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January 22, 2012

Bellator Bound: Jeff "Emil" Haddad signs a 3 fight contract

Reality Fighting 135lb Champ, Haddad, announced Wednesday, Jan. 18th, 2012 that he would be bound for the Cage with No Corners, Bellator. The Chicago based promotion is the second largest Mixed Martial Arts promotion in the world. Only the Zuffa owned UFC sits higher on the MMA heap at the moment. In recent weeks buzz of an open tryout has been circulating across the local scene with many a pro fighter looking to turn up in PA for the opportunitty of a lifetime. As the date gets closer for this call to be answered it comes as a surprise how many of our local boys are announcing the call has come to them rather than they to it. Jeff is one such fighter and in the next several minutes I'll do my best to uncover the reasons that they chose to reach out to him rather than wait and see if he'd come to them.

Jeff "Emil" Haddad has a strong career to-date and as many of us know his ambition and drive are only two things that will propel him beyond even his wildest dreams. A cornerstone of the Fighting Arts Academy team he shares in the list of local talent gone national. I'll be bringing you more insight into that in coming articles, but for now Jeff has the spotlight. At 24, Jeff, has serious time in the cage. According to Sherdog, a reputable MMA site I highly recommend to anyone looking for fighter info, he has spent a staggering 29 minutes and 39 seconds over his three fight career engaged in mortal combat locked in a cage. I will however say that this number may be slightly misrepresentative of his actual experience level since he has over 1,000 matches as a wrestler, and grappler competing locally as recent as the King of The Mat 3 tournament held back on May 14th, 2011 . The site lists three fights with whom he's beaten Ethan Kean, Jonny Lopez, and most recently his former training partner and friend John McLaughlin. Of the three I've personally witnessed his bouts with Lopez and McLaughlin ringside as a photographer for our site I'll say this because I can Jeff can take what he gives and then some. I've never seen a fighter so focused on having fun who can take two solid rounds of abuse and smile the whole time. My friend and MMAssociate, Old School, of wrote a review for the October, 2011 Reality Fighting event that everyone should take five minutes and read. His descriptions are spot on and his assessment of Haddad's performance are undisputable so go read it if you haven't and read it again just because you know it's true. Here is the link .

With a call to Bellator comes many opportunities and requirements. I've asked Jeff to described to us what those entail and how he plans on capitilizing on them. Although I can assure you his humble responses are sincere we all know that Jeff is a man on a mission looking to make it big and be a true success in every sense of the word. Here is how he sees it.

Q.First can you tell us what kind of goals have you set for yourself when looking forward in your MMA career? In your professional work as a Occupational Therapist?

     A. Since I started wrestling, I have always dreamt about being a world champion. My coach growing up, Shirzad Ahmadi, was a 6 time world champion, 16 time world medalist, and a 14 time national champion. Training with someone as great as him was truly inspiring. He was like a father to me. I knew nothing other than a champion’s work ethic. When I started MMA, I carried over the same dream. I fell short of a NCAA National Title in college. I beat All-Americans, Fargo National Champions, and placed in every tournament, but I never achieved my college goal. It haunts me to this day. I want the UFC Bantamweight world title. I did not begin competing in MMA for anything less than the world title.

     B. For occupational therapy, my goal is not as specific. I chose to work in the medical field because there is nothing more rewarding than helping someone who is in desperate need of help. MMA is a selfish endeavor. Occupational therapy is a way to fulfill the need to return to humanity. When someone tells you that you have changed their life after they have faced death or a life changing experience it is the most amazing experience you can share with someone. With that said, I also understand the importance of education and stability. My body cannot handle competing forever, and I don’t want to compete when I have kids. I want to be able to work a job less demanding like occupational therapy, so I can devote time to my kids.

Q.Do these two professions lend themselves to a balance in both work and play? I understand you have been an athlete through a good part of your youth and now as an adult, does sports seem like work? How would you describe the desire you have to be an athlete professionally?
     A. I believe these professions offer a great balance in my life. I have always spent my life immersed in writing music, the health field, and athletics. The all require discipline, dedication, and passion. I couldn’t be happier where I am at in life. To me, they are all a great combination of work and play.

     B. It is hard to say if competing feels like work. Some days are tough, I can’t lie. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The tough days are far fewer than the days that I love. I am a very passionate person. I believe that the desire I have to be a professional athlete is just an extension of my personality. I strive to be the best at everything I do.

On to some specific Bellator questions

Q.When did you first hear that Bjorn was interested in you as a prospect? When did you get the official call and did you have to try out before hand like the hopefuls who are headed to Philly in the coming week?

     A. My manager contacted me while I was on the way back from a high school wrestling tournament a couple weeks ago. I had a great day hanging out with my friend and wrestling coach, Willie Hilton. Albeit, it was a bit better when I got the text from Angelo Bodetti (Hero Sports Management). I didn’t have to try out, but for those going out to Philly, I wish you all well!

Q.As we have seen in the past you have the support of your family in a big way, has there been any concern from them about you stepping up to perform in a promotion who's pool of fighters are the elite?
     A. My brother, sister, mother, and stepfather are incredibly supportive. With that said, fighting for a living isn’t the most appealing profession to her lol. Her biggest concern is my health and well-being, but she is extremely supportive. They all welcome the move into a class of tougher fighters. They understand that I must compete with the best if I want to make my dreams a reality.

Q.With your team experiencing some much deserved opportunity do you feel that there will be any expectation to make a run at a championship bout before you finish your contract?

     A. I highly doubt that. I think these 3 fights are a way for Bellator to evaluate where I stand as a young fighter. If I perform well throughout these fights, I think they will put me in a bantamweight tournament. I have wrestled over 1,000 matches, but I need to develop as an mixed martial artist before I make a run at a world title. I made many mistakes in my title fight. If I were competing against upper echelon of fighters, I would have paid dearly.

Q.How will this contract effect your role as current title holder at 135lbs in Reality Fighting and will you be expected to take a match for them over a Bellator bout if the two are scheduled closely?

     A. Thankfully, the contract allows for me to defend my Reality Fighting title. However, I would put Bellator first. Kipp and Joe of Reality Fighting have always treated me so well, but it would be in my best interest to put Bellator first. If all goes according to plan, I will fight for Bellator in March and defend my belt in May. I am excited to compete for Bellator, but Reality Fighting is a great company to compete for too!

Q.As a pro fighter managed by (Hero Sports Management) what does that mean? What are the benefits to having a management firm looking out for you and who would you say should consider having a manager such as this?

     A. Having a manager allows me to focus on training. Prior to having a manager, I was making my own shirts, selling my own tickets, promoting myself, dealing with different promotions, contacting sponsors, etc. All of this is taken care of by my manager. Preparing for my title fight was extremely stressful. I was a full-time grad student, waiting tables, running my college wrestling team’s strength & conditioning, training, and dealing with all of the fight business. Hero Sports Management takes care of all the busy work that comes with marketing/promotion. I think anyone who wants to make MMA a profession should have a manager!

Q.And finally can you give us an idea of what you expect this experience to be like if you can imagine it at all? Also what will it lend to your work as a therapist in a physically and mentally demanding field?

     A. I am sure it is going to be an incredible experience. I will experience a multitude of emotions after. However, at the end of the day, the lights, organization, venue, etc are all the same. Those things truly don’t matter. In reality, I will be stepping in the cage to put my dreams and life on the line. I have been competing my whole life. I will not be caught up in the name “Bellator” or who I am fighting.

     B.MMA cultivates a desire to succeed.. I use my motivation and belief to help my patients. I use what we call “therapeutic use of self” when treating individuals who have suffered from any life changing event. The field is not physically too demanding, but it does help to be in shape. Many individuals cannot walk or move well. It takes a bit of strength to move someone who has a spinal cord injury. However, the field is mentally draining, at times. It is hard to work with people who may never get better or who may soon pass away.

I would like to thank: 

- My brother, sister, and parents for the incredible love and support! 

- All my friends who have supported me throughout the years. 

- My head coach at Fighting Arts Academy Jeremy Libiszewki. He is an incredible friend, coach, father, and husband. Without his guidance, I would not be where I am at in my MMA career. 

- My boxing coach Scott Labrie, my wrestling coach Willie Hilton, assistance thai coach Paulo Gomes, and my strength and conditioning coach Chris Kenney. 

- My training partners Matt Bessette, Nick Newell, Rob O’Connell, Vincent Ramirez, Leon Davis, Tony Maloni, Damien Trites, AIC Wrestling, and OSW Wrestling. 

- Brian O’Shaughnessy (AIC) for providing me with an opportunity to chase a dream. 

- My fans! It means the world to have the support of all of you! 

- The guys at for doing such a great job of covering the local MMA scene. It is incredible to have such strong advocates for this sport! 

- If I missed anyone, I am sorry! 

Thanks Jeff from all of us here at . Personally I would like to thank you for your outgoing nature and your ability to transfer your intensity to those around you. It meant alot to me to have you coaching along side my coach and mentor, Jeremy Riepold, during my last match-up of the day at King of The Mat 4.  You are truly an inspiration to those of us who follow your mma career, but also who are fortunate to make your acquaintance on a personal level. May your future be full of the success you've envisioned for yourself.

Best of luck,
Joe Leonard 
AKA"The Artist"

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