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Mixed martial arts fans in Calgary might not know the name Hakeem Dawodu.
But that’s about to change.
The 26-year-old featherweight with an undefeated record of 7-0-1 signed a four-fight deal with the UFC on Friday, elevating him to the biggest stage in MMA.
“I thought it was about time, that was the thought that kinda went through my head,” he told CBC News.
“I feel like I should have been here a year ago, maybe even two years ago, so I just need to make up for a loss of time and really get down to business and let the fans and let the world see who I really am.”
Who he is is an explosive 145-pounder with an aggressive style and lightning fast hands.
“Expect to see the same stuff except a lot better,” he said.
“People know I’m aggressive, I’m an action fighter, I’m always looking for the finish and I never gas. I just keep going until I get the job done.”
Along with looking to make a name for himself, the five-foot-eight tall fighter says he’ll will be looking for a world title down the road.
Dawodu, who grew up in Inglewood, is the second fighter from Calgary to be signed to the UFC, following in the footsteps of middleweight, Nick Ring.
Dawodu started in Muay Thai kickboxing under the tutelage of Mike Miles and it wasn’t until he went pro that his interest turned to MMA, which he trains for at Champion’s Creed in Calgary.
His MMA career so far has mostly been with the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) organization, where he amassed a 7-0-1 record.
Dawodu will now move his camp to the famed Jackson Wink MMA gym in Albuquerque, N.M., where he’ll be training alongside the likes of former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm and current featherweight contender, Cub Swanson.
“We’re in the UFC so everybody is at the top of their game,” he said. “I know my assets and I know my skill set and I know I have what it takes to be number one and get that world title and bring it back to Calgary.”
The reason for the move south, he explained, is the need for high level competition.
“It’s hard to find sparring partners at my level,” he said. “I need to make sure I’m facing guys who are giving me a challenge and pushing me. I can’t be out here just being comfortable all the time. I have to get used to being uncomfortable. Iron sharpens iron so the high level [fighters] I’ll be able to train with is only going to make me a better athlete.”
He last fought in March, a unanimous decision win over Steven Siler at WSOF35 in New York, and the only blemish on his record is a December 2015 draw against Marat Magomedov at WSOF26 in Las Vegas, which he avenged in his very next outing.
UFC officials have told Dawodu to be ready for his first fight under their banner in January or February 2018, and he says he already feels ready.
“I know I have to work my way up so whatever name they intend on giving me, I intend on putting him away,” he said. “I’ll get some spectacular knockouts, then I can break through that Top 10 and really starting making a mark.”
Another goal is to one day headline a UFC card in Calgary.
“I feel like once I put together a couple of knockouts, and I got the fans going crazy, why wouldn’t they bring it back here?” he said.
“I’ve got a good following… a lot of good support, I think it would be foolish not to.”
His nickname may be Mean Hakeem, but Dawodu is anything but — outside the octagon.
“I’m a very classic fighter, I let my hands do the talking,” he said. “I’m not really the biggest trash talker. I feel like all the excitement from my fights speaks for itself.”
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