American Top Team rising star: Hayder Hassan – ProMMAnow.com exclusive interview

Photo by Dave Mandel/Strikeforce.com - Hayder Hassan vs. Ryan Keenan at "Strikeforce: Miami".

27-year-old welterweight, Hayder Hassan (3-1) is part of the crop of young up-and-coming ┬átalent that is being grown at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. Most recently, Hayder fought on the “Strikeforce: Miami” preliminary card on Jan. 30, where he knocked out Ryan Keenan at 2:42 of the second round. It was his third win, and his third knockout.

Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com) talked to Hayder this week about his entire Strikeforce experience, what he thought about the whole production, what is next for him, and much more.

Hayder, thank you for speaking with us at Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com). First, I wanted to say congratulations on your knockout victory over Ryan Keenan at “Strikeforce: Miami.” How did it feel to get the KO win in your Strikeforce debut?
Thanks! It felt great to get in there and get that knock out. Ryan had skills and I didn’t want to rush into anything and leave myself open. I wanted to take my time and when I would see an open spot I would attack. After weeks and weeks of hard training it was a great ending.

For those of us who were not at the fights, could you tell us how you felt the night of the fight, how did it feel when you stepped in the cage, how the fight played out, did he hurt you at all, and how you ended up getting the knockout?
The night of the fight I was very relaxed, excited, and confident. I had prepared as much as possible. Coming from ATT you are only traing with the best. I knew whatever happened during the fight it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. Stepping in the cage I was excited that the time had arrived. The first round I wanted to take my time and figure out his movements. We had some exchanges in the first and after dropping him I knew I was hurting him. I came in jabbing, saw the opening and threw the right. It landed and the fight was over.

Did you know much about Ryan Keenan before this fight, were you familiar with him?
I knew he had fought a teammate of mine and had beat him. I knew he had good jujitsu and some boxing experience. I knew he was a tough kid and an athlete. I knew he would come ready to fight.

Have you talked to anyone from Strikeforce since the bout; is there a chance we could see you back inside the Strikeforce cage one day?
I havent spoke with anyone from Strikeforce just yet. I had a great time fighting for their promotion so I would like to come back.

What is next for you Hayder, do you have any other fights scheduled right now?
My brother is getting ready to fight in Denver March 13th. Im going to head out to Denver and help him get ready for his fight. They have high altitude training, so I should get in great shape. I have a fight lined up this April.

Who are some of the main guys you work with there at American Top Team?
I am blessed to have a whole team of great fighters. Everyone is one big family. I work with Hector Lombard, Tiago Alves, Luigi Fioravanti, Tiago Silva. To have a camp and support group like some of these guys is a huge advantage. You grow and learn real fast.

What type of sports background do you have and how did you get involved with MMA?
I played contact sports my whole life. I loved to compete. In high school I played football and wrestled. I started training at American Top Team as an amateur with the desire to get in good shape and learn some technique. Once I started training I just got addicted to the sport. I loved the fact that it is man vs. man. You have no one to blame but yourself. High pressure situation and everything on the line. It doesnt get any better then that.

What was your opinion of the entire Strikeforce production and fights compared to other organizations you have fought for?
I enjoyed the entire event. To be on that card was an awesome experience. The whole fight card was stacked so it was a great privilege to fight and win. I would love to come back and represent for them.

Which fight did you enjoy watching the most and why? What is your opinion of Herschel Walker fighting MMA and did you think of his performance?
I like watching Melvin fight. Even though he lost I’m a fan of his. He is so powerful and explosive. You know every time he fights you are going to see fireworks. I have a lot of respect for Herschel. To come and train MMA when you’re his age is no easy task. Your body takes a lot of abuse. For him to have the desire to step in the cage and fight I think is awesome.

Thank you Hayder for taking time out to chat with us. We wish you the best of luck in your career, we’ll be rooting for you, and I’m sure we’ll catch up with you down the road. Are there any sponsors you want to thank or do you have any shout outs?
Thank you! I appreciate it. I would like to thank my camp and my boys at American Top Team, my sponsors Tapout, Champion Nutrition, Crystal Palace Arcade, JL Audio, and First Round Management.

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