Photo Credit: Sam Kasho
I had to stop the car you know… I was driving on the highway on the way back from the gym and I got the call from my head coach saying that I got into the UFC. Imagine? I got into the UFC
It is safe to assume that this is a phone call that many of the Arab MMA fighters would love to receive one day. Besam Yousef, Syrian born of Assyrian heritage, wasn’t even planning becoming part of the famous organization. “I was 6-0 in Sweden with The Zone (a Swedish MMA Organisation) and we all knew that UFC was organizing their first event in Sweden. My head coach suggested I get in touch with them and try my luck… I never thought it would happen”.
Rather than viewing this achievement as an end in itself, Besam views it more as a start of a hopefully long Journey. Getting into the UFC is hard enough, but Besam is there to make sure he stays there for a while to come.
When his family first moved to Sweden from Syria, Besam was just like every other adolescent. He was always sporty and was involved in football (he is a supporter of IFK Gotebord), handball, and wrestling to name but a few. He did not start MMA until the age of 18 and it wasn’t long before he admits he “was hooked!”. From there Besam started adding W after W after W to his semi-professional and professional record until one day in December his entire life changed.
“The worst thing was that I couldn’t tell anyone you know? They like to keep things under wraps and surprise fans. Alexander Gustaffson managed to find out though, but then again its Alexander Gustaffson you know? So he congratulated me”. Gustaffson of course is the #2 ranked light heavyweight in the world and if successful against Gegard Mousassi in April will have a real chance of facing Jon Jones for the UFC Title. The two fighters share the same gym in Sweden (Gladius MMA) and are good friends.
Although raised in Sweden, Besam has always been proud of his Arab roots. “I’ve seen a few of these fights going on in the Middle East, and its intense man. They real tough bastards! Every time they get in the ring, they really go to war! Of course I am proud to be one of the first Arabs in the UFC and support other Arab fighters. I was very happy for John Makdessi when he beat Cruickshank in his fight last week”. Besam predicts a bright future for the Arab MMA scene. “The way some of these people are going, a few of them will definitely make it to the UFC in the not too distant future. I am sure!”
Besam will be facing Papy Abedi on April 6th in Stockholm on the UFC on Fuel TV9 show. Whilst he would have preferred to face a non-Swede he knows that the opportunity to fight at the UFC doesn’t come along too often. “He’s big and strong… with a good judo background… and very explosive, but I am going there to win. I hope to make Arab MMA fans and fighters proud with my performance. I’d like to think that a few catch the show and support me. I will do my best to make them proud”.
UFC on Fuel TV 9 takes place on the 6th of April, 2013 at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.