“We’re going down in a spiral to the ground
No one, no one’s gonna save us now, not even God
No one saved us, no one’s gonna save us
Where do you expect us to go when the bombs fall?”
~ Tentative by System of a Down
The war-torn nation of Afghanistan hasn’t known peace for more than three decades.
From an uprising and overthrow of a king in 1973, a Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 through 1989, a mujahideen (Arabic for strugglers, or people in jihad) power struggle all the way to the Taliban government, Afghanistan could only be described as a turbulent place that was laid to waste by war.
During the violence in the 80's more than a million Afghanis lost their lives during the battles that took place, and millions of others became refugees, fleeing their homes to try and save their lives.
It was during this time in 1984 that Siyar Bahadurzada was born in Afghanistan, and lived for the first 15 years of his life.
It wasn’t unusual for the young Afghani to be playing with friends in the streets only to watch a bomb fly overhead and explode just feet away from where he was standing. It’s a childhood that very few can even imagine, let alone fathom what Bahadurzada actually had to endure.
“When I grew up in Afghanistan as a kid, I didn’t know if I would make it through the day with rockets and bullets flying around. I was not sure that I could make it through the night,” Bahadurzada explained on MMAWeekly Radio.
“If the rocket falls like 100 or 200 meters further and you see people running and dying, five minutes later you’re out on the streets playing again. That’s just the kind of things that would happen.”
Because of the violent nature of the world he grew up in, Bahadurzada adapted to his surroundings. There was a certain level of danger that enveloped him at an early age, and because of that he naturally was drawn to a sport like MMA.
It was a sport that allowed him to act on his aggressions, and gave him an outlet for the same kind of rage and emotion he had to deal with on a daily basis watching friends and neighbors die in front of him.
“I was playing outside with my friends and it was something normal for us. War was something normal for us, it was everyday (expletive). That’s what I have in the ring too. The same kind of feeling. When you’re in the ring, you don’t know what’s going to happen and you’re exchanging blows, and every blow can be your last blow. You could get knocked out and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Bahadurzada.
“That thrill, that excitement, the adrenaline rush, that you get from fighting, it’s very comparable to living in the war.”
The places and events that were a part of Bahadurzada’s youth are things that most people wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy, much less a teenage kid whose biggest concern wasn’t getting good grades or impressing a high school coach.
Bahadurzada’s daily routine was literally surviving the world around him. Life was a gift, it wasn’t given, and in Afghanistan it could be taken away at a moment’s notice.
“As a kid, I’ve seen things that people need therapy to talk about,” Bahadurzada explained. “Those are the things that I have in me. You cannot take that out of me. It’s in me and it will stay with me, and those things built my character, those things give me the strong mentality and determination and will power that I have today, that I’m in the UFC, and I want to make something out of my life.”
At age 15, Bahadurzada and his family finally left Afghanistan and relocated to the Netherlands, where the young man started to pick up the art of striking from the stand-up coaches in Holland. It was a craft he adapted to quickly, and soon thereafter Bahadurzada began to climb the ranks in the world of MMA.
Now at 27 years of age with a 20-4-1 record, Bahadurzada makes his UFC debut with one specific goal in mind. To put down any obstacle that stands in front of him.
Does that mean Bahadurzada will win every fight he has in the UFC? Of course not.
But he knows going into every bout, on every card, on every night, that mentally there is no fighter that can break him, and that’s an advantage he can carry each time he steps into the Octagon.
“Everybody’s tough in a way in the UFC. If you’re in the UFC, you’re mentally tough, you will not get into the UFC if you’re not mentally tough, but the things that I have been through is different than all the other fighters. I think that I have something special bringing into the UFC than all the other fighters,” said Bahadurzada.
“It’s my strong mental (game). If you could crack my mind up and people could see what I’ve been through, what my mind’s been through and what’s all in my mind, and what I have seen, that’s crazy. You can break my body, but mentally I don’t think there’s anybody that can break me.”
Bahadurzada will fight at UFC on Fuel 2 as the first ever Afghani to step foot in the Octagon, and he does so carrying with him every memory he had growing up, everything he’s had to endure, and with the knowledge that every day he’s alive is a gift.
That’s a powerful weapon against any single fighter that stands across the cage from him.
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