Bellator's Haim Gozali on MMA's Israeli popularity: 'It’s become the top sport'

NEW YORK – Haim Gozali is an MMA anomaly. Not only does he hail from Israel – a country not known as an MMA hotbed – he’s age 46.

Friday night, Gozali (11-6 MMA, 3-3 BMMA) became the oldest fighter in Bellator MMA history to pick up a submission victory.

On the preliminary portion of the evening’s event, Gozali pulled off a first-round submission victory over Brazilian Gustavo Wurlitzer. The win is a dream come true for Gozali, who fought for his second time at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s too much,” an awestruck Gozali told the media backstage. “To win in Madison Square Garden, for me, it’s too much. In my age, I’m old, so for me it’s great.”

“Last time I was over here I lost to Ryan Couture, so I never thought I’d get another chance to fight over here, but I got it. For me it was, ‘I have to win.’ The first time was just to fight over, but now it was just to win over here.”

Gozali doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be able to fight for, but knows he’s not done quite yet. Physically and mentally, he views no reason to call it quits.

“Every [fight] I’m saying maybe this is the one,” Gozali explained. “But no, I continue. I don’t feel old. I don’t feel [it in] the body. I’m feeling good. I did 12 surgeries in my body and I’m still feeling good.”

A proud Israelite, Gozali has become Bellator’s main attraction for their events in Tel Aviv. According to Gozali, MMA has become mainstream in Israel.

“In Israel, it’s a big show. It’s like 9,000 people every show,” Gozali described. “It’s crazy over there. It’s becoming soccer or basketball. It’s become the top sport in Israel. It’s the only sport in Israel there’s been 9,000 people to an arena.”

Later, he added, “It’s almost the same, but we don’t have a lot of professional fighters, so that’s why the level over there is not too [good]. We’ll build it.”

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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