Zafir taps out of AFC fight
MMA: Australian Fighting Championship welterweight contender Anton Zafir has tapped out late in the first round to Theo Christakos, ending his chance to become the Australian welterweight champion at the AFC 22 in Melbourne on Saturday.
Early in the round Zafir dominated his New South Wales-based opponent, taking the fight to the mat and clearly overpowering the younger and longer-reached Christakos.
But mid-way through the fourth minute of the five-minute round a spilt-second decision cost Zafir the match.
“I had to sacrifice myself to protect my neck,” he said.
“I got caught as I was switching from what I was doing to something else and he got me in a choke and went down to try and relieve the pressure from my neck.
“But it was just too deep, he had it nice and tight and it ended up with me having to tap out.”
A former UFC fighter before being cut from the league after two fights in 2016, Zafir was a convincing winner of the welterweight qualifier against Hoshi Friedrich.
The fight turned on a dime when Zafir landed a kick to the thigh of Christakos and allowed him to get to his feet.
“That’s just the nature of the game,” he said.
“For four-and-a-half minutes I was controlling and dictating the fight and then you make a spilt-second decision in the heat of the moment and in my case, it didn’t turn out right.
“I was comfortable where I was, I wasn’t under duress and when I worked his legs off the back I was still comfortable, I was still happy and wasn’t in any trouble.
“I made a judgement call and it didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to.”
Off the back of the win against a former UFC fighter, Christakos is now calling for a crack at the UFC.
The 32-year-old Zafir said becoming a UFC contender was “never off the table” but right now he just wanted to get back “to enjoying fighting”.
“I have had four fights in the last four years which is just too little,” he said.
“Especially with the level that I am at now, it’s hard to find regular opponents.
“I want to get back to just competing for the fun of it,” he said.
“I love fighting and I never started with the intention of fighting for the UFC it was just something that came about after doing so well.”
Obviously disappointed after being dropped from the UFC after only two bouts, Zafir said for a time he was bitter and angry with the decision.
“I took the first fight on with six days’ notice and the second fight the ref stopped it early and I was pretty annoyed that he stopped the fight after being hit twice,” he said.
“You do see fighters that have lost five fights on the trot and are still there.
“But hey I made it and got my opportunity and though it didn’t come through the way I wanted it, I can’t sit here and be sour about it for the rest of my life.”
Going forward Zafir said he wouldn’t be waiting for AFC to approach him with an offer of more fights but would continue to enter tournaments.
He thanked his training partner and coach Dan Zealand at Whitsunday Martial Arts and the crew at the gym.
“I definitely wouldn’t be here without him,” Zafir said.
READY FOR ACTION: Theo Christakos and Anton Zafir at weigh-in before the AFC welterweight title bout in Melbourne on Saturday.