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5 Oz. Feature: An apology to Amir Sadollah

i.jpgLas Vegas, Nevada — When I first read an Associated Press article last year that covered the in-person tryouts for the current season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” I was struck by the coverage devoted to Virginia-based fighter Amir Sadollah.

I had never met the man or had even seen him fight. However, based on the circumstantial evidence, I was less than enthusiastic when hearing he made a strong impression with casting officials.

The article extolled his virtues as being a humorous guy. We also learned from the piece that he was 0-0 as a professional with limited amateur experience. So I thought “Great, another fighter with no pro fights under his belt who is being selected because they believe he could make great television.”

Then I thought, “Didn’t the UFC and Spike TV learn their lesson with Blake Bowman?” Bowman had a reputation for being a character; someone who could call attention to himself and drive viewership. The problem was, by UFC standards, he couldn’t fight a lick. In spite of being an upstanding citizen the entire time he was involved with the taping of the show, he was not invited to be a part of the finale.

Bowman was the only fighter involved with the cast of TUF 6 not to be invited to the finale that hadn’t either quit or been kicked off. It also turned out that he wasn’t the over-the-top character that many had purported him to be. Bowman seemed like a nice enough guy, but not someone who was so entertaining that it compensated an obvious lack of fighting experience.

In my eyes, Sadollah was another Bowman and exemplified everything that was wrong with what had become of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Boy, was I wrong.

The reality is (no pun intended) is that Sadollah is everything that’s right about the TUF concept. Not every fighter involved with the show is going to be a Mac Danzig or a C.B. Dalloway. Meaning, you’re going to have your blue chip prospects in the cast, but it’s a necessity to mix in a few sleepers.

I slept on Sadollah and I’m here to say that I was wrong. The aim of the show is to create stars and as a colleague pointed out the other day, this kid could be the middleweight version of Forrest Griffin.

Win, lose, or draw, Griffin is a favorite of the fans. His never-say-die attitude and an ability to take a licking and keep on ticking have endeared himself to many UFC followers. He’s also someone that has been portrayed on television as a laid back guy that brings a high level of affability.

While there are many differences between Griffin and Sadollah, there are similarities that are striking. Sadollah finds himself in the finals of the current season of TUF but he didn’t exactly steamroll his way there. The Cinderella story has had to pull off several rallies after taking his fair share of punishment. What Sadollah has lacked in fighting experience, he’s made up for with heart.

And while we weren’t in the house with these fighters 24/7, Sadollah represented himself in a professional manner at all times on the show. He was respectful of the opportunity given to him during all of his confessionals and as far as I could tell, never got caught up in some of the typical antics that take place in the house that anger many purists. Another thing he had in common with Griffin was an unassuming dry sense of humor. This attribute helped make Sadollah even more likable.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that he’s going to get a strong reaction from the crowd when he’s introduced to the audience at the Palms. America loves underdogs and Sadollah was expected to take the loss in every fight he was involved in. And despite already having beaten Dalloway once this season, dare I say he’s an underdog yet again?

Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, the UFC has a fighter in Sadollah that could become a UFC household favorite for years to come. The ability to bring an unknown fighter like Sadollah into the limelight has made TUF a invaluable marketing tool for the UFC. In year’s past, we’ve seen less and less of those stars being created.

So while I thought Sadollah was bad for the show, he was TUF had been sorely lacking in recent years. It’s okay for a fighter not to have a lot of experience coming into the show, just so long as he’s someone that has potential and the ability to conduct himself as a professional and not cast the sport in a negative light.

For better or worse, there will be 1-2 more seasons of TUF. The key to ensuring that fighter quality is respectability is allow UFC officials even more say in the selection process so they can help Spike casting officials determine the difference between project and prospect.

The good news is that TUF 8 will feature the lightweight and light heavyweight weight classes. By only having to find eight finalists per each weight class as opposed to 16, that will decrease the burden on casting officials since there will be less spots to fill. If they can find themselves 1-2 more Amir Sadollahs, the show will prove to be a success regardless of the ratings.

27 COMMENTS
  • Mike Wolfe says:

    Good article, Sam. Amir always found a way to win, and held up under punishment. He came across as a good guy, too. I assume the UFC will keep him around regardless of the outcome of the finale, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against fighters with more experience. Will he continue to come from behind, or will his more experienced opponents avoid the mistakes that helped Amir win on TUF? I’m looking forward to watching his career.

  • Sergio G. Hernandez says:

    Win or lose on Saturday, I’m a fan of Amir.

    You’re right, Sam. He’s everything TUF should be about.

  • Ian says:

    Right on point Sam. As usual.

    I came out of my seat when he submitted Dalloway. I didn’t expect that at all. I would have liked to see how he fared against Taylor’s style, but I’ll most definitely be watching, and rooting for him in the finale tomorrow night.

  • Mike C. says:

    Same here #2. How can you not like the guy as a fighter. Before he fought Gerald Harris he said “I never quit”. I just thought he was full of shit and was going to get stopped. To get taken down over and over and completely controlled for most of a fight and not get disheartened and quit is special. Can’t wait to see him on Saturday. Very bright future for a 0-0 fighter.

  • rolltide says:

    Nice article, hope Amir can pull another one off.

  • bjjdenver says:

    I picked CB and I’ll stick with it, but i agree that it’s hard not to root for Amir.

    If CB does win tomorrow, I think it would be a nice move by Dana to also offer Amir the contract, regardless of how the fight goes.

  • Jason says:

    many people don’t like that C.B. was given another chance against Amir. On my blog (ufcblogger.wordpress.com) I wrote a defense of C.B., but Amir is the man and I think he has a future in the UFC. Sadly, he will probably start his career 0-1.

  • Nate says:

    Sam, thanks for the article.
    Amir is my fav person on the show. It is nice that his skills have gotten him so far.

    I did remember this mmajunkie posting when they mentioned he was going to be on the show. I also thought he was a pretty absurd addition at the time.

    http://mmajunkie.com/news/3621/amir-sadollah-likely-chosen-for-the-ultimate-fighter-7.mma

  • woooburn says:

    yeah, nate… i was rereading that this morning as well. some of the comments are funny considering how the season played out.

    i just moved away from southeastern virginia not too long ago, and amir reminds me so much of all my richmond friends. such a humble kid, but a smartass at the same time. makes me homesick.

    he might not have the confidence and killer instinct to become a dominating future champion, but he’s sure as hell entertaining to watch, and worthy of the praise he’s getting. win or lose on saturday, he’ll be the one i pay attention to afterwards.

  • hankd says:

    Amir is tough…and funny…

    But I think CB is going to smoke him this time…

  • Ryder Die says:

    I agree about this guy but he still is 0-0 so lets not get too excited. Yes – he turned out to be very effective in enforcing his will on his opponents but we have yet to see him outside of the taping of this show. I think the Finale will be our best indication to date as to whether or not this Amir will be worthy of UFC contract or not. I think that CB is a bonafide UFC fighter down the road but not quite sure about this other kid. I hope he turns out to be solid though because I cant stand those fighters like Blake Bowman who know how to put up a front but this guy for sure is not one of those. Lets just hope he is an effective fighter against top level talent. Good Article.

  • Nick says:

    What’s not to like with this kid? Nice sense of humour and heart and desire to burn. By far my favourite guy on this season.

    Now he’s out in Vegas living his dream and training with top guys he can only improve.

    Hats off to him!

  • Davey D says:

    I am rooting for Amir tomorrow night. He had the best attitude out of everyone in the TUF 7 cast. I remember what he said about Matt Brown when asked about him during the confessions; he said, “He’s a trained killer, he’s going to try and take my head off.” To which he simply said, “I’ve got to stop him” and then he ended up doing so. Great stuff.

    I have a feeling either Amir vs. C.B. or Matt Aroyo vs. Matt Brown will end up being the Fight of the Night.

    Cheers!!!

  • Michaelthebox says:

    I’ve been making fun of people who get upset about 0-0 fighters being on TUF even before this season. 0-0 Matt Hamill has become a capable UFC fighter, and 0-0 Corey Hill looks to be taking the same path. Theres always plenty of unknown talent to be dug up.

  • Brandt says:

    Amir is a good guy, definitely. Glad to see him in the finals.

    Blake Bowman? How about Jeremy May? I’m no fighter, but I thought his fight style was just plain BAD. Definitely a Spike decision as well.

  • bushoa says:

    Don’t forget that Amir brings limited experience – and he has grown tremendously over the period of the show. This kid is gonna get better and better… and then he is gonna ROCK!

    My money is on Amir – CB is a great fighter, but Amir is a perfect style match to beat him.

  • A.C Slater says:

    I thought May looked really, really good…until he gassed and took a foot-induced nap. Which was the most satisfying thing I’ve ever seen.

  • Goomba says:

    Having beaten CB once already, I hope he gets a winners contract even if he does lose Saturday. Like Ed Herman did.

  • Nate says:

    The only thing with Amir, is that if he wins.. I hope he moves to a good training center. I dont want him pulling a Stephan Bonner and disappearing.

  • bjjdenver says:

    stephan Bonnar Had very good training. He served a suspension and then hurt his knee. If anything, I would say he has been more high profile than he probably deserves.

  • jesse says:

    It would be nice to see another good guy win it. Rock on Amir.

  • Larry says:

    Do you think Amir is small for middleweight and would be better served moving down?

  • bubbafat says:

    I don’t believe any of the TUF 7 cast are in the same league as the UFC 185 elite. The best guys on this show are going to have to drop to 170 if they want to make any kind of impression in the MMA world. The ones that can’t or choose to stay at 185 are probably going to get pummeled.

  • stevefiji says:

    CB has no chin and no heart…. ala a ” Pre-Buster Douglas” Mike Tyson. Wasn’t anybody watching that first fight closely? CB put out some good, strong strikes and some very good kicks and Amir followed with strikes and kicks that to me, might not have even had the power of CB’s, but still CB collapsed or fell back on almost every one. Creduer while a great jits guy, really doesn’t have any power at all and even he hurt CB a few times as well. CB is the Webster’s Dictionary definition of a paper tiger (I looked it up and saw his picture beside it) and if Amir has used these past few extra months to learn how to sprawl and defend the take downs, this one will be over by the mid second round… KO Amir.

    I also agree with other posts, with the exception of JT Money, none of these guys belong long term at 185.

    Overall, a great season. JT will eventually be back, hopefully on the wagon, and he’s a talent who just needs to learn how to strike and take care of himself. Matthew Riddle will be a long time UFC competitor and Amir will continue to rise as he gets more and more ground game experience, and man, ain’t he cool under pressure when caught in guard. CB? Well, the pedigree boy can’t take a punch, so I’d say to him, don’t quit your day job.

    Cheers Mates

  • Newport says:

    CB doesn’t like to be pressured, and is not the same fighter if he’s not controlling the pace. When he was overwhelming people with his wrestling and dominate positions, he looked like a wrecking machine. He just needs to better translate that wrestling pedigree into MMA

  • Isaiah B says:

    I just started coming to read your opinions on this site today, and after I read your “Top-10 P4P”…I have to say that I was disgusted and have lost all respect for you and this site.

    I then decided to read at least one story all the way thru, before I left for good!
    After reading this story (talking about Amir) I have to say that you are by far, the worst columnist in MMA! At least you do admit when your wrong….but that means you should correct all your stories!

    AMir is everything that I love about MMA, and the difference is, that I didn’t know that before….so I didn’t talk smack on him unlike you!

  • sicmma says:

    Kudos for for posting your new thoughts on Amir. Amir may never be in the title hunt , unless he keeps improving, but his fights seem to be guaranteed excitment and entertaining. That’s 2 thing MMA can always use.

    Kepp up the good work

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