Bristol-based fighter Nad Narimani returns to Cage Warriors on Saturday, hoping to showcase an improved version of himself. He has spent a lot of time working with the newest coaching addition at his home gym, Sweat Box, a boxing trainer who has worked with professional boxers for twenty years.
“I just feel so much sharper,” Narimani said. “My hands are quicker than ever, I’ve got more power than before, my technique is even better. My hands have improved tenfold. I spend a lot of time with our newest boxing coach. I knew I could connect with my opponents before, but now I can really cause damage. I feel I’ve progressed a lot in the last 6 months, I got caught with a couple of shots on my last fight at BAMMA (against Jeremy Petley) that I wouldn’t now. I haven’t neglected my wrestling and jiu jitsu though, I’ve improved everywhere.”
Stephen Martin, the BCMMA featherweight champion, was Narimani’s original opponent but had to withdraw due to injury. Cage Warriors searched for a replacement and found Spaniard Daniel Requeijo (7-2), a featherweight with an aggressive grappling game and currently riding a 6-fight winning streak. Narimani and his opponent, on paper, are evenly matched when looking at their records, but this is big step up in competition for Requeijo.
“He looks decent, quite aggressive and goes forward, but that will be his downfall because he will walk into something. He wants to push fighters against the fence, I think he’ll struggle to do that to me. I’m a brown belt in BJJ and I’m happy for him to try and take me to the ground if he wants. I’ve watched a couple of his fights, just to get an understanding of how he moves.
“I think I’m better than him everywhere. I think he is going to struggle to get his usual gameplan to work against me. He leaves himself open a lot. I feel that I’m going to hit him with some powerful shots, I don’t think he’ll like that. He’ll probably try to take me down, but I’ll stuff them. He is going to be hurting if it goes 3 rounds.”
He is hoping that he can secure a quick victory and walk out of the cage without injury because he wants to get his name on the Cage Warriors card scheduled for July. Narimani is not the type of fighter to pad his record, he wants the toughest challenges. He mentions that he would be happy to fight Stephen Martin if Cage Warriors scheduled it again, and would be happy to face Ashleigh Grimshaw, who he was scheduled to meet at BAMMA 21. He is also certainly open to avenging the 2 losses on his record.
His last fight under the Cage Warriors banner came at Cage Warriors 73 in November 2014, where he faced Alex Enlund for the promotion’s vacant featherweight title. All 3 judges scored the fight for Enlund. Narimani is hoping to build a win streak that will get him a second shot at the title. He can understand why the judges sided with Enlund, acknowledging that his slow start hurt his chances of becoming champion and that a single minute in third round might have taken the fight, and title, away from him.
“I controlled the standup for 22 minutes of the fight, and he took me down twice and had 3 minutes of success. But it is scored in rounds and not minutes. He could say that he had the success, I don’t feel he did. I was catching him more. I clearly won rounds 4 and 5.
“The fight would have been mine if he hadn’t got the last minute in the third round. I think those last 3 rounds would have been mine. I made 2 mistakes in that fight and he took me down twice.
“I didn’t get going in the first 2 rounds, I was just warming up. I think it was partly because it was my first 5-round fight, that was in my head. I had it in my head to just get through the first two rounds and then treat it like a 3 round fight. I shouldn’t have treated it like that.
“I would definitely like to get another fight for the title. He is a nice guy and a very good fighter. He is very intelligent. However, if we fought again now, my stand up would be even better, because before I was connecting with shots, now I would be wobbling him.“
There is no bad blood between Enlund and Narimani, the two have talked since their fight, with Enlund congratulating Narimani on his over Jeremy Petley at BAMMA 23, and inviting the 29-year-old to come and train with him.
Harking back to his first defeat, the Bristol-based fighter recalls being given a choice of 3 fighters for his Cage Warriors debut: Robbie Olivier, Graham Turner or Chris Fishgold. Turner was ranked the highest and that was the one that Narimani asked for. He faced the Scot at Cage Warriors 56 in July 2013. Two of the judges scored the fight for Turner, and Narimani, understandably, doesn’t think that the judges came to the correct decision.
“I don’t even count that fight as a loss, I won that fight. I don’t know how a judge scored it 30-27 for Turner. I feel that I won that fight. I think they brought me in to lose, but I think I showed that I am good fighter. My training partner just avenged that loss for me, but I would definitely want to fight him again.”
The Team Sweat Box fighter can say with certainty that there is one fight that will never happen, a fight against his good friend and training partner Ronnie Mann.
“I saw a list online about people to introduce Ronnie to BAMMA and I was at the top of the list, Ronnie showed it me and we laughed about it,” he told YourMMA. “Me and Ronnie have trained together for 6 years, we would never fight each other. We’re really good friends. Some of the guys from Iron Mann would come to Bristol twice a week, and some of the guys from my team would go to Iron Man MMA two times a week. I would never fight him.”
His management team have been told that a few more wins on his record could open up the door to the UFC for the British-Iranian. He mentions that he would like to be with the sport’s premier organisation by the time he is 30 (he just turned 29), but that he understands he needs to get himself into a positive position and with more momentum before he can think of the UFC.
“There is no point being in this game, making these sacrifices, to not aim for the UFC. It is where you need to be at the end of the day. And the credentials, not just the monetary gain, of being a UFC fighter are important. I think the Fight Pass deal is a great thing for Cage Warriors and fighters, I can only see good things happening with that deal. I know what I need to do, I need to get a few more wins.”
Narimani feels that he doesn’t always get the attention that his performances in the cage have warranted, especially from fans and media, but believes that will change in the near future.
“I do think I am underrated,” Narimani said. “I don’t think people really know how good I am, but everyone who trains with me knows how good I am and can be, and my opponents always find out how good I am.
“Even journalists in the UK, I don’t think they give me the coverage. I understand why people talk about guys like Paddy Pimblett, but they will be talking about me. I’m not a big talker, I’m not a hashtag guy, but you’ll be entertained if you watch my fights.”
Narimani will be looking to entertain on UFC Fight Pass tomorrow night at Cage Warriors host CWFC 76 in Wales.