Razak Al-Hassan hit the UFC’s light heavyweight division in Dec. 2008 as an undefeated 7-0 fighter. His first fight was against Steve Cantwell at “UFC: Fight for the Troops.” Unfortunately, he nor his arm came out on the winning end in that one.

His next fight was in Oct. 2009 at UFC 104 against Kyle Kingsbury. It was a close fight, but the judges leaned toward Kingsbury with a split decision.

Razak now finds himself in a unique situation. It is not something we like to talk about, but the truth is, if he has one more loss, the UFC could send him packing.

Razak spoke with us at ProMMA.info this week about the possibility of a future outside the UFC, and it not being the end of the world, or a fighter’s career. Razak also talked to us about Tae Kwon Do in Iowa, the Duke Rufus Academy, how it feels to take leg kicks from Pat Barry, and much more. ProMMA.info proudly presents Mr. Razak “Razor” Al-Hassan… Enjoy.

PROMMA.INFO: Thank you Razak for speaking with us here at ProMMA.info. How were you first “discovered” by the UFC?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: I was first discovered by the UFC when they needed a 205 fighter to fill in on last minute at the August 2008 pay-per-view in Minneapolis headlined by GSP vs Jon Fitch. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva contacted my manager asking him if new anyone at 205 that could fill in. My manager showed Joe a Youtube video of my first MMA fight and an hour later my manager was faxed a UFC contract.

PROMMA.INFO: That’s a great story. Your UFC profile says you were born in Ames, Iowa – but your background is in Tae Kwon Do. How does that happen? I thought it was all wrestling in Iowa.
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: For some reason amateur wrestling never appealed to me as kid. In hindsight I wish I had done it now but I always entertained with films with Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and other martial artists who used fancy kicks and punches in film. I wanted to learn that and the most readily available martial art in the area was Tae Kwon Do so I got my mom to sign me up.

PROMMA.INFO: What is your family’s nationality, how did you end up in Iowa, and what was it like growing up there?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: My parents are from a west African country called Ghana. My parents came here in the 80’s so that my dad could pursue his doctorate at Iowa State University in Ames. I liked growing up in Ames. Wasn’t too big but wasn’t too small either, and because of the university it had a larger multicultural presence than other Iowan towns.

PROMMA.INFO: You train with the Duke Roufus camp (Roufusport). How did you get hooked up with those guys, how long have you been there, and what separates that camp from some of the other well known gyms?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: After I lost my first UFC fight to Steve Cantwell back in December ’08, I knew I had to make a dramatic change to my approach to training and where I trained with. I knew about Duke’s reputation as a world class kickboxer and instructor and I knew he had a plethora of good talent at his gym such as Pat Barry and Red Schafer. Since the gym was relatively close to home and wouldn’t require a huge change in my lifestyle to train there, I contacted Duke at the beginning of 2009 about training there and he was more than happy to have me there. I’ve been training with Roufusport since Aug ’09. The gym has everything. Great kickboxers, great boxers, great wrestlers, great grapplers, say I get everything I need under one roof. Everyone learns from everyone there. There is not one guy who is the best at everything so we all help each other in areas, kind of like a natural checks & balance system. The atmosphere is very welcoming as well and there are no egos at the gym. I’m proud to be a member of the gym.

It's a good idea to block these things if they come toward your face at high speeds.

PROMMA.INFO: What is it like getting kicked in the leg by Pat Barry? Do you have any good Pat Barry “gym stories?”
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: Getting kicked by Pat Barry is like chopping up fresh onions. You know it’s going to sting so you just to grin and bare it. Man, I always heard horror stories about his kicks so when I sparred with him for the first time I was trying to watch out for that. He’s a world class kickboxer so I couldn’t avoid them for too long. I took a couple shots, they hurt but I thought I was okay, I thought it was manageable. Oh my god, the next three days I could barely walk! I was using icy hot and popping ibuprofen like skittles. After that you better believe I started addressing him as Mr. Barry.

PROMMA.INFO: That’s hilarious. What are you studying in school – what is your major? What field of work do you want to go into?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: I took some time off from academia so I can focus on my UFC career but I plan to resume taking classes again. I want to get my bachelors in business administration.

PROMMA.INFO: Will your degree be more of a “back up” plan or something you can do after fighting, or do you want to be like Shane Carwin and work full time and be a pro fighter?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: Going to school is more for my own personal gratification. I’ve been going to school on and off since 2000 and I wouldn’t feel complete as a person if I didn’t eventually finish what I started and get my degree. I did the whole working full time and training and it’s not for me. I would like to use my business degree in the future when my fighting career is done to possibly open up my own training facility.

PROMMA.INFO: That’s a good plan. You came into the UFC with an undefeated 6-0 record. Unfortunately, your first two fights have not gone your way. Is there anything you are going to try to do different in preparing for your next fight?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: I actually came into the UFC with 7 wins under my belt. Some sites have/had my MMA record incorrectly. I feel I made the necessary adjustments in my training after the Cantwell fight by joining up with Roufusport. The more time I spend training there will show in my fights in the future without a doubt.

PROMMA.INFO: How important is it to you to win your next UFC fight – is there a lot of pressure?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: I feel I have more internal pressure on myself than anything to win my next fight. Going 0-2 in the UFC leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and I really want to redeem myself especially since I feel I haven’t scratched the surface of my potential yet.

PROMMA.INFO: I hate to ask this question, but if for some reason you were to get cut by the UFC, how would it affect you, and what would be your game plan at that point? (Sorry for even asking that!!!)
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: Honestly, getting cut by the UFC wouldn’t be the end of the world. There are alot of fighters, even fighters currently on the UFC roster that are on their 2nd or 3rd stint with the promotion. I know if I were to get cut I would just need to put together some good wins in other shows and I could be back possibly. Im 27 years old, been fighting for 2 years, and I don’t even have 10 pro fights. I still have a long career ahead of me. My best days are ahead of me.

PROMMA.INFO: I read where Chuck Grigsby is one of your heroes. For those who don’t know, could you tell them who Grigsby is, and also why you look up to him so much?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: Chuck Grigsby is another professional MMA fighter. He is the current Victory Fighting Championship 205 champion. He started training MMA before I even knew what it was. He was a great training partner to me and helped me out tremendously. He’s like an older brother to me and watched out for me when it came to the business side of fighting at the beginning of my career.

"Dude, get your fist out of my throat, I have to use this to eat!"
"Dude, get your fist off my jaw, I have to use this to eat!"

PROMMA.INFO: I wanted to ask you about the things Steve Cantwell said after your fight with him. Did you have any hard feelings toward him for gloating like that?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: I think Steve is a real cool guy. I never had any animosity or hard feelings towards him. He took alot of flak for his post fight comments but he’s a young guy, had adrenaline pumping, and was excited by his first UFC win, I don’t hold that against him. In fact, the day after the fight, when the fighters were being transported back to the airport, I sat next to him on the bus and we had a good conversation. Even to this day we will text each other before big fights and wish each other good luck.

PROMMA.INFO: That is really cool. Could you talk a little about that fight from your perspective, how you felt the fight was going, how it ended, and your thoughts immediately after it was over.
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: I thought the fight was going pretty well until I was taken down. Steve was the last WEC 205 champion and I thought I was going blow for blow with him and I thought it had the makings of earning the “Fight of the Night” honors. I had no problem with the referee stopping the fight even though I would have fought with one arm if I was allowed to. The ref was just looking out for my safety. I was pretty disappointed in myself after the fight because I not only lost my first MMA bout but it was in the UFC. I thought I showed some potential and that if I worked hard I could compete with the best.

PROMMA.INFO: Your second fight in the UFC was against Kyle Kingsbury at UFC 104. What is your opinion on how that fight went, your performance, and how did you feel about the close split decision?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: No disrespect to Kyle but I thought I won that fight 2 rounds to 1. I take responsibility in that I could have been more aggressive with him but I still thought I won a decision. I gave the first round to him but I believed I secured the last two rounds, so when I was told it was a split decision for him I was really taken by surprise. Any fighter takes a gamble when a fight goes to decision because you never know whats going to happen, especially these days it seems. I give props to Kyle for bringing it but I thought I won.

PROMMA.INFO: What is next for “Razor” Razak? Any word on your next fight yet?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: No word on my next fight yet. I’m hoping for something in the first quarter next year. In the meantime I’m just going to train for improvement and sharpen my tools. I actually value my time between fights because I train and focus on my technique without the stress and pressure of a bout.

PROMMA.INFO: What is your opinion of the current UFC 205-pound division and it’s champion Lyoto Machida?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: Lyoto Machida is one of my favorite fighters. I love his style since we both come from traditional martial arts. He’s one of the best pound for pound fighters. As for the 205 pound division, that division is blood in and blood out man. You have to bleed, or in my case, get broken to get into the division and you typically leave the division violently. It’s a very difficult division to traverse. Any guy in the division could potentially be wearing the belt because there is just so much talent there.

PROMMA.INFO: Did you get to see the Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera fight at UFC 105? What was your opinion on the fight? Can you believe Couture is making another run at the light heavyweight title?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: I really respect Couture for fighting at his age, its truly inspirational. His fight with Vera wasn’t the most exciting fight but he did enough to win according to the judges scorecard. A lot of people were screaming that Vera got robbed but I didn’t think so. I don’t see Couture winning the 205 belt but if he did win I wouldn’t be shocked.

I wonder if that hurts. Body kick by Razak.

PROMMA.INFO: If Joe Silva called you up and said, “Razak, we have a fight for you. We need you to fight Randy Couture at UFC 115.” What would be your reaction?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: I would be super excited to fight Randy! Hall-of-famer and multi time divisional champion, it would truly be an honor and a win over him, despite his age, would be huge for my career. I would say yes before Joe could get finished asking me.

PROMMA.INFO: Thank you so much Razak for taking the time to speak with us. I wish you the best of luck. You are still very young and I know you have a bright future in the sport. Are there any sponsors or anyone you would like to thank before we let you go?
RAZAK AL-HASSAN: I want to thank Tapout and Concedemma.com. Thanks again Jack for the interview, I really enjoyed it and thanks for your encouragement, appreciate it.

By:  Jack Bratcher

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