“In MMA, you'll never be bored and it will never be mundane.” - Amir Sadollah
In the Octagon, expectations cannot only hinder one’s path, but can easily lead to one’s defeat. Every mixed martial arts fight is an ever changing, formless and unique experience. At any moment, the battle can seamlessly move from standing to the ground and from the ground back to standing. A fighter can gain or lose an advantage in the blink of an eye. Being completely open, but ready, for whatever comes next is essential to being an MMA fighter, and it’s a mindset lived by UFC welterweight Amir Sadollah.
Most famous for winning The Ultimate Fighter season 7, Sadollah believes this philosophy was key to his early UFC success. “I did a good job about being open to the whole experience,” explains Sadollah, who didn’t let having no prior professional MMA fights slow him down from being crowned the TUF champion. “If you have an expectation, then ultimately you are going to be let down and it's never going to be exactly what you think in your head. Take in the experience as opposed to trying to predict and expect certain things.”
This concept that each fight can be a shapeless, violent amoeba with no fate but the one you make is what drew the Brooklyn born Sadollah to it in the first place.
“In MMA, you'll never be bored and it will never be mundane,” says Sadollah of the sport he made his profession and in which he has a 6-2 record. “You will always need to push yourself as hard as you ever had. I like the hard road. The first training session was such a draw for me because it was the first thing in my life where if you wanted something bad enough and if you worked hard enough you could go and get it.”
On the cusp of turning 31 years old, Sadollah is preparing to enter the Octagon for the eighth time on August 14th at UFC Live against Duane “Bang” Ludwig. “Every time I go into a fight I want to show an improved skill set,” asserts Sadollah.
He has changed dramatically as a fighter these past three years, going from an unknown to a rising star and a fan favorite. “I want to be the type of fighter that I like to watch, the type of fighter I would like to train with, and the type of fighter that I want to learn from. Aggressive, talented, and fun to watch - that's my focus.”
Those improvements were certainly on full display in March at UFC Fight Night when Sadollah tore through fellow TUF alum DaMarques Johnson en route to a stoppage in the second round.
“Who doesn't want to leave work early?” jokes Sadollah, who secured mount on Johnson and rained down elbows for an impressive victory. “It's what the fans want to see and it's always something you strive for. As a fighter you should always be looking to end fights. You're fighting someone who doesn't want to be finished, so it doesn't always end up that way, but you try your best.”
It should come as no surprise that Sadollah is progressing in the area of “ground and pound” because of where he trains. “At Xtreme Couture, all the guys there have such good ground and pound, control from the top and strikes from the top, so it's kind of just something I picked up,” he humbly states. Sadollah trains daily with a who’s who list of wrestlers and top ranked UFC fighters at living legend Randy Couture’s gym in Las Vegas. “My theory and the theory of the people I work with is that you always want to be training to impose your will. I'm always trying to improve my wrestling, and it's definitely a focus of mine. I’m always trying to be dominant on top and land strikes, so that win (over Johnson) was definitely gratifying.”
One of Sadollah’s major strengths is his standup, and to keep it crisp he takes his training camp international. “I was over in Holland for a few weeks at the beginning of this camp to work with my striking coach Marco van de Broek,” said Sadollah, whose openness to experience is a physical pursuit as well as a general outline. “I think it's important for me to go to new places and meet new people and to punch them. It is easy to settle in your comfort zone and I just never want to be the guy who gets comfortable and stops growing as a fighter. I'm constantly trying to shake things up and make sure I'm still paying attention.”
Sadollah will need to keep his striking game sharp, especially considering his upcoming bout is with former professional kickboxer Ludwig. “It's a fight I'm excited for because he's a high level striker and that's something I want to be,” affirms Sadollah of his veteran opponent who has a 28-11 record with the majority of his wins coming by knockout. “That's how you get better and that's how you show that you are a high level at something; you fight someone who has a high skill level at that something. He seems to be more of a counter fighter type, but I try to make no assumptions about a fighter. I think you have a general idea about how a fighter fights a fight, but you don't really know until you get in there and do it.”
It’s a good matchup and a good plan - Sadollah and Ludwig will exchange sound leg kicks and straight punches until one of them drops, but this is MMA and anything can happen. “I try to put as little hype into that as possible because every time I see two guys who I think ‘this is going to be such a standup war,’ it always turns into a wrestling match,” remarks Sadollah. But both Ludwig and Sadollah only ever appear in compelling and entertaining fights no matter where they end up. “I joked about it when I first heard about that match that I'll go straight to him with a double leg. I think stylistically I like to stand up and he likes to stand up, so in theory it should be exciting.”
On August 14th, Sadollah will try to extend his winning streak against the veteran Ludwig. He has already used his open mindedness in training to better himself as a fighter, and once in the cage, he will make no assumptions about his opponent, minus he’s really good and that Sadollah will bring the fight to Ludwig as it presents itself in that moment. But Sadollah will allow one prediction for his meeting with Ludwig: “I expect fireworks.” That’s an expectation that makes all fight fans happy.