Noad Lahat signed with Bellator MMA in part because the California-based promotion promised him an opportunity to compete in his native Israel.
Now that day is drawing near, as Lahat will face Scott Cleve in the Bellator 164 co-main event at Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Thursday night. The card will air in the United States on Friday at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT on Spike TV.
“I think a lot of the fan base [in Israel] is new. I think a lot of the fans know MMA either through me or because of me,” Lahat told Sherdog.com. “That’s what’s exciting about Bellator. Because the time zone is different, most main events fight around 3, 4, 5 a.m. in Israel. You have to be really hardcore to stay up and watch it.
“Now they’re doing a big event in Israel, in a big city. It’s pretty cool. I don’t know what most people are expecting but they’re gonna get a good fight. I hope they get hooked and next time they come it’s gonna be even bigger.”
Lahat, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces before training MMA, recently signed with Bellator following a four-bout stint in the UFC. The last of those Octagon appearances was a brutal flying knee knockout against Diego Rivas in February. “Neo” says he has completely recovered from that defeat.
“I did a lot of hyperbaric treatment after that. I had to go through a CT exam. It was right after the fight; I was 100 percent good,” he said. “There was no damage whatsoever…I avoided any kind of contact for a few months. I was still training a lot, but I wasn’t sparring. Right after the knockout I was totally fine, no nausea, no headache. I wasn’t dizzy. I think I was a little lucky about that.”
Thus far, Lahat has been happy with the transition to Bellator. Like many fighters who leave the UFC, he enjoys some of the freedom he was no longer afforded in the Las Vegas-based organization.
“For me as a fighter, I think I get to express myself more with Bellator. I can wear whatever I want to. I can make money outside fighting with sponsors if I want to. I love that,” he said. “It’s always been about the fighter, it’s never been about the organization….I really appreciate that.”
Along with a new promotion, Lahat also recently left his longtime training home at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., for Las Vegas and Xtreme Couture.
“I changed my camp from San Jose to Vegas around April. I’ve been at AKA for several years. I grew up there as a fighter. Most of my adult life has been inside that gym. I feel like I got what I needed,” he said. “I need something a little different.”
Now 32 years old, Lahat knows that his time in the sport is limited. With that in mind, he has a very specific set of goals for his Bellator MMA tenure.
“I’ve said it a few times: Win fights and make money. Have fun and make money. That’s the goal,” Lahat said. “I’m in the sport because I love it. But now at my age, I’m not 20 anymore and I have family, so it’s also to make money. If I can get those two by Bellator, I’ll be more than happy.”