John Makdessi: “I’ve Fought With Strikers and They’ve Wanted to Take me Down”
Undefeated Lightweight Hoping to “Prove” Himself Against Veteran Dennis Hallman
By Kelsey Mowatt
When you make your Octagon debut having competed in less than ten professional bouts, chances are that many of your proceeding fights will come against more experienced MMA competitors. Case in point, the undefeated John Makdessi, who after fighting his way to the UFC armed with a 7-0 record, has since scored wins over vets like Pat Audinwood and Kyle Watson.
Up next, however, Makdessi won’t face a fighter with say five or ten more bouts under their belts, he’ll take on a veteran who has competed in nearly 60 more pro MMA fights. That man is Dennis Hallman, and the Tristar lightweight is evidently looking forward to the challenge.
“Every fight for me is a big name fight,” said Makdessi, while discussing his upcoming December 10th bout with Hallman, which will take place at UFC 140 in Toronto. “But of course, because he has so much experience and has fought a lot of good fighters, it’s a really good opportunity for me to prove myself.”
While Hallman began competing professionally in MMA nearly 12 years before Makdessi did, the 26 year-old Canadian is quick to point out that he’s spent the vast majority of his life training and fighting.
“I maybe a freshman in MMA, but I have a background in kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do and Karate,” Makdessi noted. “I’ve been competing all my life; fighting is my life, competing is in my blood. There’s not too many fighters that have done the transitions that I have. I transitioned from Tae Kwon Do, to Karate, to kickboxing and then to MMA.”
“I’ve only been doing MMA professionally for three years, so of course Hallman is more experienced,” Makdessi added. “But fighting is fighting. I don’t look just at that. For me I look at it as just another opponent in front of my face.”
Of course, this extensive martial arts background would help explain why Makdessi entered the UFC carrying a reputation as an accomplished striker, abilities he further demonstrated in April, when he knocked Watson out with a spinning back fist.
“I’ve fought with strikers and they’ve wanted to take me down,” said Makdessi while discussing his abilities as a fighter. “In the gym, I train with a lot of good stand-up guys, and a lot of them want to take me down. I can wrestle and grapple everyday for the rest of my life, but in my heart, I want to strike. I’ve been wrestling and grappling for many years, but people just see my stand-up because I want to put on a good show. That’s what I love to do.”
On the other hand, while there’s no question that Hallman has developed into a well rounded fighter throughout his decade plus career, the 35 year-old is more feared for his submission skills and ground game.
“It’s not old school anymore where people haven’t seen a guy fight,” Makdessi said. “I’ve watched Dennis Hallman fight to give me an idea; I already know how he fights but as a fighter you have to be ready for anything. My main concern is always myself…When you lose, you lose not because of the opponent, but because they did something wrong. This is why I train every day, and go over things a thousand times, so that everything is instinct when I fight…Whatever Dennis brings to the table I have to be ready for it.”
Aside from how the two will match-up stylistically, another interesting storyline is the fact that Hallman is dropping down to lightweight, after competing at welterweight and above for approximately a decade.
“That’s his choice,” Makdessi told FCF. “Cutting weight is no joke. It’s very serious. I fight at 155 and I’m hoping to stay at 155. I don’t go up and down. I walk around 180 and make the jump to 155…I don’t train to cut weight; I train to become a better fighter. A lot of fighters do the opposite.”