Kamal Shalorus returns to fighting at One FC: Rise to Power on Friday after a year-long layoff, but it hasn’t been any easy road to get to this point. The road was rocky, leading Shalorus to reinvent himself en route back to the cage.
Prior to making his UFC debut in March 2011, Shalorus was one of the more promising fighters in the promotion’s stacked lightweight division.
Undefeated, with two draws to his credit, the Iranian born wrestler was regarded as a fighter to watch in the now-defunct WEC. During his WEC tenure, Shalorus amassed three impressive wins, and one hotly contested majority draw against the organization’s former lightweight champion, and current UFC employee, Jamie Varner.
So when word came down that Shalorus would be making his UFC debut against Jim Miller at UFC 128, many thought that the WEC workhorse could make waves in the world’s premiere fighting organization.
Unfortunately for Shalorus, the universe had different plans. He lost his UFC debut against Miller. Prospects only became more bleak for the UFC newcomer when he went on to lose his next two fights in the Octagon – against Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rafael Dos Anjos – effectively completing a three-fight skid and seeing him released from the company.
“During the UFC, I had a tough time. And really, mentally, I wasn’t there. I was cheating myself,” explained Shalorus to MMAWeekly.com. “Because, first of all, fighting isn’t a career. So, when I went back home, my family, they really attacked me. They said, ‘Hey! What are you doing? You don’t have any career. What are you going to do when you get old?’”
After the troubles in the UFC, Shalorus found himself without a job; something his family was hounding him about prior to even being cut.
Ironically, despite being at the pinnacle of his sport, Shalorus’ loved ones were pressuring him day and night to get a “real job,” putting unwanted pressure on the 35-year-old.
With the mounting pressures from the people he cared for the most consuming his psyche, Shalorus simply caved to the complexity of his situation.
“After that, I got weaker and weaker. I couldn’t train. I couldn’t focus, and I lost my fight. I just gave up,” he said.
Popular opinion would lead you to believe that being in the UFC would afford you some sort of financial security. That is rarely the case for a fighter that steps in, competes, and is then released following losses. Fight promotion is a cutthroat business with the majority of the earning being relegated to top-tier fighters. It’s not uncommon for well-known fighters to procure “day jobs” just to be able to afford training and other expenses in between fights.
After his stint in the UFC, a jobless and confused Shalorus relocated to Washington D.C. in hopes of a fresh start. He began teaching at a local gym to pay the bills, and eventually a shimmer of light began to break on the dimming horizon.
With a little help from some caring friends, the down-on-his-luck former UFC fighter went back to school. With a steady support group of dedicated teachers and friends, Shalorus used his newly acquired focus to gain a contractor’s license to begin work around the greater D.C. area, effectively changing his life forever.
“In the last year I didn’t fight, I accomplished in my life so much,” he proclaimed. “I’ve become more educated. I started reading more. I got help from so many good teachers in America. People, they give you opportunity in everything. They come to my house, they teach me. They teach me mathematics, English, and I passed my (contractor) test.”
Now, after being out of fighting for almost a year, and with some stability on the “real job” front, “The Prince of Persia” has signed with Asian MMA powerhouse ONE FC. The former Olympic wrestling hopeful makes his promotional debut on May 31 in Pasay, Philippines, when he squares off with native Filipino and hometown favorite Eduard Folayang.
After battling the pressures of his UFC journey and subsequent family pressure, an invigorated and refocused Shalorus now finds himself fighting against Folayang for the one that could easily have been lost: passion.
“So I want to fight for my pride, first – get my pride back,” said Shalorus matter-of-factly. “Then for my people, the people who have helped me. I want to thank them. Fighting is my passion. Like someone who loves painting or music, fighting is that for me. Fighting makes me more relaxed. It makes my life complete.
“Life has become so good. You know, fighting isn’t a career. It’s my passion. I love fighting. So I train every morning and evening. I still have some time in my life for fighting before I have to throw it away. I still want to fight, and luckily ONE FC gave me a fight, and a chance to prove myself again.”
At 35, it may have taken the native Iranian a bit longer than his family would have liked to get his life straightened out, but as the old saying goes, “better late than never,” right?
With a steady job, a refocused approach and a new fighting home, Shalorus still has a return to the UFC on his mind. But first, he wants to conquer the challenges that await him in Asia, in his new home of ONE FC.
“I would like to get back to the UFC,” he said. “I’d (also) like to get the ONE FC belt. I’m still very healthy and I have been around a long time. You understand the game better with time. It’s a challenge and I’m a competitor. I’ve been doing this since we were kids and that’s the mentality I have.”
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