Photos: Stefan Romare

UFC vet Reza Madadi addresses political controversy over no-gi superfight

Politically Iran's Reza Madadi and Israel's Moshe Ben Shimol should be enemies, but they have decided to show sports purity above politics in a controversial grappling bout

MMAnytt is on site in Stockholm for AK Fighting Championship 2, where UFC veteran and local fan favourite Reza Madadi returns to martial arts. The Iranian-born Swede returns for a no-gi superfight in submission wrestling against Israeli in Moshe Ben Shimol. The bout, which was revealed earlier this year on MMAnytt, is undoubtedly a politically charged match. The clash of nations is no coincidence, as it was purposefully chosen in an attempt to show that politics don’t belong in the sports sphere. This is why this fight has garnered international attention, as athletes from these two opposing nations put politics aside for the purity of sports and martial arts.


Much of the political tension Madadi addressed the political tension in an exclusive interview with MMAnytt.

“As a human being I don’t think you should mix politics with sports, not in any aspect, politics, religion, those things shouldn’t matter at all, it’s your personality that should matter,” Madadi told MMAnytt’s Ashah Tafari

He went on to explain how he first became aware of government involvement in sports due to politics, as his Iranian wrestling team changed hotel in conjunction with a competition, so as not to share a hotel with the Israeli team. This was something that made an impact on Madadi, and he’s hoping that this grappling bout can be a sign of things to come.

“I want to show that we can face each other beyond the borders of religion and politics, as athletes.”

Madadi also feels that grappling is the perfect martial art to display friendliness across political sides.

“I love MMA, love being in the cage, but…it would have sent the wrong message. We want to show that we’re doing this for peace but then we beat the hell out of each other in the cage. So no-gi is just as good, and then we’ll see if I do a comeback in the cage later on.”

It’s apparent that Madadi feels strongly about this. At the weigh ins a spectator shouted a political statement regarding to Israeli-Palestinian relations, something that the Iranian-Swede shut down quickly. Most fans will agree that sports and politics should be kept separate, as people form all backgrounds and walks of life meet in the cage, ring and on the mat.

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With roots in muay thai and as an avid combat sports fan, Sebastian Vendel-Martinez grew up while the MMA scene was blossoming in Sweden. He became part of the MMAnytt team in 2012 and has gone on to become one of the most prominent MMA reporters in Scandinavia. Currently he continues to work as a writer, reporter, video producer/editor and head editor for