The Ultimate Fighter
It’s been well documented that Suman Mokhtarian may be the James Brown of MMA, and while that’s admirable, an over stacked schedule can ultimately take a toll on even the hardest working man in the fight business, and that was the assumption when the Sydney featherweight lost his UFC debut to Sodiq Yusuff a year ago.
But if you ask the man in the Octagon about the first defeat of his career, that wasn’t necessarily the case, as he believes his eagerness to fight simply got the best of him.
“I took the fight with Yusuff too soon after surgery,” said Mokhtarian. “Seven months after a full knee reconstruction was way too big of a task. I literally started training when I got the call and I was in a brace still two weeks before the fight. I didn’t wrestle, grapple or anything before that fight and I generally take confidence out of my training but I just guess I didn’t have that. I was on the back foot as soon as the fight started and when you haven’t been able to train in those situations it’s hard to pick it up in a fight, I started slow and he took advantage of it.”
Oddly, though, Mokhtarian isn’t playing the regret game.
“My attitude is always the same,” he said. “The UFC calls and I fight anyone at any time.”
So no dark nights of the soul pondering the fight that took the “0” out of his loss column?
“I never put too much thought into the whole undefeated thing,” he said. “I’d lost before as an amateur, I lost in Muay Thai as well, and I experience them every day in the gym. I’m ready to go out there and rebound from my last performance and get the W this time, though. Losses are a part of the sport, but it’s how we come back that tests our character. My spirit is not anywhere near broken and I’m ready for December 21.”
December 21 is the day Mokhtarian returns from a year away to face SeungWoo Choi, and with the elbow injury that caused his layoff fully healed, the 27-year-old can’t wait to remind fight fans that before the Yusuff fight, he was 8-0 with seven finishes.
“I think he’s a great opponent,” said Mokhtarian of Choi. “He’s a former TFC world champion who’s knocked out some good opponents and he’s had some tough matchups in the UFC in Movsar (Evloev) and Gavin Tucker. He’s a great long striker with good cardio, and many people would say it’s a classic striker vs grappler matchup, but I’ve got skills everywhere and I intend to show it. I’m not scared to stand with any man.”
But we would be remiss if we didn’t ask about Mokhtarian’s current work schedule. As a refresher, he’s fighting in the UFC’s featherweight division, is the owner and head coach of Australian Top Team, and the promoter and matchmaker of Urban Fight Night back in Sydney. He has talked in the past of putting fighting to the side in order to deal with the rest of his responsibilities. Did those thoughts resurface after the Yusuff fight?
“To be honest, it’s always something that lingers because at this level you’ve got to put one hundred percent in one area, but I’m lucky to have a great team to keep me on track and help me out,” he said. “I’ve pulled back on management responsibilities, kept the gym and promoting going but I’ll level all that up when I’m done with fighting again. Now, I’ve put a bit more back into fighting and focused on my task ahead.”
That means he’s all-in until December 22. So when the Octagon door closes with Choi, he’s not overthinking things like a coach might. In Busan, he’s all fighter, not fighter / coach.
“I feel like sometimes I think about the fight a bit too much and the coach in me tries to over complicate it, but I gotta remember it’s a fight; two people go in throw down and see what happens. So I gotta let my instincts take over instead of my thoughts.”
There is time for everything else after the fight, but if Mokhtarian has his way, there will be more fights, preferably with either Kron Gracie or Chase Hooper, before he puts his coach, promoter, gym owner, manager hats back on.
“I just wish to stay healthy so I can have a couple back-to-back fights in the UFC,” he said. “I’m ready for anyone at any time, so when (UFC matchmaker) Sean (Shelby) picks ‘em I’ll be there.”