Sometimes, in the brief moments of reflection that only pushing your body past its limits can provide, Siyar Bahadurzada would catch himself daydreaming about what it would be like to fight on the biggest stage. For a longtime veteran who was driven away from his native Afghanistan at a young age, another transplant of bloodshed, the fantasy seemed so far away.
But he was determined. Knockout after knockout, victim after victim, Bahadurzada would build a resume that could not be ignored. Finally, after ten long years, the moment had arrived. Slated to make his big league debut at UFC on FUEL 2 this past Saturday, Bahadurzada wasting no time unleashing a decade of desire on Paulo Thiago, stunning the fight world by knocking the Brazilian out cold in 42 seconds flat. Really, it couldn't have been any more perfect.
"This is really huge for me," Bahadurzada sheepishly admitted on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
"To knockout Paulo Thiago in my UFC debut, that was the greatest debut I could ever wish. It happened and it was a dream."
As the first Afghan fighter in UFC history, Bahadurzada's debut was already a remarkable footnote one way or the other. But no one could have expected this. Seemingly overnight, in a country halfway across the world, with only the faintest glimmer of an MMA scene, the sport had arrived on its national stage.
"Wow, (in) Afghanistan I have been all over the news the last two days," Bahadurzada gushed. "All the TV channels have reported the news that I won my fight in the UFC. Afghanistan is going crazy right now.
"I always believed in myself, that one day I would fight in the big league and I would prove myself. This is exactly what's happening right now and it's a kind of relief for me."
Though Bahadurzada's debut not was not without its own minor controversy. Immediately after crushing Thiago to the mat, Bahadurzada briefly stood over his unconscious fallen foe, an action that several viewers took exception to, believing it to be a unnecessary display of poor sportsmanship.
Bahadurzada understands the criticism, though according to him, there was absolutely no ill will involved in his actions. Rather, it was just a past in-fight experience getting the better of him at the most inopportune moment.
"I knocked somebody out one time (and it was) exactly the opposite," Bahadurzada remorsefully explained. "He came in like Paulo Thiago came, but he didn't (fall) face down, he went back. I turned around and I walked to celebrate my fight, and the guy stood back up. And then I had to fight him again and he did this turning kick, he almost knocked me out.
"That's exactly what happened to my Paulo Thiago fight. If you see me, first when I knocked him out, I looked at him, I walked away, and all of a sudden I turned back. I was like, ‘I don't want Paulo Thiago to stand back up,' so I went back to him with my hands raised, ready to attack him again if he gets up. But then I saw that he was lying on the ground still, so I sat on my knees to pay respect and get up with him at the same time."
Realistically the fuss was simply a minor blip in the greatest night of Bahadurzada's professional life. Plus, the good news was far from over, as the UFC rookie soon received a $50,000 ‘Knockout of the Night' check for his handiwork. That, along with a massive outpouring of love from fight fans on Twitter and Facebook, completed a wild "Siyar Saturday" that carried on late into the Stockholm night.
Of course, now that Bahadurzada has had a taste of the big leagues, he's ready to make it a regular affair. Luckily his injured right hand is not as severe as previously suspected, so after a short two-to-three weeks of rest, "The Great" will be ready to jump headfirst into training, and, he hopes, back under the bright lights of the Octagon as soon as possible.
"I wish to fight another top-10 fighter," Bahadurzada finished with a grin.
"I want to get to the title as fast as possible. I'm ready for this."