Amir Sadollah posing for cameras during UFC media day this week in Japan.
Keith Tsuji/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Amir Sadollah is never going to be a 9-to-5 kind of guy. You won’t be seeing the former "Ultimate Fighter" winner in a cubicle any time soon. The prospect of being a working stiff almost makes him shudder.
Yet, over the last two years, that actually happening became a distinct possibility. Sadollah has gone through a myriad of injuries, none that he likes to discuss, and he has not competed in the UFC since falling to Dan Hardy in September 2012.
The Virginia resident never felt like he wouldn’t return to the Octagon, but the prospect of going to an office every day scares the living daylights out of him.
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"I watched my friends with real jobs and that’s just not good," Sadollah told FOX Sports. "It’s not something any fighter wants to think about. But of course, a day will come when you just can’t do it anymore."
That day has not come yet for Sadollah and he plans on holding it off as long as he can. The TUF 7 winner is making his return to competition this weekend, fighting Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC Fight Night on Fight Pass: Hunt vs. Nelson on Saturday (3 a.m. ET) in Japan. And he’s really excited about it.
Being back again, it reminded me how much I love the sport. I really appreciate being here.
"Being back again, it reminded me how much I love the sport," Sadollah said. "I really appreciate being here."
Sadollah (6-4) is one of those rare fighters who has grown up in the Octagon. Every one of his 10 pro fights has come in the UFC, where he debuted in 2008. Sadollah worked as a surgical technologist before that. He admits that MMA is "the first career I had that I really loved."
So, despite all the trials and tribulations of the last year — some of them "heartbreaking," Sadollah admits — he not once thought his career was over. Sadollah never had designs on quitting.
"I think if you think you don’t want to come back, you don’t," Sadollah said.
Amir Sadollah lands a cross to the face of DaMarques Johnson back in 2011.
The good news is despite the long layoff, he won’t have to worry about ring rust, at least in relation to his opponent. Akiyama, who has lost four straight, has been away even longer. He has not fought since February 2012 when he fell to Jake Shields. This is a fight that interested Sadollah, because Akiyama is not only a name most MMA fans know, but also an entertaining fighter.
"Stylistically, I think it plays well," Sadollah said. "He’s not somebody that’s gonna shy away from a fight."
Neither is Sadollah. The battles he has been going through recently have been against his own body. Sadollah isn’t sure if he’s out of the woods as far as injuries go — "we’re not baking cakes," he said — but he has been able to train hard for awhile now. Sadollah did his training camp at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas and has spent the last two weeks at Phuket Top Team in Thailand to get used to the time change in Asia.
Sadollah, 34, believes there will be an improved version of himself against Akiyama on Saturday. It was actually a summer spent teaching classes at a gym in his native Brooklyn, Empire MMA, that helped cultivate the improvements.
"I didn’t know how much you learn yourself when you teach other people," Akiyama said.
Maybe being a full-time coach is something Sadollah could do in the future. That or something mechanical, with his hands, he said.
But those thoughts are for another time. Sadollah is a fighter and he’ll get back to doing what he does this weekend.
It has been a long time coming and perhaps not all bad, either.
"Progression is a good word," Sadollah said. "A lot of growing up. A lot of maturity. A lot of life lessons."