Bassil Hafez got to live his dream, but it could have cost him dearly.
This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 77, the 31-year-old Hafez made his UFC debut, stepping in on short notice to face rising star Jack Della Maddalena. Hafez impressed in his debut, going hammer and tongs for 15 minutes with Maddelena. But he ultimately fell short, losing a split decision.
Fortunately for Hafez, that’s all he lost.
“That was the toughest weight cut,” he told The MMA Hour. “I didn’t say anything about it, but I’ll talk about it here — I ended up in the ER the night of the fight, thinking I was going to make sure I didn’t have a concussion or brain injuries, which I was perfectly fine there. But they said they found air in my chest behind my heart, around my lungs and esophagus. Air where it’s not supposed to be, basically. They had to keep me overnight, basically to make sure I wouldn’t have a heart attack and die overnight. Because if the pressure gets bad, then it will be pushing into my arteries and I could have a stroke or a heart attack and die.”
Hafez said the hospital discovered the issue while doing tests for head trauma, also noting that the doctor treating him put the problem down to his fight. Pneumomediastinum, air in the chest cavity, and pneumothorax, air surrounding the lungs, are medical conditions most often associated with chest trauma, but Hafez believes his issues were weight cut related, because this is not the first time he’s experienced the symptoms.
“I think it’s from the weight cut, because I experienced something similar before when I had a drastic weight cut a long time ago,” Hafez said. “First time, as you get older as a fighter, you start to figure out the weight cuts you can do and the ones you can’t do, and you have bad weight cuts sometimes. I’ve had bad weight cuts before and I felt similar. The vibe I got from the doctor, he’s telling me everything that I’m feeling, swelling in my esophagus, throat, nasallyness, chest pain, lung pain, is all from this air in there. I felt that from the weight cut, even before the fight. I went into the fight with those feelings. So to me, I think it’s from the weight cut.”
Whatever the cause, Hafez is doing fine now and looking forward to his next UFC bout. For stepping in on short notice, Hafez revealed he signed a four-fight contract with the promotion, and he plans on showing the MMA world what he is actually capable of when he is fully prepared.
“You’re not going to perform your best on five days — it was like four and a half days at that point,” Hafez said. “So it wasn’t the greatest opportunity, but it’s still an opportunity to accomplish my dreams, regardless. OK, it’s not going to be the way I want it, it’s not going to be how I want it, but I’m not going to say no. I’m still going to go in there like this is exactly what I wanted, and I’m going to go in there with that kind of grateful mentality and be ready to put on a way.
“So yeah, I would love more time. I’m not the type of guy that’s good at making weight in four days. Some guys can do that. I’ve got a lot of muscle on me, so I’ve got to plan for that. Weight cut affects the fight, fight camp affects the fight. People saying, ‘He had a double weight cut,’ and all that, that affects you, but if you’re healthy, it’s not that much of a problem. And in reality, he had a full fight camp for a guy that is similar style, in Sean Brady. Me? I didn’t have a fight camp. I was in, ‘Keep myself as ready as I can be in case the call happens.’ ... That’s how I was preparing. I made weight, I showed that I have heart and I have grit, but I would definitely like more time than four days.”
Even though he’s not fully happy with his performance on Saturday, Hafez still believes he should have won the fight. So if the opportunity to run things back with Maddalena ever arises, he’s more than ready to step in and show what he’s capable of.
“Dude, I won the fight,” Hafez said. “I could have done better. It wasn’t my best performance, but if we’re talking about the ruleset of MMA, honestly, whatever judge shows up that day, that’s really what it is. Different judges showed up that day. If it was another week, it could have been easily unanimous or split my way. I’m not going to sit here and say I thought I won [or that] I think it was the best performance. I think that was the best performance I put out for what I was going through at the time, and what I went through that week to get there and make sure I showed up professional and did everything I needed to do.
“But I still think I won. If you look at the ruleset of MMA, I won. Control, even though he pulled guillotine, that’s not my problem. He made a mistake doing that. It played into my game. In reality, I think I won. I understand how it could be his way, but I would still fight him again in a heartbeat, and I think with a full camp, I’m going to beat him. That’s my mindset going in.”