5 Things You Might Not Know About Ilir Latifi

By Guy Portman May 24, 2019
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Ilir Latifi (14-6 1 NC) is a Swedish mixed martial arts combatant who competes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight division. For his next outing, he will be pitted against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC Fight Night 153. The event takes place at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden, on June 1.

As we approach the intriguing clash, here are five things that you might not know about 35-year-old All Stars Training Center team member.

He is short for a light heavyweight

Latifi is approximately 5’ 8’’, which makes him the shortest fighter on the UFC light heavyweight roster. Although the Swede’s lack of length is perceived as disadvantageous, he is adept at using his squat, powerfully-built frame to secure takedowns and land heavy hooks and uppercuts at close range. The stocky pugilist embarked on his MMA career as a heavyweight, and it was not until his third contest that he made the decision to cut down to the 205-pound division.

His background is in wrestling

The Malmo native hails from a family boasting numerous amateur wrestlers. Latifi started out in the Greco-Roman discipline at the tender age of six. His accolades in the sport include being the 2001 Nordic Championship junior -97 kg (213 pounds) Greco-Roman champion and a third place finish at the 2005 Swedish national light heavyweight Greco-Roman Championships. Reflecting on his wrestling days, Latifi said in one interview, “We learned to become strong, fearless and humble.”

He made his UFC debut on short notice

“The Sledgehammer” made his UFC debut as a late replacement for injured teammate and compatriot Alexander Gustafsson. The event was UFC on Fuel TV 9 in April 2013 where he faced the vastly experienced Gegard Mousasi.

Many expected the Dutchman to stop Latifi in quick order, but the Swede impressed against the Top 10-ranked pugilist in a three-round decision defeat. The performance was all the more impressive considering Latifi had a mere three days to cut over 25 pounds in order to make the 206-pound light-heavyweight non-title fight limit.

He is of Albanian descent

Back in the 1960s, Latifi’s parents immigrated to Sweden in search of a better life. They settled in Rosengard, Malmo, which is where “The Sledgehammer” continues to call home to this day. The largely migrant-populated neighborhood is notably where Sweden’s greatest ever soccer player, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was born and raised. Like Latifi, Ibrahimovic is also of Balkan heritage.

Latifi remains proud of his Albanian roots. Evidence of this is in his social media Twitter banner, which includes an Albanian flag. He once stated, “I’m both Swedish and Albanian, I represent both nations equally much.”

He is a role model

The softly spoken and articulate Latifi has presented himself as a role model for kids growing up in less than ideal circumstances. In 2016, his efforts led to him being chosen as role model of the year at the annual Swedish martial arts awards ceremony, Kampsportsgalan.

Latifi recognizes that it was his hard-working family and discipline learned on the wrestling mat that forged the mature and well-balanced man of today. The Malmo resident is keen to use his example to imbibe youngsters hailing from migrant backgrounds such as his with a passion to succeed and make the best out of their lives. Advertisement


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