(Pictures) has been fighting for
attention all his life.
Born into a large family with seven brothers, sisters and
half-siblings, he had to find his niche at an early age. Thus he
started training kickboxing at 13. His first coach, Jen Hulten,
immediately realized young David's potential, but Swedish law
prevented Bielkheden from getting into the ring for another two
At 19 he had his first contact with Brazilian jiu-jitsu in his
hometown of Stockholm. Little did Bielkheden know when he first
stepped on the mats at Hilti BJJ Academy, the ground-fighting
martial art would later become the focal point of his life. In
fact, he was even better on the ground than fighting on the feet,
and soon he was placing in grappling tournaments throughout
Hilti head coach Richard Andersson then suggested that Bielkheden
enter mixed martial arts. After he lost his debut in November 2001,
the young fighter considered how he could improve. The answer lied
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he went to train with Brazilian
In the years that followed, Bielkheden visited Rio regularly and
often returned to Sweden with a new colored belt in his luggage. In
2006 he not only received a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu from
former UFC middleweight champion Murilo Bustamante (Pictures), he also became the first
non-Brazilian member of Brazilian Top Team.
His fight career stagnated, though, following a decision loss to
top lightweight Mitsuhiro
Ishida (Pictures) at Pride Bushido 13. Instead of
participating in the Lightweight Grand Prix in 2007, Bielkheden was
locked out of fighting for more than a year following Pride's sale
"It was very boring and sad," Bielkheden says. "It's not good to
stay out of the ring for such a long time."
As if to answer his call for help, Zuffa closed Pride's Tokyo
office last October and released the remaining fighters it hadn't
brought over to the UFC. A free man again, Bielkheden couldn't wait
to get back into the ring and returned to his roots to participate
in FinnFight, the promotion that allowed him to make his MMA debut
six years earlier.
At FinnFight 9 he scored a unanimous decision over ADCC Europe Vice
Roumenov and followed up with a first-round knockout over
experienced Croatian kickboxer Nikola Matic only four weeks
later. And by a strange twist of fate, the UFC came calling again
and offered him a fight against "Ultimate Fighter" season one
winner Diego Sanchez
"I have not seen much of his fights, but he has good wrestling and
stamina," Bielkheden says. "I have not seen him fight standing up,
so I guess he is more comfortable on the ground."
The keys to success for the strong Swede are obvious: Keep up with
Sanchez's pace and defend his takedowns.
"That's the plan," Bielkheden admits. "I will try to defend his
takedowns, but if I can't do that, I will just fight off my back.
When all is said and done, I don't care [how the fight ends], just
as long as it's a good fight."
Bielkheden makes no secret of his goals in the UFC, but at the same
time he is realistic.
"Of course I will try to become the champion in the UFC -- it's a
dream of mine," he says. "But for now, I will just take it fight by
Still, you realize Bielkheden means business in the Octagon when he
says he would even enter it against compatriot and former training
partner Per Eklund
(Pictures). Fighting is his job, and
the heavily tattooed Scandinavian has been at work since the days
when MMA was still called NHB.
Now Bielkheden, who likes the beaches in Brazil just as much as his
local football team AIK, has a multi-fight UFC contract that begins
with his March 1 bout against Sanchez. "The Nightmare" will be
coming off back-to-back losses, and with a good guard, better than
decent standup skills and a chin made of granite, Bielkheden should
provide an interesting test.