offered him (Kim) the fight, he went out there and said ‘who is Siyar Bahadurzada, I don’t know him. I was expecting that the UFC would give me a better name or a higher profile fighter,’” said Bahadurzada about the roots of this growing feud. “What is he talking about? He says he doesn’t know me? How many guys put Paulo Thiago to sleep? I’m pretty sure when he analyzed his tapes he knew who I was. I think he’s scared of me, and that’s why he said that.”
Needless to say, the 28-year-old is a proud man, one who takes his craft seriously. He looks at mixed martial arts as a fight sport, but also something that has several layers of depth in terms of the ideas of respect, honor, and having a warrior’s spirit. So if you respect him, he will respect you right back. Case in point, Bahadurzada’s UFC debut last April against Brazil’s Paulo Thiago.
“When I fought Paulo Thiago, I knew he was a great fighter and I respected him because he was a warrior,” he said. “He’s a tough guy with a tough mentality, and he’s tough to break. He’s a Special Forces guy and I’ve seen movies of BOPE (the Special Forces unit of the Military Police in Brazil) – they go through a lot of extreme stuff, so I knew he was mentally tough, and I respected him for that as well. So going into that fight, I respected him a lot, and I still respect him for being a warrior. But Dong Hyun Kim, he fought ten fights in the UFC and there are still people asking me ‘hey, are you fighting ‘The Korean Zombie (Chan Sung Jung)?’ I’m not fighting him, I’m fighting the other boring guy. After ten fights in the UFC, there are still people who don’t know who this guy is, and that says something about him being a high-profile UFC fighter and how terrible he is. If I fight ten UFC fights, I will leave my footprints in the history of the UFC.”
Bahadurzada pauses before uttering the obvious.
“I don’t like this guy.”
It’s this passion for the game that has made Siyar “The Great” a popular figure in the Octagon after just one fight in his UFC career. Of course that one fight was a 42 second finish of Thiago that earned him Knockout of the Night honors, but with his statements before, during, and after his debut, along with his 20 previous wins and a current seven fight winning streak, he has the potential to make a lot of noise in the welterweight division in the coming years, even if that growth was stunted after the Thiago fight due to injury.
“2012 was a year with a great start and a bad ending,” said Bahadurzada. “I fought Paulo Thiago, I had a dream debut, having a Knockout of the Night bonus. Then I broke my hand, went to Holland, and nine weeks later my doctor said I had to get surgery and put a pin in my hand. So he had to re-break my hand and put a pin in it. But now my right hand has never been stronger. I just tore my first pair of gloves by hitting the mitts and the bags, and I’m really happy. It’s healing well, it’s stronger than before, and I’ve got surprises for Dong Hyun Kim.”
He also has a new camp, having left his home in the Netherlands to train with the Blackzilians camp in South Florida.
“The training is so good here with the Blackzilians that it didn’t even cross my mind not to move here,” said Bahadurzada. “Being in Holland is great, being among family and friends, but to achieve great things in life and greatness, you have to make big sacrifices. And right now I’m here in South Florida, totally alone and by myself with no distractions. I rest, train, eat, and sleep, that’s it. Sometimes on the weekend I’ll go with Alistair and friends to the beach or play poker at Alistair’s place, but that’s all I do. I’m motivated and I don’t let anything distract my mind. I just have one goal in front of me; I’m determined and I want to achieve my goals.”
That’s not to say it was easy leaving friends and family behind. It was difficult for him to make the move to the States, but as the saying goes, great sacrifices are necessary to achieve great rewards.
“I’m someone who loves family,” he said. “I have a very tight bond with my family, and my friends also. So leaving them behind was the biggest decision of my life so far, and it was a tough decision for me, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. I believe I’m destined for big things. I believe the work I put in and the sacrifices will pay off, and everybody will suffer who stands in the way.”
The first one in the way is South Korea’s Kim, winner of five of his last seven bouts, including victories over TJ Grant, Nate Diaz, and Thiago. He’s a physically strong presence who usually takes control of his foes as soon as he gets his hands on them. Bahadurzada insists that he will not be a pawn in Kim’s game.
“I will make him fight me,” he said. “He will not impose his will on me; that’s not gonna work. I will impose my will on him and I will make him pay for making my sport ugly. We need guys like ‘Showtime’ Pettis to make this sport more beautiful. We need guys like Anderson Silva to introduce this sport to the mainstream. But guys like Dong Hyun Kim, he makes the sport ugly. He stalls and controls people and doesn’t do damage. Why would you do that? It doesn’t make sense. If he fights like that, he will have 30 more UFC fights and he will never get a title shot because people don’t want to see a boring champion.”
If you haven’t noticed by now, Bahadurzada means business, and it’s probably a safe bet to say that if he does reach the top of the 170-pound division, he certainly won’t be boring. That quest to take the next step in his career now begins in earnest.
“2012 was a great start of turning heads and having people say ‘hey, who is this guy?’” he said. “In 2013 I will establish my name in the UFC and I will get close to a UFC belt. I don’t want to take the easy way to the belt. I know what I can do and I know what I want, and I want it the hard way. I want to win the respect of everyone. I want to fight the best wrestlers, I want to fight the best grapplers, and I want to fight the best strikers. And when I’m the champion, I want to be the kind of champion that everybody’s like ‘you know what, I’ll just wait until this guy retires and I’ll fight the other champion.’ I want to be a champion that nobody dares challenge, the most vicious UFC champion that’s ever been.”
Siyar Bahadurzada: Fired Up for Kim and 2013
"I will make him fight me. He will not impose his will on me; that’s not gonna work. I will impose my will on him and I will make him pay for making my sport ugly." - Siyar Bahadurzada