Tayo Oladotun meets a local fighter aiming to make his way in the toughest of sports.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA for short) is growing ever so popular of late. Global superstars like Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey and Khabib Nurmagomedov are paving the way for the Sport. MMA fighters are getting recognition worldwide. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has received so much coverage over the years, but the what about the Amateurs? How does it all begin?
Noredine Nedjai, from Sutton tells us about his experience training as an amateur thus far. MMA admittedly has a far bigger platform overseas in America, but just recently; UFC hosted its first ever show in London in 2017 at the O2 Arena.
Football itself, is the most popular sport in England, it brings in the most income professionally at the top level, so what has MMA got to offer for the rising stars? Nedjai explains his reasoning for wanting to pursue the profession: “I was always a hyperactive kid growing up. I was into all kinds of sports. I found combat sports to be the most entertaining and physically demanding. The physical demand for it is intense. There are many aspects of fighting you have to be wary about, one mistake and it could be your last.”
As well as training, Nedjai is a Project Design student at the University of Portsmouth. With so much strain going on in his life, how does he find the balance to do both sets of things? He explained to Sport in Surrey “I have no idea how I find the time to be honest! I go to Uni everyday and I train everyday. I work both Saturday and Sunday. Luckily for me my university timetable fits well around my training hours so it’s not too bad.
“I tend to do most of my coursework in the morning or weekends. I’m managing at the moment, however I don’t have much of a social life outside of the gym, but I couldn’t be happier. If I had more time, I would train more!” His dedication to the cause is undeniable. The attitude he’s showing is the level of maturity he has reached whilst training to become a world beater.
Social life is just as important as training. It’s about finding the correct balance. The training is so intense, so having a break is a chance to unwind.
In order to do this sport, not only is the technical ability important – mind games with your opponent is also pivotal to your success. Trash talking is a way of talking up a fight, to add more revenue to it and McGregor is a prime example of utilising this technique.
He likes to size up his opponent pre-match, so he knows their weakness, and if you let emotions get in the way – it could lead to your demise.
Nedjai was originally just weightlifting at the gym, and it became a bit of a repetitive routine. He wanted something fresh and exciting, and believed he’d get that from training to become an MMA fighter. He said “I joined Gym01. I was purely training there for the fun of it. I was enjoying the different aspects of MMA, from the kickboxing to the wrestling to the ground game. There’s is always something new to learn and I’m willing to learn it all.
“After about 12 months of solid consistent training my coach, Brian Adams, approached me and asked if I wanted to fight on a big local show called ‘Shock N Awe’. Needless I accepted, to be honest I was chuffed that my coach thought I was good enough to start competing.
However, prior to Shock N Awe I competed in inter-club competitions against other local gyms.”
With weight being a crucial element there’s no time for ‘cheat days’ where you over indulge in food, after training so hard. MMA has extreme diets, and maintaining it is everything, as one slip up you could be fighting in a heavier weight class, where you could potentially be out of your depth. He talked about the weight cuts, and how hard it is “Without a shadow of a doubt the hardest part of MMA are the diets and weight cuts. This is a part of the sport that outsiders do not know much about as they only see the end result when the fighters are in the cage.
Having gone through the dieting and weight cutting myself, I have a huge amount of respect for all athletes who have the discipline and mindset to go through it.”
The brutality continues from outside of the cage, and the intensity isn’t for everyone to purse or even watch.
As spectators, we don’t know to what lengths they go to, to get the shredded bodies that they have. Nedjai talked about his routine, so if any of the following sounds like something you could do, then good luck to you. He goes into further detail about some of the things he does just to get the required weight: “The diet involves clean eating and a lot of late night, slow, fat-burning runs.
“The week before the fight I cut out carbs so that my body retains less water. For every gram of carbs your body retains roughly three grams of water. The day before the weigh ins, two days before the fight, I would water cut 4kg. This is done by a series of hot salt baths or saunas.
“Typically you would stay in the salt bath/ sauna for a 20 minutes and you simply repeat the process until you have lost your desired amount of weight via perspiration.
“After the weigh ins you generally have about 30 hours to rehydrate and refuel before the fight! The hardest part about the rehydration part is not eating and drinking anything you see and desire. You need to remain focused and get all the right fluids and foods in you for optimal performance. However, when the fight comes to an end and your hand gets raised in victory, it’s the most euphoric feeling I have ever felt!”
We can appreciate that although MMA fighters are entertainers, they go to hazardous lengths to do so; potentially putting their live at risk, as some of the things are insanely dangerous – not just fighting. Nedjai has an unbeaten record of four wins zero losses. Two wins by the judge’s decision and two by first-round submission. It is a lot of dedication, and he has the correct mindset. Could this be a name we will hear more from in the near future?