By Jake Smith
IMMAF 2017 World, European & Asian Open Champion Irman ‘The People’s Champ’ Smajić is out to prove good sportsmanship and professionalism are two of the most important factors in the sport ahead of an upcoming clash.
The chair of IMMAF’s Athlete Commission faces Nermin Hajdarpašić in the co-main event on Fight Rush 10, which takes place this Saturday (November 20th). Eyes have been drawn to the bout due to the nature of Hajdarpašić’s rowdy behaviour leading up to the contest, as he tries to draw a reaction out of Smajić at every opportunity.
Discussing the build up, Smajić admitted he’s unsure of what has provoked Hajdarpašić’s behaviour, but believes he may just believe that you need to behave badly to succeed in MMA. He said:
“I honestly don’t know where this bad blood is coming from.
“He transferred from boxing to MMA a while ago and I think he has been watching too much TV and thinks he’s like Conor McGregor or thinks he has to be a big mouth to do this sport… It’s either that, or he’s totally insecure.
“He does have a big mouth and I really don’t want people to believe mixed martial artists need to behave like that before a fight. I want people to recognise MMA as a good sport, with good sportsmanship.
“As chairman of IMMAF’s Athlete Commission, I really do not want to be connected to the bad side of the sport. I don’t need to respond to that (Hajdarpašić’s antics), I just need to be a good sportsman and concentrate on the fight.”
Emotions can run high and tempers can flare during a fight week, but ‘The People’s Champ’ is focussed on maintaining a cool head and proving to fans and up-and-coming MMA stars alike, that bad mouthing and bravado isn’t required to achieve something in the sport.
“I am trying to keep my calm because I don’t want it to be like the stereotype sport some people ‘think’ it is: this idea that MMA is just people trying to kill each other and just about the bad side of the sport.
“I want to lift the good side because we have to show it to the young athletes and the fans. You can put on a show and everything but you’re going to meet in the cage and of course it’s hard to keep calm but we are professionals. I think that this is just his insecurities or maybe he’s afraid?
“I am trying to just think about other things and be as much of a professional athlete as I can be at this moment; keeping calm and preparing for the fight.”
The card features several other IMMAF alumni including Alexander Lööf, Jonny Touma & 2019 European Open Bronze medalist Enrique Hecher Sosa. Fight Rush 10 can be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass.