Zafir taps out of AFC fight

Whitsunday Times - - SPORT - Peter Car­ruthers peter.car­ruthers@whit­sun­day­times.com.au

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.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

READY FOR AC­TION: Theo Chris­takos and An­ton Zafir at weigh-in be­fore the AFC wel­ter­weight ti­tle bout in Mel­bourne on Satur­day.

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