There has been a lot written about AFC 21 and the monumental success that it was. Besides the coming together of two Australasian Martial Arts super powers, a majority of the pre talk pertained the return of ‘The Real Deal’ Jamie Abdallah and his super fight with UFC and Pride veteran Sokoudjou. There were so many anomalies coming into the fight; the main anomaly being Jamie’s significant lay off following shoulder surgery and the impact that would have on him in his return fight. Furthermore, the element of ‘cage rust’ was debated as well as returning to face one of the most feared Light Heavyweight’s on planet earth directly after a long layoff.
All of those anomalies were swept aside at AFC 21 when two martial arts gladiators went toe to toe in one of the most exhilarating fights I have ever witnessed. Leather was well and truly flying around the cage for the entirety of the fight and at stages both combatants looked like they were about to viciously and ruthlessly finish their opponent. However when it was all said and done, Sokoudjou dethroned Jamie and captured the Light Heavyweight Title.
Immediately after the fights Jamie’s face was well and truly reminiscent of a man that had just thrown down with a powerhouse like Sokohdjou. There was blood, there was bruising and there was even a couple of loose teeth courtesy of a Sokoudjou strike, however in typical Jamie style there was still a glimmer of a smile covering up the pain, anguish and heartbreak. Now a few weeks post the fight, it is comforting to hear that Jamie has recovered well:
“Yeah I have recovered pretty well after the fight and I’m back into training and still in shape at the moment. Luckily I didn’t really have any injuries pop up during the fight and after a week of just relaxing and absorbing it all, I was back to normal”
Having spoken with Jamie consistently before the fight, I was aware of how eager he was to step back into the AFC cage, a place that he has made his yard for the past 3 years. Eagerness can be both a blessing and a curse if it manifests in the wrong way, and Jamie was all too aware of the need to manage the emotion, excitement and nerves that come with re-entering the AFC after such a long break:
“Man it was the best thing and worse thing at the same time. I wanted to get back in there so bad, but it had been so long and against such a big name on such a big show, I’ll admit the nerves were there more than ever, but I managed to fight through it and although the result didn’t go my way I’m proud of pushing through all the crap and be able to do what I love once again – fight and entertain”
No matter what the injury or circumstance, 18 months away from the sport of martial arts is an eternity. Not only Jamie was confronted with the task of rebuilding himself to support the return, he was also confronted with a legit martial arts legend in the form of Sokoudjou.
Jamie was cage side when Sokoudjou brutally dismantled Marcelo Tenorio in China and immediately after Sokoudjou vs. Abdallah was set. It would have been easy to push Sokoudjou aside for a little while and take a couple of tame tune up fights, or even discredit Sokoudjou’s title credentials for whatever reason, but as we know that’s not Jamie’s style and he definitely isn’t making any excuses for the loss:
“Hindsight is a great thing, and I’m sure a lot of people would never do a lot of things in hindsight. In hindsight it probably would have been good to get the nerves out and ease back into a fight. But this is how I see it, I wanted a massive challenge and I have always been a risk taker. When I was younger I stumbled across Muhammed Ali’s quote “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life” and it has stuck with me not only in fighting but life. So I asked the powers that be to give me a world known name. At the end of the day I had the belt, it was mine and I don’t see how I could have had a warm up fight and still claim to be the best and I don’t know how I could keep the prestige that goes with being the champ. At the end of the day I stand by my decision and would do it over and over again. The bigger the risk the greater the reward”
Martial arts fans are truly like no other; their passion and eccentric nature fill stadiums with noise and energy and it does genuinely lift the athletes to which they scream praise and support. At AFC 21, the crowd was something else. Before Jamie entered the Melbourne Pavilion the chants began: “Jamie Abdallah”, “Let’s go Jamie lets go”. It was impossible not to get caught up in the energy and pure emotion that came from the huge crowd in attendance.
This support is no doubt uplifting and definitely gave Jamie ‘an extra man in his corner’. But with the weight of the crowd comes expectations and extra pressure to perform. Win, lose or draw Jamie’s fans will follow and support him and he is very thankful for the unrivalled loyalty:
“Man what a feeling, people ask me why I do it? F@ck come and watch one of my fights and the answer is there. I only wish I could have got them the win and had the fairy-tale finish. I’m so lucky to have such a big fan base and support group and I can’t thank them enough for always being there”
The fight itself will go down as one of the classic Australasian MMA Light Heavyweight Title Fights. There was action from commencement to conclusion and you could see how badly both fighters wanted to prove why they are considered to be the elite Light Heavyweights in the promotion. There was no feeling out process; there was no 1 or 2 rounds of jabs and leg kicks to warm into the fight; from the very first bell it was haymaker after haymaker which made for a very attractive spectacle.
It’s one thing for me to say that the fight was an instant classic and to heap praise on the two men that stood in the middle of the cage and beat the living suitcase out of each other, but what really matters is how the combatants feel they performed. In Jamie’s case he was very proud of how he performed on the night:
“We had a game plan going in, and I was executing it. I’m not going to lie for the first time in my career the bright lights got to me for the first minute of the fight and I just couldn’t settle at the start (it was an out of body experience). I don’t know what it was, the 18 month layoff, the big name opponent, the massive crowd or the massive show. It wasn’t until I first got hit that I woke up and switched on and realised I was in a fight. I definitely could have taken advantage of some points in the fight and done things differently and I made some mistakes getting caught was one of them obviously, but myself and Kelly are looking at points in the fight but at the end of the day I had my moments. And I’m proud of how I performed”
From the sidelines it was clear that Jamie’s arsenal included some old favourites such as the absolutely deadly uppercut however there were also a few new tricks that Jamie hadn’t displayed in his AFC appearances in the past namely the flying knee. The first time Jamie launched at Sokoudjou with the knee the crowd erupted, the consequential flying knees continued to find their mark so it was clear that Jamie was going to mix up the striking in order to conquer the beast that was Sokoudjou. Like it so often happens, a legend like Sokoudjou brought out the best in Jamie and made him reach deep into his bag of tools to give himself the best possible chance of success:
“I’ve always had different tools but game plans and opponents never permitted me to use them. I have always said I’m an MMA fighter and I’m truly comfortable anywhere in a fight. I just prefer standing and banging. We knew we wanted to keep Sokoudjou on the cage or backing up and for a round and a half it was working pretty well. As strange as this will sound this is one of my better performances where I really got to use a lot more tools. From elbows, knees grinding against the cage etc”
Make no mistake, on the eventful night that was AFC 21, Sokoudjou beat Jamie Abdallah and he beat him fair and square. Sokoudjou was able to throw down with one of the hottest and most powerful prospects in the sport and put him away on route to claiming the AFC Light Heavyweight Title. However, Sokoudjou didn’t have it all his way and in both the first and second rounds Jamie had Sokoudjou against the cage and in deep trouble as he launched a tirade of punches, knees and elbows. The pro Abdallah crowd felt that fight was done and dusted on a few occasions, however Sokoudjou’s resilience and general toughness saw him weather the storm and eventually claim victory. Upon reflection Jamie recognises the windows of opportunity he had to finish Sokoudjou:
“I felt like our game plan was working but he was crafty and a veteran. I definitely had my moments to finish”
Anyone who has watched any world class MMA show in the past would have no doubt witnessed what Sokoudjou has been doing to martial artists for years now. Sokoudjou exemplifies what it means to knock people out in devastating fashion, and the mind boggles at the planning one must undertake in preparation for a fight with Sokoudjou. The world knows he can knock people out with relative ease, the world knows he can take people down and the world definitely knows based on AFC China that he can slice his opponents up with elbows. Knowing all of this, Jamie was still surprised about certain elements of Sokoudjou’s game:
“I knew he would be powerful, but his power in his hands surprised me a little bit. And his overall size on fight day was bigger than expected. I will definitely say his experience was something that surprised me. I think that was his 40th fight and my 10th. He managed to weather the storm and stay calm, and switch up his game plan slightly, and ended up catching me with that elbow. And I believe that comes with experience. I look back and see how much I grow and learn every fight. He has been learning from his mistakes and fights for a very long time and that showed on the night in the cage. Overall we prepared the best we could for him and it is what it is”
Jamie is no doubt one of the more likeable personalities in the sport of mixed martial arts and he showed at AFC 21 that not only is he fierce in competition he is also gracious in defeat. Given the recent success Jamie has enjoyed, it couldn’t have been easy watching AFC CEO Adam Milankovic place the coveted AFC Light Heavyweight Title around Sokoudjou’s waist, but in this sport that’s part of the game:
“It was hard but it’s the nature of the game. Got to get back on the horse”
In a rather clichéd sense, after being dethroned a martial artist we often talk about the ‘road to redemption’. That road can look very different depending on the mentality one instils in themselves. Some will walk away and re-find their love and passion for the sport; others will want to get back in and immediately right their wrongs; and some will simply turn around and walk away amidst the pressure and scrutiny.
For Jamie, he’ll reflect and review as any seasoned martial artist would, and then he’ll be back with a vengeance:
“It hasn’t stopped since I first ever started in MMA. I will continue to improve. I will continue to take risks. I will continue to entertain. And I will continue to fight. Sooner rather than later. I’m not only a fighter but I’m a coach at XFC Australian Top Team. I have a team looking up at me and how I’ll react and I will continue my best to be a good role model for everyone from our fight team to our juniors. There’s no shame in trying and failing but I believe there is in never trying at all”
The question on everyone’s mind right now pertains directly to what the future holds for ‘The Real Deal’. Well in typical Jamie Abdallah fashion, there is a heap going on both inside and outside of the cage:
“Whatever comes my way I will try! I’ve actually been lucky enough to get cast in a TV show romper stomper – next gen coming out on Stan on Jan 1st. It was an amazing experience and definitely something I would love to do again (get behind it ahah I want to make it to season 2). I’m going to be an uncle for the first time in December and I’m really excited for that. I will continue coaching and building the XFC legacy”
“As for fighting, I’m staying in shape and will be ready for a fight early next year. As for who that will be I’m not sure. I’m not willing to wait for my title rematch. I want to fight as soon as possible. I’ll fight anyone and prove why I’m the real deal”
So in a short, prosperous yet challenging career, Jamie has felt the highest of highs in the AFC and he now knows what it feel like to lose a possession that you hold so dearly, that being the AFC Light Heavyweight Title. But rest assured he’s not going to sit back on his laurels and bitch and moan about the past, he’s going to do what he does best and fight his way back to the top:
“I’m not going to bitch and moan about what happened and that I believe I deserve an immediate rematch because it was my belt. The way I see it if I keep fighting stay active and keep winning there is no doubt that it will end up around my waist once again”
“I just want to end with a quick shout out to all my family, friends and fans that always support me and my sponsors for this fight that make the biggest difference.
– Royal Stacks
– X-Drive Australia
– Disaster Solutions Australia
– Anthony Larnè Constructions
– Mama’s BBQ Chicken & Salad Bar
– Amasso Hair and Beauty
– Del Holdings
Article by Josh Warner AFC