John Makdessi is a traditional martial artist in every sense of the word. Unlike a lot of the younger MMA fighters, who begin their martial arts career pretty much right in MMA, Makdessi started tae kwon do at the age of six. He later moved on to Shotokan karate and achieved a black belt in both of those striking arts. Before ever stepping foot in a cage, he had won dozens of kickboxing matches.
But while he might have had a traditional beginning, that doesn’t mean that Makdessi is afraid to make changes. Despite over a decade in the UFC alone, Makdessi for his last two fight camps has mixed things up a bit.
“I’m in Phoenix, Arizona. I’ve been very happy over here, surrounded by good people and just a good connection, a good vibe,” Makdessi said. “It’s mostly at UKF [Ultimate Kombat Fitness] in collaboration with MMA Lab.”
Some of the move was designed for him to get some different looks. However, after clicking with a coach in the area, he began to feel like this was the place for him to stay.
“I got a lot of good bodies to move with, to kind of mimic my next opponent,” he said. “Also, I connected with a Mexican guy who lived in Arizona named Javier Torres. He has his own gym [UKF]. I’m just surrounded by good guys, good vibes and just trying to get to the best of my abilities.”
While it was the coaches and the skilled training partners that have kept him there, there was a different force that pulled him to the area in the first place. A fighter he looked up to, one that once was the king of the very division Makdessi fights in, lured him to the desert.
“I was always a big fan of Ben Henderson and he’s a great mentor. So I came here last year and I was happy with everything,” he said, noting he first visited prior to the Francisco Trinaldo fight. “So I’m trying to make it my second home. I love it.”
Now that he’s a little more settled in that second home, he has the task of bringing his first win home to it. Standing in front of him will be UFC newcomer Ignacio Bahamondes, a Contender Series veteran with flashy striking.
Despite the unique choice of opponent for a 17-fight UFC veteran, Makdessi isn’t thinking too much about Bahamondes or what he can do. With the experience he’s had, he figures he’s seen close to it all.
“I’m not really thinking too much about my opponent. I’m just thinking about getting mentally and physically ready for the next challenge,” Makdessi said. “I truly believe in my heart that I fought the top lightweights in the division. I fought the toughest guys and I don’t think he’s ever fought someone like me before.”
You can see Makdessi’s bout with Ignacio Bahamondes as part of the ESPN+ prelims of UFC Vegas 23 this Saturday.
Listen to the whole audio of this interview at 2:39.