Siyar Bahadurzada made an impression on UFC fans within seconds of stepping into the Octagon for the first time in 2012. Actually, it was 42 seconds, the time it took for him to knock out Paulo Thiago and announce his arrival.
Then he lost his next two bouts to Dong Hyun Kim and John Howard, and after the Howard bout in December of 2013, he disappeared.
Now he’s back.
“I have been having some fun,” Bahadurzada said of his absence. There were also injuries to heal up and a change in camps to the Jackson-Wink MMA squad in Albuquerque, but at the moment, all is good for the Afghanistan native.
“I'm not doing this for money or for fame,” he said. “I felt like I should take a break, so I did. I did some other things that I had to do, had fun, and now I'm motivated, I'm hungry, and I'm back. The thing about having a passion is that you do it out of love.”
And luckily for the 31-year-old, who returns to face Brandon Thatch at UFC 196 this Saturday in Las Vegas, those two defeats didn’t strip him of that passion to fight. So despite being away for over two years, in his mind, he was always coming back.
“It doesn't take the passion away,” he said of the losses. “If it took the passion away, I would not be doing this, because then I would have no motive behind fighting except putting my country and people on the map. I'm not the type of personality that needs fame or money to be successful. I could be successful at anything else. I'm not just good at fighting, and fighting's not the only thing I can do. But fighting is everything I want to do for my people and for my country. As long as I have this fire burning inside me, I will keep doing it. So losing doesn't take my passion away, but it does take stupidity away.”
He laughs, and when looking back at the fights against Kim and Howard, he avoids any excuses, but does believe the results were due to a mentality he brought into the UFC after a successful career on the international circuit.
“Before my two losses, I fought with injured hands, with broken knuckles, with injured ribs, with an injured back, and I didn't care,” he said. “I just fought and I knocked people out. And I was excited. I was like ‘I can do this in the UFC too.’ And when I fought in the UFC, the first time against Paulo Thiago, I was injured too. But I knocked him out.”
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He wasn’t able to make lightning strike twice in his next bout or the one after that, ultimately realizing that in the UFC, what worked before won’t necessarily keep working.
“I just felt I could beat anybody on my 30 percent,” he said. “But in the UFC, that blows up in your face because everybody is good. The elite of the elite fight in the UFC, and it's all about who is the sharpest on that day in that 15 minutes and who had the better camp, who had an injury-free camp. That's what it's all about. I have two losses and I'm not going to waste any words on losses because everything you say after a loss, people think it's an excuse. It also sounds like an excuse and I'm not the type to make excuses. But there's one thing I confirmed for myself - I have, and I always will have this strong belief that there is no welterweight on this planet that can handle me and that can handle my power for 15 minutes if I am healthy and have done the right things.”
He’s doing those right things in Albuquerque and he’s as healthy as he’s been in a long time. Now he just has to show up and fight against a striker as feared as he is. It could be a shootout or one of the two can look for a takedown. Bahadurzada insists it won’t be him, and he says Thatch should forget that idea as well.
“He (Thatch) can look for a takedown, but he's not going to find it,” Bahadurzada said. “Besides, Brandon likes to kick, Brandon likes to punch and when we fight, he'll eat a punch.”