After a contentious faceoff in front of UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby, the Afghani native turned to face the media for photos and that’s when he heard Kahlon call him a “terrorist.”
“I was mad at him anyways for missing weight, but I didn’t really care cause I wanted to fight,” Basharat explained in an interview with MMA Fighting. “So I took the fight. I thought I could just let him know that. I don’t like suppressing my feelings much. I let him know [I was angry over him missing weight], and then he said that and it literally caught me by surprise.
“I was thinking to myself if I slap him now, I only get one slap in before everybody breaks it up or something, and the fight’s going to be called off. I went in there thinking I’m going to fight this guy, and I’m going to make him suffer for 14 minutes. I’m going to make him suffer for 14 minutes, and then get him when I want to get him.”
While his coaches tried to calm him down afterward, Basharat was seething and used that energy to formulate a gameplan.
“He’s going to give me submissions, he’s going to want a way out but I’m not going to take it,” Basharat said of his mindset ahead of the fight. “He’s going to give me knockouts, he’s going to want a way out, I’m not going to take it.
“I’m going to beat him up until when I’ve had enough, I’m going to submit him. To be honest, I had enough.”
Following a dominant performance through the first two rounds that saw Kahlon bloodied from the amount of damage he was absorbing, Basharat finally locked on a guillotine choke to finish the fight with less than a minute remaining in the final round.
The win earned Basharat a contract with the UFC as well as some much needed satisfaction after the derogatory comment made towards him a day earlier.
UFC president Dana White later said that “justice was served” when it came to Kahlon losing a lopsided fight in that manner and Basharat was more than happy to send him packing.
“After getting beaten up like that, you don’t want to fight anyways, period,” Basharat said about Kahlon. “Then if he did want to fight, no one’s going to want to take him because you can’t brand that. At the end of the day, this sport’s a business.
“Yeah, you can be a good fighter and what not but that’s so unmarketable. People are going to want to tune in for him to get beaten up but then again people are not going to want to give opportunities to a person like that.”
Since the tragic events of 9/11, hate crimes and discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in America have both increased exponentially.
The FBI released a report documenting 7,759 hate crime incidents in 2020, the highest annual total in the U.S. since 2008 and second-highest since 2001, when the nation was still reeling from 9/11. The Council on American-Islamic Relations also recently released a report documenting a spike in hate crimes, harassment, school bullying, discrimination and hate speech during the first seven months of 2021 in the U.S.
In Basharat’s case, as upset as he was over the epithet, he was happy to see so much support from an MMA community that may not have known his name ahead of the ugly incident.
“I appreciate everybody it did offend,” Basharat said. “Because it just shows these things cannot be tolerated and people are on the same wavelength as me, even though it wasn’t directed at them. It was directed at me, but they still got offended by it. Because racism’s a no-no. You don’t just get racist and you just don’t do that sort of stuff.”
With the win over Kahlon and his entry into the UFC, Basharat is ready to just move forward with his career. But he hasn’t forgotten about a bigger goal he set for himself when the opportunity to compete for the biggest MMA promotion in the world was first presented.
As one of only a handful of fighters to ever join the UFC roster from Afghanistan, Basharat wants to serve as an example to people from his home country, who will hopefully be inspired by his journey.
“I could be those kids right now,” Basharat said. “For them to see, ‘yo, he got out and he’s now representing us’ is priceless. Even if I didn’t want to represent that, I would represent that by default cause that’s who I am. That’s where I’m from. I can’t hide it. That’s in my blood. You saw some of the videos, people literally jumping on planes, on the aircraft and then they’re falling off from the sky. These are real people, they’re falling down. These videos went viral. That’s the desperation for people over there to get out.
“The fact that I was lucky enough to get out and not make anything of myself would almost feel like disrespectful to them. It’s like I carry their hopes and their dreams on my back. It’s a shame I couldn’t carry the [Afghanistan] flag with me cause it’s not recognized apparently, some issues. The flag is not recognized now. But I’ll be the flag. I’ll be the flag in human form.”
Long term, Basharat hopes to make waves in the UFC bantamweight division while continuing his undefeated run after starting his career with a perfect 11-0 record. He also wants to constantly give hope to the hopeless through his own success, which might mean more to him than any achievement earned inside the cage.
“If I can do that to one person, I’ve done a great job,” Basharat said. “Even more so than that, it doesn’t have to inspire somebody to fight and stuff. It could be any field they choose to do or just the simple fact that it made them smile and if it makes them think he’s thinking about us and he’s representing us on a global stage, we are not forgotten. These things are the things that really matter.”