After dropping his second UFC fight to John Makdessi in July, Mehdi Baghdad had a chance to redeem himself.
Or so he thought.
The lightweight fighter was booked to fight Jon Tuck at UFC Fight Night 97 in Manila, Philippines in October. Shortly after the bout was confirmed, Baghdad was forced to pull out with an abdominal hernia and was subsequently released from the promotion.
“I was in emergency the night before I gave the bad news that I had to pull out,” Baghdad told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “I called my manager, my manager called Joe Silva. And Joe Silva just answered back like, ‘You need to pull out? We cut you.’ And my manager said, ‘Come on, man, you can’t do that! The doctor said that he has to do surgery; he can’t fight. And then he force himself to fight? He can't! He has to do surgery.' So my manager let me know. 'They need you to go fight, or you are fired.’”
After Baghdad heard the news, he had a life-changing decision to make. And, even though it cost him his job, most would agree that he absolutely made the right call.
“So I said, 'So let me choose in my head. I’m fired from UFC, or I’m f-cked up from fighting, because I can have a big problem if I fight with my hernia.’ I get the choice — my health is the first choice, I’m not going to fight with the hernia when the doctor told me I can’t.
“It's not just because I'm a little bit hurt here or somewhere. I had surgery last week, he opened my abdomen. It's not something I tried to lie, so I don't know, I don't understand.”
Baghdad believes that Silva, a longtime UFC matchmaker who’s leaving the company at the end of 2016, is very egotistical. Silva often tells released fighters that they are welcome back to the UFC if they win a couple times on the local scene, but, according to the 31-year-old, he wasn’t told anything like that.
“I think it’s just the ego of Joe Silva,” he said. “He just said, ‘If you no get this fight, if you pull out, we fire you.’ That’s why, three weeks later, I got this letter, you fired from UFC,” he said. “It’s not about you can come back one more or two more fights, it’s not about this. He told me nothing about I come back.
“Sometimes, Joe Silva has to understand the fighters’ lives. We have a really hard life. I left my country 10 years ago. I left my family just for UFC. And how they treat me, it’s really disrespectful.”
Baghdad doesn’t think he deserved to be released from the promotion, despite his 0-2 record. He looks at himself as a company man — he stepped up on very short notice for his debut earlier this year, firstly, and believes that he did everything he could in both UFC outings. Plus, he thought he won his fight opposite Makdessi this past summer, and, according to the Frenchman, so did many others, including UFC president Dana White.
“My first fight, they called me six days before the fight, I had to cut 24 pounds, and I did. OK, I lost the fight. But I helped them to have the show, the fight,” he said. “And my second fight, I do a really good show. I did a heavy training camp for Makdessi and I beat Makdessi; all the websites say I won the fight. Even Dana White told me, ‘You did a really good fight, I thought you won the fight.’
“They were really happy the way I fight, because, I give everything. If I want just to fight and win my fight, I win my fight, just touch a guy and no fight, just won by points. But me, I fight for the fans, this is the way I am. It’s why I make the fans happy and the UFC happy. So it's like they like the way I fighting, you know? But now they do this.”
Baghdad isn’t worried. At the same time, he’s not too sure what’s next. With Silva officially gone at the beginning of next year, he expects to be re-signed to the UFC in the foreseeable future.
According to Baghdad, the former UFC fighter has already received offers from numerous large organizations but hasn’t signed the dotted line on any of them yet, because he’s focused on recovering from his injury and surgery.
“I’m more thinking about recovery, about my health, when I come back and start training hard,” he said. “I know UFC is gonna need me for one UFC Europe or one UFC, they’re going to call me, or if somebody gets injured. I think is what it gonna be. They need a French fighter. I’m not saying I’m one of the best fighters in the UFC, but I give a lot for my fans. I think I’m a good fighter for UFC. I just want to come back, training back, and see what UFC is going to say.”
UFC officials did not immediate return a request for comment on Sunday.