Just days away from making his UFC debut against lightweight contender Jim Miller at UFC 128, undefeated WEC veteran Kamal Shalorus recently spoke to MMAFrenzy.com about the March 19 matchup, wrestling, and his home country of Iran.
What are your thoughts on UFC 128 opponent Jim Miller?
Jim Miller is a really good fighter, and very experienced when it comes to fighting in the UFC and I’m excited to fight him.
This is your first fight in the UFC, are there any nerves or jitters? Is there anything you have to account for like the larger space to work with (as the WEC cage was smaller than the UFC Octagon?
No the fight is a fight. All the same to me.
What did you think of the Martin Kampmann-Diego Sanchez fight?
Martin, he won. He was screwed [laughs]
Having seen a few of your fights now, it seems to me that you stay true to your roots of wrestling but seem determined not to be labeled another “boring wrestler,” by that I mean you seem confident in your boxing and once you get to the ground you are always moving forward. How did you develop your style?
Well I’m not just a grappling guy, I like to strike. So if I’m on the ground, I don’t want to get in a submission like an armbar, So I try to strike but I don’t want to just smash people[against the cage] cause that’s not my mentality, I love wresting but I don’t want to be annoying to watch.
What led you to make the transition from wrestling to grappling/MMA? Were you more Freestyle or Greco-Roman based*?
Freestyle, I compete a lot and then someone said I should try MMA. So I found a school for martial arts. Then I trained and I love it because of the competition and the techniques. Then I stopped wrestling and got into MMA.
How does wrestling in Iran/Europe compare to the wrestling here in the states? Most people don’t know the styles are different, but competition wise how would you compare Iranian wrestling to America?
Well it’s a bit different than the wrestling in my country because in my country it is the first sport. We have wrestling with no fighting. We just wrestle, if I pin you, I’m tougher than you. That’s all it was, wrestling is part of culture. So it’s really, really big sport in Iran. We have to wrestle, in the street, in high school, anywhere really! [laughs]
What do you think wrestling’s place is in MMA? Many non-wrestlers often label all wrestlers as “boring,” what do you say that?
Wrestling is a big part of MMA. Because if you’re wrestler you get to make the decision, do I want ground or do I want stand-up? And wrestlers are always stronger and more active, and hard workers. [when taken down by wrestler] It’s not like we lie you on your back and we try to hold you. No, in wrestling you make them quit, that’s what it’s about, it’s the same [in MMA].
I like that you make that point about wrestling because it’s true, in Freestyle/Greco we only have 15 seconds to turn our opponent before a stand up.
So what led you to become a citizen of Great Britain?
Well I had a contract with the wrestling team and then I became one [a citizen] to be in the World Championship and Olympic Qualifications 2004. And I bring country 3-4 medal.
Have you been back to Iran since you left?
Actually before my fight with Bart Palazewksi, I went to Iran with my whole family, well all my family not in Iran. I went to my home, did my wrestling with my friends and my brother.
Have you ever been able to confirm your age?
Yeah, to be honest I don’t know how old I am because I am from North of Iran [towards] Azerbaijan, where we live village and farm with family. In the winter time, where we are from in north, you have to travel 6 months south to Tehran when it’s warmer so you can come back. With that situation, you have no access to hospitals, no access to somebody with the papers, we are like cavemen times… but we don’t live in caves. [laugh]
That’s similar to how it used to be in parts of the American South not that long ago, I remember my Grandmother said that births used to be written in a family Bible because it took so long to get to a bigger city. The dates were not always exact.
Yeah, you know I miss that kind of life, no credit, no electronics, or computer, you enjoy working and your family. You’re working hard, you’re wrestling, there’s nature, and animals. Such a great life man! [laughs]
How long do you plan to fight?
I plan to keep fighting until after I win the title, that is my destiny. Nobody is going to stop me. I’m going to prove who I am and I’m learning more everyday. I want to beat all of 155.
Can you tell our readers about your affiliation with the American Combat Association and your system?
American Combat Association they are promoting me and allowed me to create my own fighting system because I have traveled to so many different countries for wrestling: Turkey, Bulgaria, Russia, a lot of different countries, you know? And then I mixed in some old school martial arts that people have showed me there. It’s called Shalorus Integrated Combat Systems and American Combat Association is helping me promote this. And Matt [Granahan aka “The Granimal] is good friend of mine and helping me with stuff.
Has anyone inspired you in your career or life? I know Iran is home to the late Olympic wrestling icon Gholamreza Takhti.
Yeah! My hero Takhti is the most best wrestler in the world, skill-wise and personality, He always helped poor people, he always helped the kids who have no homes. He is kind of a real hero; Takhti is THE hero he always helped [everyone].
Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Thanks all! Thanks everybody for supporting me, thank you for your time and I really really appreciate everyone who has supported me!
*Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling are the Olympic styles of wrestling. The style of wrestling in North American High Schools and the NCAA is known as Folkstyle.