MMA star Reza Madadi: Break the taboo of Iranians fighting Israelis

The star said he is making the comeback in response to Iranian authorities ordering judoka Saeid Mollaei to lose in the Judo World Championships in August to avoid facing Israeli Sagi Muki.

By ALEX WINSTON
October 10, 2019 14:14
1 minute read.
Former mixed martial arts star, Reza Madadi, pictured in 2016

Former mixed martial arts star, Reza Madadi, pictured in 2016. (photo credit: MICHAEL KOOREN / REUTERS)

Iranian former mixed martial arts star Reza Madadi said he wants to "break the taboo" of Iranians fighting Israelis, after announcing that he will be coming out of retirement to take on Israeli Moshe Ben Shimol in an unofficial exhibition bout in Stockholm in November, BBC Sport reported.

The star, who retired from the sport in May to concentrate on coaching, said he is making the comeback in response to Iranian authorities ordering judoka Saeid Mollaei to lose in the Judo World Championships, held in Japan in August, to avoid facing Israeli Sagi Muki, who went on to win the competition. Mollaei lost in his semi-final.

At the quarterfinal stage, Muki faced Egyptian Mohamed Abdelaal, who refused to shake his hand after having lost. Shaking hands at the end of a judo match is customary.

Madadi, an ex-UFC fighter known as the "Mad Dog," told BBC Sport: "I cannot travel to Iran any more, but I must break this taboo before saying goodbye to the world championships."

"The story of Mollaei's experience at the Judo World Championships semi-final against Israel's Sagi Muki made me take this step and end the story once and for all."

Madadi was born in Tehran but now lives in Sweden.

"Stockholm is going to have an important message – that religion and politics should not interfere with sport," he said.

"The reason I am returning is to show the world that two professional athletes can compete with each other despite cultural, religious and political differences – and then leave the gym like two friends. I have great respect for the athletes who will provide us with the basics for this competition."

Iran has famously ordered its athletes in the past to either deliberately lose or forfeit matches so that they will not have to compete against Israelis. Besides Judo, this policy has been followed in soccer, basketball, swimming, fencing and tennis.


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