Damir Hadzovic had experience of combat long before he ever stepped inside a cage.
The UFC lightweight was born in Bosnia but during his early childhood got caught up in the Bosnian War, which resulted in approximately 100,000 people getting killed. The war was part of the breakup of Yugoslavia and left many homeless, separated from family members. Hadzovic (13-5) still has very clear memories from that time and is thankful that he managed to survive the dangerous circumstances.
“I remember that we had to flee from Bosnia but I really didn’t want to go,” discussed Hadzovic. “At that time, I wanted to go and hide in the forest but we had to leave. My mother and I barely made it of the country. We got on one of the last convoys out of there and all of the people left were killed. I am very lucky to be alive.”
Hadzovic settled in Macedonia to get away from the conflict before later moving to Denmark, where they were granted asylum. ‘The Bosnian Bomber’ knows that his childhood most certainly wasn’t ideal but overall he looks back on it as a happy time in his life, partially due to the great work his mother did to take care of him.
He did admit to being ‘a young wild kid’ fighting in the streets and getting into trouble with the law once he settled into his new life. The first MMA bout he ever stumbled across was Wanderlei Silva against Vitor Belfort and at first he thought that anyone who stepped inside the cage must be crazy. However, something about the sport gripped him so he started training (with no prior martial arts experience) at the age of twenty to see what MMA was all about. Hadzovic loved it so continued training in order to ‘fight better’ and ‘pick up girls’. From that point on, he felt as though he got more respect from everyone.
Eighteen professional bout later, he is gearing up to face previously ranked featherweight, Renato Moicano, at UFC Brasilia on Saturday evening in a bout at 155lbs. Hadzovic is no stranger to fighting in Brazil as he competed against Alan Patrick back in February 2018. From that experience, he learnt that he needed to arrive in the country weighing less this time around and needed to ensure the UFC booked a quicker plane route. Last time, it took Hadzovic 26 hours to make the trip with three different stopovers which wasn’t ideal preparation for that contest.
In order to add more variety to his training for this upcoming fight, the 33-year-old has visited different facilities across Europe. Hadzovic spent two weeks of this camp in Birmingham, England working at Team Renegade, one of the fastest rising gyms in the country. The Cage Warriors veteran worked with the likes of Leon Edwards, Tom Breese and Jai Herbert who all gave him great sparring to elevate his own game. He also worked back home in Denmark with over twenty black belts and a K-1 standout to give him many differing looks.
Moicano (13-3-1) is making the move up to lightweight for the first time in the UFC and will be looking to get back into the win column after two consecutive defeats to Jose Aldo and Chan Sung Jung. The BJJ black belt has six submission victories in his professional career and in a recent interview with MMA Fighting, admitted his ground game would be a good strategy to beat Hadzovic. He also claimed that his opponent isn’t very technical and relies more on his physical attributes but acknowledged he is still dangerous. This is a view that Hadzovic doesn’t agree with and suggested that the fight may not play out as Moicano thinks.
“I think I am both strong and technical,” mentioned Hadzovic. “What even is technical? There are levels to technicality. Everybody wants to take it to the ground when I fight. Maybe I’ll take him down. Who knows? However, he’s definitely one of my toughest opponents yet. He has got very good, technical stand up and he uses his length well. Moicano likes to keep range and I haven’t really faced someone who’s like that yet.”
“It is tough to say how suited to lightweight he is because he won’t be used to moving around in a heavier body,” Hadzovic continued. “He may have worse conditioning because of it but he may have more power. There are advantages and disadvantages to changing weight class. I don’t think he’ll be able to maintain the same pace that he did at featherweight. Every win means something for your career but he’s a good fighter with a reputable name, so it will mean a lot when I get the victory.”
UFC Fight Night: Lee v Oliveira will be shown on Saturday at 10pm GMT on BT Sport 2 for viewers in the UK and Ireland. Fans in the US can tune in from 6pmET/5pmCT on ESPN and ESPN+.