Hakeem Dawodu had to force himself to tune out the crowd in his hometown of Calgary as he battled his way to a unanimous decision win over Austin Arnett.
Calgary, AB — Losing your first UFC fight is never fun. Getting a second chance at your first win in front of your hometown fans, however, is a nice way to bounce back. That’s the situation Hakeem Dawodu found himself in over the weekend at UFC Calgary. On Saturday night, he was given a second chance to make a first impression. This time, he delivered.
Dawodu (8–1–1) was choked out in his debut by Danny Henry this past March in London. Prior to that, he had been a hot prospect on the rise, fighting his entire career in the World Series of Fighting. Come Calgary, the story was about redemption, and putting on a show for the hometown crowd. Dawodu was born in Calgary, so there was no question the crowd would be behind him. However, he also had to force himself to tune them out at times.
“A lot of weight is lifted off my shoulders,” he admitted. It was a matter of not letting opponent Austin Arnett come into Calgary and steal a victory, and proving to the UFC that he belonged. In the end he got the win, a three round unanimous decision.
It was a hot crowd, and Dawodu had one of the loudest reactions of any fighter on the card. That could have been distracting, however. “To be honest,” he told reporters back stage, “I was making sure the crowd didn’t play [into] any part of my game plan. I didn’t want to walk into something stupid or get overexcited. I just wanted to make sure all I listened to was my team behind me.”
Despite that the featherweight was thankful for the support. “As much as I said I was making sure the crowd wasn’t playing to me, it was really nice to just feel all the love, everyone behind me,” Dawodu said. “It gave me energy, especially at the end there.”
Check out the full post-fight press scrum with Hakeem Dawodu above!