UFC on ESPN 18: How ‘forever immigrant’ Amir Albazi ended up pursuing MMA

For UFC flyweight Amir Albazi, fighting was his voice.

Born in Iraq, the 27-year-old UFC flyweight fled home at a young age and  bounced around various countries with his family before ending up in Sweden.

But moving to Sweden was not easy for Albazi (13-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who faced a culture shock, as well as being bullied due to his different background. It was in Sweden where his love for fighting was born and since then, he’s never looked back.

A 14-year-old Albazi watched “UFC Unleashed” on television one night, which sparked his love for MMA and led him to enroll in the cheapest MMA gym in Stockholm, so he can start pursuing his dream.

“I’m a forever immigrant,” Albazi told MMA Junkie. “That’s what they call it. So basically I was born in Baghdad, Iraq. At that time (the country) had political problems and the country was very unstable, a lot of problems. So we just left one morning when I was seven years old, just sat in a car, didn’t know where I was headed. I was with my family and we just left. We ended up in Kurdistan for a bit, I think six months and from there we moved to Syria where I stayed for a year and a half.

“From there, I went to Sweden at the age of seven, eight years old, and I stayed in Sweden for 11 years before I decided to move to London and pursue my MMA career fully, and with all those moves from Iraq to Kurdistan, going there, don’t speak the language, then from there going to Syria to a new country and then from there going to Sweden which is completely different.”

“First time I see snow, first time I see proper white people. It was really different and with each of these moves, I ended up in a lot of fights. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t get my point across and you know how kids are at that age. They are very bad, so I had only these (fists) to answer with so I ended up in a lot of fights and one night when I was in my teenage years, I think when I was 13, 14, I just saw MMA on Eurosport without even understanding what it was, but I loved it from the moment I saw it. It was just pure, raw violence in form of a sport and something was attractive to me.”

When Albazi was 15, where at that point he was already involved in grappling and jiu-jitsu, his family moved to London. Albazi would remain in Sweden for a few years, before deciding to follow suit and move to the English capital to focus fully on MMA.

He ended up at one of the premier gyms in the country, London Shootfighters, which helped Albazi emerge as one of the most promising flyweight prospects in MMA.

“The Prince” has fought high-level competition throughout his career in promotions such as Bellator and Brave CF, which eventually led to a short-notice call to step in and face Malcom Gordon at UFC on ESPN+ 30 in July.

Ten days’ notice proved to be no issue for Albazi, who picked up a first-round submission win as he registered his 12th finish from 13 pro wins. He will look to continue his rise up the flyweight rankings when he takes on Zhalgas Zhumagulov at UFC on ESPN 18 on Nov. 28.

Proud of his roots, Albazi hopes he can continue to inspire those back home as the sport continues to grow in the Middle East.

“It’s been unreal, to be honest,” Albazi said on the support he’s received. “The amount of messages and the amount of people I inspired, not only Iraqis. I have so many Arabs messaging me, so many Swedish people, English people messaging me. What I want to do is bring up MMA in the Middle East. I think it’s really important, and I think we have great potential. We have amazing potential. The only thing we need is more resources and some more people showing love for the sport.”

Original article: https://mmajunkie.usatoday.com/2020/11/ufc-on-espn-18-how-forever-immigrant-amir-albazi-ended-up-pursuing-mma

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