Noad Lahat is just one day away from becoming the first Israeli fighter since Moti Horenstein (UFC 10 and UFC 14) to step inside the UFC Octagon.
With two knockouts and four submissions on his clean 7-0 record, "Neo" represents the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) and will be making his long-awaited debut against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" contestant Godofredo "Pepey" Castro at UFC Fight Night 38 tomorrow night (March 23, 2014) in Natal, Brazil.
It's been a long way coming for the Israeli prospect.
From fighting at local shows in Israel, through his move to United States, he suffered a broken foot that postponed his UFC debut for over a year. Despite those obstacles, Lahat has finally secured his date with destiny, the fruition of many sacrifices and hard work.
The fight between Lahat and Pepey will be aired live for UFC Fight Pass members. Interestingly enough, "Neo's" fight is also aired live on Israel's main sports channel (public television).
Here's what Lahat had to say ahead of his debut:
You will be making your UFC debut this weekend at Fight Night 38 in Brazil. It's been a long way coming for you. How do you feel about it?
For sure. It's about time. From my very first fight back in Israel, I knew that this is something that I wanted to do. I wanted to be a fighter, and I definitely never had this as my hobby or something, UFC is the right place to make my dreams come true, so I promise the fans a good show on Sunday.
You've been serving in the Airborne, is that correct? What kind of influence has your military background had on your career as a fighter?
I know my background, and I want to display my toughness inside the Octagon. Yes, I've been serving in the Israeli Airborne and believe me when I say this, the mental challenges you get to deal with in fighting is child's play in comparison to my fighting career. It makes me laugh when people tell about how hard they trained in college. Imagine having the same training several times a day, every day, without sleeping or eating. So yeah, keep telling me how hard it was to wrestle in college. The mental toughness I got in my military service will help me to reach my goals. No doubt about it.
Obviously, this is your fight. But what do you expect from your journey in the UFC?
Many people asking about "Hey, how about a title shot," and I think it's crazy talk right there. At this point I can't talk about anything but my first fight in the UFC. I'm yet to fight one second inside the Octagon. This is what I'm concentrated on, so it's one step at the time. I know my opponent will be fighting for his job because he won only one fight in the UFC so far. I can't look beyond this fight.
What do you think about Pepey as an opponent? What kind of fight do you expect inside the Octagon? Also what about the fans giving you a hostile reception?
He used to gas after 10 seconds, had poor striking... but then he improved. I expect a full arena and the fans to boo me heavily. But I'm not afraid of hostility. I embrace it, and will definitely use it as a motivating factor. Yet, he's fighting on his home turf, and it's definitely an advantage. Pepey is a dangerous fighter who's loyal to his style. He wants to go to fight on the ground, even if this means he has to pull guard.
But you're a black belt yourself...
I'm a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Judo, so I know a thing or two. I'm not afraid of anything. He can do anything he wants. I'll be ready. He can pull guard, try to strike with me, wrestle... you'll see how it ends tomorrow.
Are you planning to walk out with an Israeli flag on your shoulders?
I'm proud of my heritage. I never forget where I'm coming from, so the answer to your question is "yes." I will be walking out to the Octagon with an Israeli flag on my shoulders.
What UFC fans can expect from Noad Lahat, what kind of statement you would like to make in your debut?
I'm a fighter who comes to fight, and I'm always looking to get the finish. Fans can expect a great fight from me. I can promise that.
Interview courtesy of Anton Gurevich. Noad Lahat can be followed on Twitter @Neo_MMA.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 38 fight card on fight night (Sun., March 23, 3014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 5 p.m. ET and then main card action that will begin at 7 p.m. ET.
To see the entire UFC Fight Night 38: "Shogun vs. Henderson 2" fight card and line up click here.