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'Mean' Hakeem Dawodu prepares for UFC 244

Fresh off his 10th win as a professional after knocking out Yoshinori Horie July 27 in Edmonton, local Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight "Mean" Hakeem Dawodu is hard at work preparing for the next time he steps into the octagon.

Dawodu will take on American Julio Arce Nov. 2 in the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York City.

After taking some time off to recover from his last bout, the 28-year-old fighter got back into the gym with his trainer, Eric de Guzman, who owns a private training centre known as Teofista Boxing Stables, just northeast of Cochrane.

"Training has been going good. It's not too far after my last fight in Edmonton so my weight isn't too high, and this training camp was a lot more natural and easy because I was already in shape," Dawodu said. "So, the main focus behind this camp was staying healthy and not getting injured – I had a bit of an injury going into my last fight, but if I'm able to stay healthy, everybody knows what I'm capable of."

According to Dawodu, the average fighter takes four-to-six months between fights to find the weight they're fighting at and take care of any injuries before they begin preparing for their next match.

"After my last fight, I had a little bit of a hard weight cut and then, obviously, got injured, so I went down to (Las) Vegas to the UFC Performance Institution, ran some tests to fix up my diet, fix my neck and get my muscles straight in order to see what I could do for the next camp in order to make everything easier," he said.

"I came back to Calgary with the knowledge of the nutrition diet I need to follow [and] how much weight I need to lose per week, and then just got back into the same grind.”

The venue for his next bout will be special – Madison Square Garden is one of the most well-known sporting venues in the world. The facility hosted one of history's most legendary boxing matches in 1974, when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier duked it out in a match-up that became known as the “Fight of the Century.”

This will be Dawodu's first time competing in the historic venue, and he said he’s not really sure what to expect from the building, or what the crowd will be like when he lines up across from Arce.

"I've never been there before so I don't really know how big it is, but hearing people talking about it, everyone keeps telling me, 'This is big, this is big,’” he said. “It's a big fight, I feel honoured, and I'm just so focused on my training I haven't really thought about the magnitude of the event and the venue."

Considering his opponent will be fighting in his home city, Dawodu believes he’ll have the crowd against him.

"I'm guessing the crowd will be on [Arce’s] side – he's American and he's from New York – but I've been in that situation plenty of times,” he said. “I expect it to be really loud, people's a big fight but, as I've said, this is my 70th career fight so I'm made for this, I'm built for this, it's my time and I'm going to do me and worry about that. I don't really get surprised anymore."

There are fewer than 30 male and female Canadian UFC fighters, with the majority hailing out of eastern Canada. While it took some time, Dawodu said he's trying to be the best role model he can be for kids everywhere, but especially those who come from western Canada like he did.

"I was born in Calgary, I've been training here at Cochrane's Teofista Boxing for at least six years now,” he said. “At first, I never really looked at myself [as a role model], but when people come up to you saying that you inspire them to train, you have so many people behind you and looking up to you, I guess I see it now.

"I definitely want to use this stature that I have to set a good example and to keep inspiring people. I didn't do this to be a motivational speaker, but if I can do that, I'm more than happy to do it along the way of carving out my path."


Troy Durrell

About the Author: Troy Durrell

Troy is the Sports and Entertainment Reporter for the Cochrane Eagle.
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