UFC veteran Reza Madadi, now out of prison says he went through hell

Reza Madadi [R] punches Cristiano Marcello at UFC 153.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

On April 6, 2013, Reza Madadi and his MMA career were at an all-time high. The Iranian-Swedish lightweight submitted Michael Johnson at home in Sweden, the victory was his second finish win in his first three UFC fights, and the All-Stars teammate of Alexander Gustafsson looked to have a bright future.

By summer, Madadi had his world turned upside-down was convicted for aggravated burglary, and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The fighter missed the birth of he and his wife’s first son, and went through what he calls "hell" for the next two years, according to a recent interview with The MMA Hour.

The fighter maintains his innocence of the crime he was convicted of, but says he still learned lessons about what scenes and people to hang around with, and is a changed man. While in prison, Madadi found it difficult to watch other professional fighters, especially Michael Johnson, compete in the Octagon, as he was locked up.

Since their fight in 2013, Johnson has won four straight bouts and become a lightweight title contender. Meanwhile, Madadi was unable to do real training, or compete.

"I didn’t want to watch the UFC because it made me feel very bad, especially when I saw Michael Johnson’s fights," Madadi revealed.

"It was a very, very hard time. It was like a really bad punishment for me to see. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy for him. He’s a great fighter and I hope he can get the belt. But you know, it’s so hard to see the guys, not even just Mr. Michael Johnson, all other fighters, to see them competing, fighting, and I was behind the bars. It was hard times."

Madadi insists that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he didn’t take part in a burglary. However, the fighter says he learned a valuable lesson about not letting himself be found in the "wrong" type of place, again.

"I’m a totally different person now…because I had two years of, really, hell. Up and down, up and down, up and down. I appreciate my life another way. I appreciate my friends, my family, my job, my career and my club. So no, I don’t regret anything. But everyday, every second, every minute of every hour, I try to be a better person, to be a better guy. I mean, a guy in my position shouldn’t be in that position to get caught, convicted, and to get jailed. I shouldn’t be in the wrong place."

He was, and as a result, Madadi’s life changed in an instant, after his arrest. The whole experience still seems surreal to the convicted fighter.

"Brother, I’m telling you that life is very funny," Madadi explained.

"It can change in one second, in one minute. I mean, we drove in a limousine one day, me and Alexander Gustafsson, went to some club to hit a little bit of pads, get paid for that. All of the sponsors – I was a famous guy here in Sweden. And the day after, I was in some jail. They drove me in a police car and my life changed. They cut my UFC contract. I lost my job, I couldn’t see my wife when she was pregnant. I lost money. Everything. I lost everything over one night. Everything I’ve been working for 34, 35 years."

While in prison, and with his life so drastically altered, Madadi said that he had no choice but to be strong. "You know how strong you are when the only choice you have is to be strong," he said.

"And I didn’t have any other choice. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to just give up like this. I worked hard, I worked so hard for 34, 35 years to be a UFC fighter, and I lost everything over one night. Actually it was a lot of the keyboard warriors, haters who made me sad. Okay guys, you don’t believe me. Nobody believes me. I’m going to believe myself, and I want to get back, I want to show everybody [that] nothing is over."

Now out of prison, Madadi says his focus is on getting back into the UFC and picking up where he left off, two years ago. "The only purpose I have in my life is to get back to the UFC," he concluded.

"And show the fans, show the UFC, show the world that I’m a different person. I want to start my life new."