Debuting UFC lightweight Reza Madadi is quite a nice guy once you get to know him.
That is, unless you're his opponent before a fight with him.
After the fight? No problem. But in the lead-up to his bout, he doesn't want to shake your hand, he doesn't want to play nice and he certainly won't be praising you. You've signed a contract to go into battle against him and you are his fiercest enemy until that final horn sounds.
Remind you of anybody?
"Mad Dog" has built quite a reputation in Stockholm,Sweden with his incredibly aggressive wrestling and ground and pound attacking style. He earned his invite to the big show by defeating three former or current UFC fighters in a row.
The Swedish-Iranian transplant will be battling fellow UFC newcomer Yoislandy Izquierdo this Saturday (April 14, 2012) on the UFC on Fuel TV 2 preliminary card. Madadi spoke with MMAmania.com about his pre-fight mentality, how he feels his wrestling translates to the UFC and he explains just how much this opportunity means to him in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were set to make your UFC debut in January but you had that injury. Do you feel like this was kind of a blessing in disguise that you had the injury because now you get to make your UFC debut in your native Sweden?
Reza Madadi: Ehh, maybe, maybe not because I really believe that everything that is happening is happening for some reason. It's much better to do your debut at your hometown when you have a lot of support and help so yes, maybe.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've had just about all of your recent fights in Sweden. Many people have their UFC debut and they get the Octagon jitters. Now because you're fighting so close to home, will it be easier for you?
Reza Madadi: Actually yes, it does. A lot of people, when they do their debut they travel a long way, go to other countries far away from home and their routine is ruined. For me, it doesn't really matter because I truly love to fight. I fight from my heart but of course, it makes it much easier for me to do my debut here. I get to sleep in my own bed, take my car to the UFC arena and do what I need to do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That sounds great. Now before you entered the UFC, you beat three UFC veterans in a row. Do you feel like that was great preparation for you before you got your chance?
Reza Madadi: Of course, I think so. I don't want to be rude or disrespect anybody, but a lot of people when they get into the UFC, not everybody, but some guys they don't meet a guy like me. If you look at my opponent [Yoislandy Izquierdo], he has six fights and those guys are not so famous. My road to the UFC was very hard and I had 14 fights. One of them is not on Sherdog but anyways, like you say, I beat three guys that were from the UFC. I beat Junie Browning, Carlo Prater and Rich Clementi and it was really, really, really tough but I made it and now I have a bit of confidence when I step into the Octagon. It will be much better because I know I can beat the guys at a high level so this shouldn't be a problem. I train really hard. I have experience and let's see.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You have terrific wrestling, which is uncommon among most European fighters because most of them just don't have that same level of grappling skill that you do. How do you feel your ability to take a fight to the ground compares to most UFC fighters?
Reza Madadi: When I watch UFC fighters, if they are a good wrestler or a good boxer, when they learn new stuff whether it be boxing or wrestling, the wrestlers want to stand up or the boxers want to take the fight to the ground. I work very hard with my stand-up game and my jiu-jitsu and everything but my strongest skill, my background is wrestling. I try to use my wrestling because I can use it well I try to take them down and ground and pound. I go where the fight goes. If I can't take him down and he wants to stand up, I've got no problem. If you want to go down, I'll go down.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Being a native of Iran and coming over to live and train in Sweden with your wrestling, you have a very similar arc to your career as Kamal Shalorus, who came over to the UK from Iran and wrestled there before switching to mixed martial arts. How nice was it for you to have that friendship with Kamal and to train with him in preparation for this upcoming fight?
Reza Madadi: Kamal, first of all, he's one of the most wonderful guys I've ever met in my life. He has so much positive energy, he's so nice, it's unbelievable. I'm hugely grateful to have him as my friend. We both came from Iran, we both came to Europe and he later moved to the UK. Last year he wanted me to come help him for his fight against Jim Miller and now it was my turn so I called him and told him if he can come and help me for my fight for my UFC debut. It's so good to get to train with him, have him as a friend and use his experience because he's had a lot of fights with Zuffa and he knows how I should behave. His experience is huge.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): About behaving yourself, one of the things people seem to really like about you is how aggressive you are before a fight in terms of talking to your opponents, getting in their faces at weigh-ins. Do you feel that you do a good job of getting in your opponent's heads, messing with their minds?
Reza Madadi: I will be doing that 100 percent before. I'm a really aggressive fighter. People shouldn't misunderstand what I'm like as a person outside the Octagon, outside of the arena and who I am inside before the fight. Before a fight, of course I have respect for everybody, my opponent but I don't like to shake hands. I don't like to be kind. I don't like to be polite. I don't want to be sorry about my language. I want to say to my opponent, "I'm gonna fuck you up!" I don't want to be friends with you. I don't want to talk to you. I'm gonna step into the Octagon to knock you down, kick the shit out of you before you can do it to me. We're gonna fight.
After the fight? No problem, man. You're welcome to my home. Ask Rich Clementi and Carlo Prater. One minute after my fight, I took Carlo Prater out and I bought him stuff. He was in Stockholm two days after the fight and he told me hundreds of times, "You are crazy, man. You was like angry dog before the fight and now you are so polite." Hospitality and being polite is my culture, it's in my blood, but unfortunately I cannot show it before the fight. I tell the fans around the world, I can tell you, be expecting for when I weigh in on Friday and be ready for my fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're very popular in Sweden. You've won the People's Price award two years in a row. What does it mean to you that you've built such a strong relationship with the fans?
Reza Madadi: It is huge for me because Sweden for a few years ago, MMA wasn't so popular here. They looked at us like barbarians who just stepped into the cage and hit each other. Now, people's minds are changing a lot. They watch UFC and a lot of MMA events and people buy MMA clothes, blah, blah, blah. For me, as an MMA fighter, I have a huge responsibility with the fans and the teenagers and people here so I really try to be kind, to be a good guy. I try to show the people that all my video blog and what I do is that I'm a hard-working athlete who is on a mission to achieve my goal. I don't get drunk and fight people.
Any time I see fans, I try to talk to them and if people want my t-shirt, I try to, from my own pocket, send them t-shirts and stuff. I try to be a good guy for my fans and for that reason, I win the prize two times. I will try to keep going and win it in the future hopefully.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about your upcoming opponent, Yoislandy Izquierdo. He's got a karate style in the stand-up. Do you feel his striking style is going to have a lot of problems because of your wrestling?
Reza Madadi: Ehh, I really don't know much about him. I only heard he's southpaw and he trains karate. My coach told me he has seen some video of this guy and he's training a lot of wrestling. I really don't care about my opponent's style because this is UFC and everyone trains hard and are very good. I really expect more from his side. He's training a lot of wrestling to stop my takedowns, working on his takedown defense.
His stand-up shouldn't be any problem for me. If he wants to stand-up, I swear I'm gonna knock him down. If he wants to go to the ground, I'm going to take him to the ground. I've got to make him look great. He took the fight against me. I tell you, I don't want to go inside and do the usual fight. I want to knock him out and he should want to knock me out. That should be the way that the fight should go.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you tell me a little bit about your mindset as a fighter heading into this bout?
Reza Madadi: I want to just keep going and going and going, really aggressive. I am trying to bring this "Mad Dog" style to the UFC. I train 2-3 times every day. I never drink alcohol. I go out but my parties, I just stand in some corner and watch people (laughs). I'm a healthy guy. I really try hard for my goals because a lot of people just see the goal. They don't see the way to the goal. Do you understand what I mean? I really, really work hard and I hope it pays off.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you close your eyes and think about this fight. What do you see?
Reza Madadi: When you ask me this question right now, I get tears in my eyes because I come from a very, very bad back home. You know the politics of back there. When I was a kid, we moved from Iran back home and came to Sweden. Sweden is my adopted country. I really love it and I love Swedish people. Europe gave us an opportunity to be who I am. Just like the United States, when I came out there with Kamal, it's the same thing. Your country and European countries give us this opportunity to be something.
I'm a poor kid from a poor family. My father was a political guy and I don't want to talk about politics, it's not my expertise. I'm an athlete. I very appreciate what these countries offered me and my family. I train really hard to be who I am. To get to the UFC is not easy and I've worked very hard for this. Every time that I think about it, I think about the referee putting my hands up and I get so happy. Everything I dream about as a kid, I close my eyes and it's so different to explain the feeling but it's a great feeling.
Reza would like to thank his head coach Selma Bericha who has always been there for him. He'd also like to thank his conditioning coach Boris, his jiu-jitsu coach Martin Lindquist, Sasha Martinovic and his family, his manager Manos and the UFC crew. Lastly he'd like to thank Kamal Shalorus. You can follow him on twitter @RezaMadDog.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Has Madadi won you over with his interview? How do you think "Mad Dog" will fair against fellow UFC-debuter Yoislandy Izquierdo on Saturday?