When The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 7 kicked off, we saw for the first time a group of 32 fighters who had to fight and win to make it on to the show. Few would have bet that a 27-year-old amateur kickboxer with zero professional MMA fights to his name would have won the entire thing ó especially one who, upon winning his first match, leapt onto the top of the cage and, just as quickly, fell off.
But thatís exactly what Amir Sadollah did.
He racked up wins against Steve Byrnes (armbar) to earn his spot on the show, Gerald Harris (TKO due to strikes), Matt Brown (guillotine choke), and C.B. Dollaway (armbar) to make it to the Finale. Then, thanks to some monkey business from Jesse Taylor, Amir faced C.B. Dollaway once again at the Finale and won, once again, via armbar.
Talk about dťjŗ vu all over again.
But now Amir faces a bigger challenge: transforming his skill set from his days on TUF to that of a full-time mixed martial artist. Heíll get his first test in Nick Catone (5-0) this Saturday, November 15, at UFC 91: ďCouture vs. Lesnar.Ē It all starts at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
We caught up with Amir recently to talk about his days on TUF, ask if Dollaway is still protesting his tap at the Finale, and find out how he is preparing to fight the two-time NCAA Division I Conference Champion wrestler, Nick Catone.
Letís get after it.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You last fought C.B. Dollaway at the TUF 8 Finale. First, congratulations on becoming the winner of The Ultimate Fighter.
Amir Sadollah: Well thank you.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Looking back on it, when you first entered the house, did you think you stood a pretty good chance of walking away the winner?
Amir Sadollah: Um Ö I remember thinking actually the first day when we found out there was going to be 32 of us originally, I just remember wondering, ďWho is gonna win this thing? This thingís tough.Ē But it was something that I did a pretty good job of not pressuring myself either. I never thought, ďOh man, I gotta win this thing.Ē I just thought about doing as well as I could for the next six months.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Did you watch the episodes on television?
Amir Sadollah: I did. I actually wrote a blog on it, so they sent me episodes a couple days earlier, and I watched them. Usually by the time an episode came on TV I had already watched it once or twice. So yeah, I definitely watched it. It was worth watching.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): How do you feel about the way the editors portrayed you?
Amir Sadollah: Um Ö I wasnít unhappy with it. I was pretty quiet there a lot of times. You know, itís a strange situation; everyone reacts in their own way. I wasnít too worried about getting camera time. I was just trying to learn as much as I could and get better. So no, I donít think they portrayed me in a negative way or anything I was unhappy with.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Yeah, I thought it was a great show ó a great season.
Amir Sadollah: Probably the best ever. (laughs)
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): (Laughs) Certainly up there. After that first win, you jumped up onto the cage and then immediately fell off of it. (Laughs) Do you remember that happening?
Amir Sadollah: (Laughs) Yeah, I did not think I would catch so much crap about that.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Yeah, my girlfriend and I were sitting there watching it, and she goes, ďMan, I hope that guy doesnít end up winning the whole thing.Ē (Laughs)
Amir Sadollah: (Laughs) Damn.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Iíd like to ask you a few questions about the C.B. Dollaway fight at the Finale. How did you feel about how the fight went? Obviously youíre happy with the victory, but in terms of things that you learned from the fight and areas to improve on.
Amir Sadollah: Well, there werenít a lot of surprises. I definitely saw that there were some things I need to work on and get better at ó like my wrestling, for example. But overall I was happy with the fight. I guess you canít complain if you get the victory. But I didnít think it was going to be easy, and I didnít expect it to end so quickly. But it turned out all right.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): When you sunk in the armbar, did you think, ďOh my God, I canít believe this is happening in almost the exact same way that it happened before, heís falling right into this again?Ē
Amir Sadollah: At the time, I was just thinking more like, ďI better capitalize on this while I have it.Ē But yeah, afterwards it was something that, after the fight was over, I was just kind of in shock that the whole thing was happening.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Dollaway seemed equally shocked that it had happened like that, and seemingly, before he even knew it, he tapped. He then protested a bit, as if he didnít fully commit to the tap. Have you run into him since the fight, and have you talked about it at all?
Amir Sadollah: Oh yeah, I saw him later that night, and we talked about it a bit. Weíre definitely cool. Heís definitely a good guy. I mean, I consider us friends.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): So I assume he now knows that he committed to that tap?
Amir Sadollah: Yeah, I saw a couple of interviews with him afterwards. He kind of explained himself. It was something that he admits he tapped, but then he thought he could get out, but by that time the ref saw it and stopped the fight. So Ö thatís how it goes.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Youíre facing Nick Catone here at UFC 91. Iíve never watched a Nick Catone fight. Have you?
Amir Sadollah: Yeah, Iíve seen a couple tapes on him, yeah.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well from what Iíve read about him, heís 5-0 with his last four fights all being stoppages in the first round. Heís also the Ring of Combat Middleweight Champion and comes from a strong collegiate wrestling background. How do you see the fight going in terms of his strengths and your strengths matching up? Do you think his wrestling background is going to be an issue?
Amir Sadollah: Yeah, obviously itís a strength of his and something that Iím working on. I think heís a strong guy, an aggressive guy, heís somebody that is going to put a lot of pressure on me. So thatís what Iím preparing for.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): From a training perspective, what have you been focusing most on since your days on TUF?
Amir Sadollah: Since I got off the show, Iíve just been working out here in Vegas with a lot of high level guys. So Iíve just been trying to catch up and improve all my areas, really. I mean definitely wrestling has been a big part of it for me, but just ground damage, striking and everything. Itís definitely been a step up.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Have you relocated out there to Vegas permanently?
Amir Sadollah: Yes.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): From Richmond?
Amir Sadollah: Correct.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): If you had to guess how this Catone fightís gonna end, do you think itís going to be a three-round battle? Do you anticipate a long drawn-out war?
Amir Sadollah: I have really never liked to make predictions. I just feel like when you do, thatís the one guaranteed thing thatís not going to happen. So, I definitely expect itís going to be tough, and whether itís one round or three, I know itís going to be a battle all the way through. Thatís what Iím preparing for, and thatís what Iím expecting.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Have you brought in any new coaches or training partners specifically for this fight?
Amir Sadollah: My striking coach from Holland is here for this fight, and he helped me out in my last fight as well. I just work with a lot of the same guys I worked with before out here, but I try to work more with guys who I think simulate who Iím going to fight, you know Ö better wrestlers or just bigger, stronger, faster Ö things like that.
So Iíll break it up, as far as bringing in a partner who I think specifically is the same type of fighter. Thatís the cool thing about out here, thereís so many guys that are good at everything, you can kinda pick someone and be like, ďAll right this guyís good at jitz, Iím gonna work at that with him. Or this guyís a good wrestler or this guyís a good striker.Ē Things like that.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): What weight do you normally cut from?
Amir Sadollah: I usually walk around at about 95, so itís not a horrible cut for me at all.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Have you thought about dropping to welterweight at all?
Amir Sadollah: Yeah. Itís something that I was definitely, or am definitely considering. I didnít drop to 170 after the show just because there were so many things changing with me, I just wanted one element of familiar territory as far as the weight Iím cutting. Iíve seen a lot of guys who, the first time they fight at a new weight, itís just different. It can change things a little bit.
So I just wanted a little bit more time to get used to everything, and just make a gradual progression. But I can definitely see myself going to 170 after this fight.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): So are you in the market for a new nutritionist, or do you currently work with someone in your camp?
Amir Sadollah: Um Ö yeah, I mean if I found a nutritionist who is willing to work with me and who I trust, then I suppose. I think nutrition is a huge tool and a key element in your training. Itís definitely a factor for a lot of guys and for myself. I work a lot on that as well ó not just training, but eating right. Itís not easy, and itís a full-time job. You go in, you train for two hours, you leave, youíre good. But you gotta eat well all day. And thereís a lot of different theories and a lot of different things. So itís another one of those big things that Iím always trying to hammer down and optimize.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, Amir, I really appreciate the time you took to talk with us, and I wanted to give you an opportunity to plug any sponsors or if you have any parting words for your fans.
Amir Sadollah: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for all the support from everyone I get. Everyone who does. Itís definitely very uplifting and very positive. Thanks to my sponsors TapouT and Sprawl. And check out The Punisher in theaters December 5. Iím sure Iím forgetting a few. Check out my Web site AmirMMA.com.