American Kickboxing Academy is well known for producing some of the best talent in Mixed Martial Arts today. Located in San Jose, California, A.K.A. is a home to MMA veterans such as Muhammed Lawal, Josh Koscheck, Daniel Cormier, Mike Kyle, Jon Fitch, Mike Swick, Josh Thomson, Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold, UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, and many others. But there are also fighters the majority of MMA community probably never heard of. Raw talent that serves as a backbone for A.K.A.'s status as one of the top MMA gyms on the planet.
One of those fighters is the 7-0 prospect Noad Lahat. Born in Israel, Lahat is widely considered as one of the best fighters to ever come out of the Middle East, thanks to exceptional ground game and a high level striking. I was lucky to see Noad Lahat in action at Desert Combat 7, that was also the first MMA event I ever attended. Since then, Lahat's biggest achievement is 1st place in 2010 No-Gi BJJ World Championships as a Brown Belt in Featherweight division. Lahat was originally scheduled to fight at the biggest stage of them all - the UFC Octagon, but the 27-year old Featherweight had to postpone his plans due to an injury.
LowKick.com's Photography Extraordinaire Scott Hirano made the trip to San Jose California to follow Noad Lahat's training at A.K.A.'s brand new state of the art gym. We also had an opportunity to interview Lahat, who shared thoughts about training alongside some of the best fighters on the planet, the possibility of being the first Israeli fighter to compete in the UFC, and the curren direction of his career as a Mixed Martial Artist.
As always, please follow Scott Hirano on Twitter @ScottHirano. Scott's Facebook page can be found here. Also, check out the A.K.A. website at AKAKickbox.com. New A.K.A. Gym is located at 1791 Hillsdale Ave in San Jose, CA 95124.
You are currently training at American Kickboxing Academy Gym in San Jose, California. What kind of influence it had on you as a fighter?
I see the guys that I'm training with working hard and training daily, and I see their hard work pay off. It has also had an impact on my training, making me the complete MMA fighter that I am today. Training with the best guys in the business, the best wrestlers, the best strikers, and the best Jiu Jitsu guys, basically the best athletes out there, has taken me to another level. It's helped me close the holes in my game, mentally, technically, and physically.
AKA recently moved to new facilities. What can you say about it from MMA fighter’s point of view?
The new AKA facility in San Jose, it's like heaven for fighters. We have everything we can ask for, there is nothing I can think of that we don't have right there at our facility. I don't have to go to various locations for different things, everything is right there. It's helped us as a team to train with state of the art equipment, and helps us to be better prepared for fights.
What can you tell about your training partners, and who’s your role model when it comes to fighting?
My training partners are my teammates, the people I spend all day every day with. We push each other, teach each other, and correct each others mistakes, making each other grow as athletes. I love the AKA team because we all train extremely hard, and we all have the same goal in mind: victory. When it comes to fighting, my role models are my teammates who've made names for themselves in this industry. I train with these guys who have made it in the big shows because of their hard work, dedication, and the sacrifices they've made to get where they are.
There were rumors about your possible signature with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Could you give more light on the situation?
Yes, I was supposed to fight in the UFC, but it's on hold for the moment. I suffered an injury that prevented me from fighting for a bit, and in the mean time other UFC fighters moved down from 155lbs to 145lbs, the TUF season coming up is my weight class, and they've signed a few more fighters at 145. Needless to say, my weight class is a little impacted at the moment. Now I'm just waiting for my call and looking forward for the opportunity to fight the top level guys in my division, because that's the level that I'm at.
Your record is 5-0, but you competed only once in 2010 and are yet to fight in 2011. When you are planning to fight again, and how important it is for you to stay busy?
My record is actually 7-0. I had one official fight in 2010, but I fight 3 times a week in the gym the top level guys in the sport today, lol. That is how hard we train. It is very important for me to stay busy and in shape, and I'm always ready for a fight. But what can you do when people don't want to fight you? I can't tell you how many people backed out of fights or turned down fights against me. It's a problem we all face in AKA, we have a reputation for being strong fighters and when people hear you are from AKA they don't want to fight you. I'll fight any body any time, I'm always in shape and ready to fight. Even though I didn't have many fights, I stayed busy and focused quite a bit on Jiu Jitsu. I won the World Championship, Rio State, and US Open in BJJ which I'm really proud of. I spent some time down in Brazil training with my teachers the Vieira brothers and got my black belt from them, which was a major accomplishment and helped my MMA game.
You could’ve become the first Israeli fighter to ever compete in the UFC. How do you feel about it, and do you feel any pressure in being “the debutant”?
The first Israeli fighter in the octagon and how do i feel? I can't f#$%ing wait! That is the dream of every fighter,and this is why I'm doing that. I have sacrificed so much for just that. Pressure? No, I don't feel pressure... I feel excitement and hunger, extreme hunger.
What can you tell about the MMA scene in Israel?
The truth is that I haven't been involved in the scene in Israel for the last few years, so I can't really say too much about it. But in my last visit home I went to an MMA event and I was impressed by the level of the young fighters. There are a few other fighters that I think can make it big.
What is like the life of MMA fighter? What’s your regular day schedule?
I can tell you that the life of a good fighter is boring most of the time, believe it or not. Especially during a fight camp. My schedule is usually the same every day - wake up in the morning and eat, then I like to talk to my family in the morning because of the time difference. Then I go to the gym to teach and train BJJ at 10:45, than at 12:00 team training till 02:00, go home, eat, rest, and then by 05:30 I'm back at the gym again till 08:30. Then I go home, eat, watch some TV and relax and then go to bed. Didn't I say it was boring?
What are your goals for the end of 2011 / start of 2012? Where do you see yourself?
I want to be healthy and ready to fight. That's about as much as I can say. You'll be seeing a few things in the near future.
Finally, Your AKA teammate Cain Velasquez will fight Junior Dos Santos in the main event of UFC n Fox 1. What’s your prediction for the fight?
My prediction is an ass whooping by Cain, big time, that is where my money is!