UFC fighter pauses career to rejoin Israel Defense Forces
Noad Lahat, an Israeli mixed martial arts fighter who is currently competing under the banner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has decided to put his prizefighting career on hold to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces in the conflict with Hamas militants at the Gaza strip.
A military life has long been a part of the Lahat family as his parents were former generals, while Noad served three-and-a-half years in the paratroopers’ brigade of the Israeli armed forces.
In addition, his older brother and sister took part in the military service as well, and his younger sibling is expected to do same in the near future.
A sequence of back-and-forth incidents involving unsuccessful peace negotiations, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, and the death of a Palestinian youngster led to the recent spark in the unending crisis.
Although the Israeli government does not compel its citizens who are outside the country like Lahat to return and serve, the 30-year-old native of Samaria, Israel affirmed that he is determined to temporarily hang up his four-ounce gloves to defend his nation.
“I'm having fun here, but I'll have nowhere to go back home if I don't go there. If me and my friends, my brothers-in-arms, won't go to defend my country, we'll have nowhere to go. It's something I really don't want to do. I want to stay here and enjoy the rest of the week after two tough months, but I have to go. Otherwise, I'm not going to have a home," he said in his post-fight interview after beating Steven Siler via unanimous decision at UFC on FOX 12 over the weekend.
Lahat also shared that while in the United States preparing for his three-round tussle against Siler, his family was fighting for survival amidst the latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which had weighed heavily both on his heart and mind as he tried to focus on the bout.
"My mom and dad have 15 seconds to run to get shelter when missiles are falling on them and I'm here in sunny California. I love California, but I need to go and defend my home. As a combat soldier, there's nothing I want more in the world than peace. I don't want to see my younger brother go in the army. I don't want to see me and my other brother going back home on Sunday. I don't want to see more killing and more blood the only blood should be in the Octagon," he stated.
The 5-foot-9 featherweight admitted that he had a horrible training camp as he never got more than two hours of sleep at night, but he had to show up in the morning and train at American Kickboxing Academy under the tutelage of Bob Cook.
“During last two months, I haven’t slept one full night. I was waking up every hour to check my phone to see if I got messages and see if my family called me,” Lahat recalled.
Holding up the Israeli flag after being announced as the victor, “Neo” dedicated his triumph over Siler to his family and added that the ongoing predicament motivated him to push himself and get the elusive victory.
“I wanted to show my flag and use my victory to give my family strength in this dark time,” Lahat pointed out.
After riding high on seven-fight winning streak, Lahat made his first Octagon appearance in March 2014 at UFC Fight Night 38, where he lost to Godofredo Castro via knockout courtesy of a flying knee.
With the win over Siler, he bounced back from the aforementioned defeat and improved his professional MMA record to 8-1. - Rappler.com