Growing up, Badr Hari was an obvious role model for Bellator 221’s Adil Benjilany — but he does not think a crossover to MMA would have gone well for the kickboxer.
Chicago, IL — Adil Benjilany has had a number of firsts in Bellator MMA. He’s the first Moroccan fighter in the promotion. He had his first (and second) wins in the organization last year. His first tentpole event was the Fedor vs. Mir card. At Bellator 221, he’ll be on his first DAZN card.
Things are looking up for Benjilany, who takes on Cris Lencioni this Saturday. And fighting out of Illinois (at the Midwest Training Center), he’ll have plenty of support at the AllState Arena. In fact, Benjilany figures out 300 people will come out to see him at Bellator 221.
“I have a lot of friends, a lot of family come in. I have my brother, especially my dad, he’s coming all the way from Morocco to watch the fight,” Benjilany told media outlets including Cageside Press at the Bellator 221 media day. “I promised him a long time ago I’m going to be on the big stages. As the first Moroccan, the first of my kind to be in Bellator, I’m so excited.”
“My family, my country, my people, people from Chicago… I’m going to make everyone proud,” he predicted.
To date, Dutch-Moroccan kickboxer Badr Hari is the biggest name in combat sports from Morocco, and not surprisingly, Benjilany looked up to him coming up.
“Badr Hari is a legend. I look at him as motivation for myself. I grew up watching Badr Hari,” he recalled. “The guy is the best of all time. He fought the best, the top hitters, in their prime. He beat them one after another, of course, no doubt.”
Yet a crossover is not something Benjilany thinks would have gone well. “I think Badr Hari in MMA, with all my respect, I love Badr Hari, he is a model for me. But MMA is a totally different game.”
As an example, look no further than another kickboxing ace, Gokhan Saki. “Gokhan Saki, he’s one of the best of all time, he fights [in MMA] for a different promotion, he didn’t do well,” Adil Benjilany pointed out. “I think for me, I love Badr Hari, I want him to stay in kickboxing. Stay with that.”
Watch the full Bellator 221 media day scrum with Adil Bejilany above!