Siyar Bahadurzada makes his debut for the UFC this weekend.
Born in Afghanistan, he relocated to Holland as a teenager when his family decided to leave their homeland because it was becoming too dangerous. But Siyar swapped one war zone for another as he quickly immersed himself in the Dutch kickboxing scene.
That eventually led to him joining Golden Glory and it was a fruitful relationship until recently, when a dispute over money led to him leaving the team and striking out on his own. Now training with the legendary Thai-boxing coach Lucien Carbin in Amsterdan, Siyar faces Paulo Thiago in Sweden on Saturday night.
Fighters Only caught up with the notoriously savage Amsterdam-Kabul man…
FO: So, UFC debut this weekend and its against Paulo Thiago. Your thoughts?
Man, Thiago is a great fighter. He always brings it, great stand up, great ground. Always wants to fight, so he is a perfect opponent. My fighting style is savage - violent, ferocious. I don’t hold anything back, everything I throw is with bad intentions. Every time I connect I put people to sleep, whatever I throw is with bad intentions. I am not used to holding back. When I train I throw every punch, every kick every knee hard, and that is how I fight.
FO: Some people trip over your name when trying to pronounce it; Afghan names aren’t easy for Europeans! Aside from the name, are you still closely tied to Afghanistan? Why did you leave there?
Well there were some problems which forced us to leave Afghanistan but even being far from Afghanistan, I still love Afghanistan and fight for Afghanistan. Because we have had a really bad reputation in the media worldwide and now I have the chance to set some things right and show Afghanistan in a good light.
You see terrible things about Afghanistan but Afghanistan is not terrible! The media manipulate the news, everyone knows that - you know that, I know that - but Afghanistan is not like that, its not like everything you see on the news. It is much more. If you go to the history books you can read about the emperors in Afghanistan and what kind of people we are, what kind of history we have and what kind of warriors we are.
We are actually like everybody else, we are a hospitable people, we are loyal, we are honourable. We are just as good as anybody else but the media put us in a dark light over us in recent years. Right now we Afghans, the sportsmen, are working hard to change that picture.
FO: Afghanistan has been war-torn for so long; do you still have hopes that it can be turned around?
Hope is the last thing I will give up, so of course there is hope for Afghanistan. And if I do my best on my part, out of the love for Afghanistan, if I do whatever I can and I don’t expect anything in return like everyone who is raiding Afghanistan, it will be a better place soon.
FO: There are segments of the American crowd that are infamously ‘patriotic’ (by which I mean, the chant ‘USA’ at every opportunity). Do you fear you Afghan heritage might go over badly with them?
When I fight I don’t fight like ‘Afghanistan vs. USA’, I don’t want to fight that fight. I am fighting the bad image of my country. I want to be a role model, I want to put a positive person in the media so that people can see Afghanistan is not everything you see in the news, that is my goal.
And I want to inspire the little kids in Afghanistan who never had a chance. I want to give them an opportunity and show them that if they try their best they can be something. If you have nothing else you can train and get to the top of the world in sports. That is my goal.
FO: In 2010, your name was in the MMA headlines because you had signed an exclusive deal with Strikeforce. Your debut was highly anticipated - but then never happened; Strikeforce claimed the contract wasn’t valid. What actually happened?
Well my future is my brighter than my dark past, so actually the brightness in my future pulls me more than the darkness in my past. What is Strikeforce, is this an organisation? I don’t even know. They don’t exist for me. I am looking forward to the UFC. The UFC is the place where I am right now, the UFC is the place where I will stay and make my point.
FO: What is that point, to take a run at the belt?
I know I can be champion. That’s why I am doing this - I would not be wasting my time if I knew I wouldn’t be champion. As Muhammad Ali said, ‘in order to be a champion you have to have the will and you have to have the skill, but the will should be stronger than the skill’ - and I have that will to be the champion. I will be the champion.
FO: You have a strong striking pedigree and the UFC is well stocked with fighters who are primarily wrestlers. Is that going to present a problem?
Well yeah, there are a lot of wrestlers in the US and they are pretty good at wrestling. I could never be as good at wrestling as they are - but they can never be as good at striking as I am. So its always this… game… who imposes his game on the other one? Considering my abilities I think I can hang with those wrestlers easy and I can bang with them on the feet, easy.
Its all about the tactics and strategy in the fight. If you are a smart fighter and you go there and have a good gameplan, you will go there and come out victorious. Knowing that I have power in my hands and I have been training with wrestlers all the time, it wont be a factor for me.
FO: Thanks for talking to us Siyar; any message for the fans?
Thanks very much for following me on Twitter and Facebook and I would like to thank Fighters Only for taking this interview. Fans, I am so excited to fight for you guys and hopefully you guys will like my fighting style. I will fight to finish. I am looking forward to fighting April 14 in Sweden and hopefully you guys will watch.