Reza Madadi talks 18 months in Swedish prison: I lost everything over one night

Nearly two years ago, three unidentified men robbed an expensive boutique handbag store in Stockholm, Sweden before driving off in their black Audi. Soon…

By: Karim Zidan | 9 years ago
Reza Madadi talks 18 months in Swedish prison: I lost everything over one night
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Nearly two years ago, three unidentified men robbed an expensive boutique handbag store in Stockholm, Sweden before driving off in their black Audi. Soon afterwards, Reza Madadi, then a UFC lightweight, was arrested for the burglary, even though he adamantly maintained his innocence throughout the arrest. However, it did little to protect him from the coming 14 months that he was forced to endure in Swedish prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit.

Now, 21 months removed form his last UFC victory against the surging Michael Johnson, Madadi appeared on The MMA Hour to recall the turbulent time he spent in prison as an innocent man.

“I had my car outside of that garage and I wanted to pick up my car, because we wanted to go to Russia, me and some guys from my club, Allstars gym,” Madadi told MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani on the show. “They arrested me outside of that garage because the garage was involved in that smash and grab. And I never thought I was going to go to jail… but now I’m here and that is my past.”

The timing was a particularly difficult pill to swallow for Madadi, who was a fast rising star in the UFC and a national fighting hero to the Swedish locals. He was coming off a submission win against Michael Johnson and was awaiting the birth of his wife’s first child.

Stuck in a prison cell for over a year, Madadi was unable to reap the rewards of any of those achievements.

“Brother, I’m telling you that life is very funny,” Madadi said. “It can change in one second, in one minute. I mean, we drove in a limousine one day, me and Alexander Gustafsson, went to some club to hit a little bit of pads, get paid for that. All of the sponsors — I was a famous guy here in Sweden. And the day after, I was in some jail. They drove me in a police car and my life changed. They cut my UFC contract. I lost my job, I couldn’t see my wife when she was pregnant. I lost money. Everything. I lost everything over one night. Everything I’ve been working for 34, 35 years.

Asked if he has watched any UFC fights since his release from prison, Madadi says the thought of it simply depresses him, particularly when he hears about Johnson’s current success in the octagon.

“I didn’t want to watch the UFC because it made me feel very bad, especially when I saw Michael Johnson’s fights,” Madadi admitted. “It was a very, very hard time. It was like a really bad punishment for me to see. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy for him. He’s a great fighter and I hope he can get the belt. But you know, it’s so hard to see the guys, not even just Mr. Michael Johnson, all other fighters, to see them competing, fighting, and I was behind the bars. It was hard times.”

Now that he has adjusted to the feeling of freedom once more, and has already resumed regular training alongside the likes of Alexander GUstafsson at Allstars Training Center, Madadi’s plans to pick up from where he left his career off in 2013.

“What made me to get stronger? You know how strong you are when the only choice you have is to be strong. And I didn’t have any other choice. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to just give up like this. I worked hard, I worked so hard for 34, 35 years to be a UFC fighter, and I lost everything over one night. Actually it was a lot of the keyboard warriors, haters who made me sad. Okay guys, you don’t believe me. Nobody believes me. I’m going to believe myself, and I want to get back, I want to show everybody: nothing’s over.”

Transcription taken from MMAFighting.com.

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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