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Iranian wrestling world champion Aliakbari training for MMA career at AKA Thailand

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Amir Aliakbari becomes the first world class Iranian wrestler to pursue an MMA career

People keep asking me, "Hey Coach, when are we going to see more Russian and Iranian wrestling stars going to do MMA?"

I now have an answer: when more of these Russians and Iranians get lifetime bans for doping, we will see more of them in prize fights.

Iran's Amir Aliakbari, has placed first at two Greco-Roman world championships, is only 27, massive (here he is next to Soa Palelei, and training with a top-flight MMA camp in AKA Thailand (according to their facebook page). His lifetime ban from international wrestling has apparently given him the freedom to become the first major Iranian wrestling star to pursue a prize fighting career (except, perhaps, Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri).

According to the factors I have used to predict a wrestler's success in MMA, Aliakbari rates well. In terms of a competitive pedigree, he couldn't be better off; he's one of the very best Greco-Roman wrestlers in the world at any weight, and while he was on his first doping ban, the back up of his back up won Olympic Gold for Iran in London.

Stylistically, he should transfer well to fighting because he is an Iranian, and when Iranians wrestle the makeup comes off. As a nation, in both Olympic styles, no country's wrestlers are more aggressive and combative than those of Iran. I cannot speak much on the technical merits of his approach to Greco wrestling, as I am not a Greco technical expert, but below I've included a video of him trouncing Olympic bronze medalist Johan Euren of Sweden in the 2013 World Championships.

Aliakbari is only 27, a world class athlete and a true heavyweight. This combination of size, talent and youth makes him a very compelling and exciting prospect, even before his first pro fight.

The only potential red flag regarding Aliakbari's potential as a fighter is his past history of performance enhancing drug use. Though he has placed first at two World Championships in Greco-Roman wrestling, I have been careful not to refer to him as a two-time world champion. After he placed first at the 2013 World Championships in Budapest, Aliakbari tested positive for a banned substance, and FILA stripped him of his gold medal. Because this was the Iranian's second offense, he received a permanent ban from all FILA (UWW) sponsored wrestling competition.

I will say that in the last five or so years, Aliakbari's physical appearance has changed dramatically, particularly in the face, I can't speculate on the cause of this.

Of course, based on what we know about mixed martial arts, Aliakbari's wrestling base well play a big part in helping him succeed, and his history of PED use probably won't hold him back.

In all probability it will probably do the opposite.