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UFC’s Amir Albazi on ‘culture shock’ after fleeing Iraq: ‘I didn’t have money for the bus’

Amir Albazi was hardened far before embarking on a professional career in mixed martial arts, and now he looks to give back to the home he once fled from.

A lifetime of adversity has equipped Amir Albazi with the tools required to thrive in combat sports.

Albazi (13-1) caught up with Bloody Elbow following a short notice first-round submission win over Malcolm Gordon at Fight Island on July 18. “The Prince” reflected on his early childhood in Iraq and fleeing with his family to Sweden.

“It changes your mindset. You have to grow up quick to deal with different things. It all started in Iraq. I grow up there and since I was young, I knew politically something wasn’t right. You had to be quiet. We had to sing the national anthem every morning. That was normal for us. We used to get beaten up in school. That was normal for us,” Albazi reflected. “I remember one day — my father had political issues — so he had to leave the country. One day when I was 7-years-old, we just woke up and just left. From there we left to Kurdistan, from there to Syria. We stayed there for a year-and-a-half. It was hard to leave all your friends and move to a new place. After that, we left to Sweden, which was completely different when it comes to culture, weather, people. It was a bit of culture shock.”

“It’s hard coming as an immigrant with your parents to a new country like Sweden. We didn’t really have the best when it comes to resources,” he continued. “I remember I didn’t have money for the bus. It was normal for me to walk 25 minutes to get back home... I was getting into a lot of fights. I was about to go the wrong route. Luckily enough, God was watching over me and I managed to do something better with my life.”

Fight Island in the United Arab Emirates has shone a spotlight on fighters from all-round the Middle East. Albazi welcomes the attention and expresses enthusiasm for the growing list of high-calibre fighters coming from those regions.

“I’m getting a lot of love back from the Arab countries,” Albazi said. “I think they have a lot of potential. They just need a little more resources and more guidance. I think we can expect a lot more fighters coming from the Arab countries.”

“The UAE are doing great starting very early in age and promoting it very well. I know there are several countries like Lebanon, Jordan. All of them are up-and-coming when it comes to jiu-jitsu and martial arts in general,” he added. “For Iraq, it has been stressful lately with everything going on. They have a lot of potential. All that is missing is resources. I hope that I can bring something back to the Arab countries so MMA can shine a little more over there.”

Albazi was relatively unscathed in his UFC debut and looks to make a quick turnaround in the fast-paced fight schedule of a pandemic-struck globe.

“I’m back already in training,” he concluded. “Let’s see what the UFC has for me. I’m back and trying to get a proper training camp in for the next one. So let’s see, let’s see.”