After Puzzling UFC Release, Sirwan Kakai Appreciates Stability in Bellator MMA

By Tristen Critchfield Mar 1, 2016

While Sirwan Kakai was technically released by the UFC last year after two fights, that’s not how the 26-year-old Swedish bantamweight chooses to see it.

After all, Kakai went 1-1 during his abbreviated tenure with the Las Vegas-based promotion, with both fights coming on short notice. His loss was a split decision to Frankie Saenz, currently ranked No. 13 on and coming off a hard-fought loss to Urijah Faber in December.

“You get cut, that’s not good enough. I could not say that word, like, ‘You know what, I got cut by the UFC,’” Kakai told this week. “I don’t feel like I got cut... If you get cut from the UFC you’re not good enough, and that’s not the case.”

Kakai’s release came at a time when the UFC was struggling to deal with a bloated roster. If he had chosen to play the waiting game, it’s possible that he could have found himself in yet another short-notice fight somewhere down the road. After the Saenz experience, that simply wasn’t an option.

“They told me, we cut you because not of your skills, we cut you because we have way too many fighters. If there’s a spot still open for a contract, we will get you a contract for a short notice fight,” he said. “I didn’t want to sit on the bench because I had already been sitting on the bench and waiting for my opportunity. After the fight, four or five weeks’ notice, I cut 23 pounds. I already did that and I did not want to do that again.”

Instead, the man known as “Zohan” signed a four-fight deal with Bellator MMA. He will make his promotional debut on Friday night at Bellator 151 against Joe Taimanglo at Winstar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. The evening’s main card airs on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.

Gone is the uncertainty that accompanied Kakai’s time in the UFC. Now, he has a much clearer picture of what lies ahead in the coming months.

“I have a great contract too because I’m guaranteed fights. I know how much I’m gonna fight,” he said. “I think that’s great because I know how much I’m gonna fight. I’m [not] gonna sit on the bench and [not] know when my next paycheck is coming. This is what I do for a living. I know how much I’m gonna get paid this year ...It’s easy to manage my life. I appreciate that.

“I’m sleeping good. [With the] UFC I didn’t know what was gonna happen, and the worst that could happen, happened.”

That said, Kakai expects to be much better against Taimanglo than he was in his last fight against Saenz.

“I was holding back a lot. It was a close fight. I know I can fight anyone in the world at 135, and I would be super competitive with them and I will win. If I have a full camp, I will beat Frankie Saenz. I will finish the fight and I will dominate every round,” he said. “That’s why I’m happy now because more people are going to see the true me.”


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