It’s snowing over Stockholm city this December morning. It’s MMA practice at Pancrase Gym, run by Omar Bouiche. Sadibou is drilling sweeps and movements with his friend Zebastian Kadestam and after the session he rolls a few rounds with Oliver Enkamp. He just came back from a vacation in Tokyo and will next week leave again for Maldives and Vietnam. We sit down and looks back at 1986, Bergshamra in Solna.

The football kid with itchy eyes

Sadibou grew up in a big family with roots in Senegal. He was one of seven children and at an early stage he had to develop different strategies on how to get one more ice cream or candy bag than the others. His siblings and he had to learn to take responsibility and also accept the fact that they could not get as much stuff as their friends. They were all very active and football was popular among almost all of them. Sadibou played as well and he liked it more than anything else. But in his teenage years he felt that he wasn’t developing any longer and he thought of changing to another team. When the team he wanted to move to merged with the one he was playing in, he saw it as a sign that he shouldn’t continue playing. At the same time he was starting to get more and more problems with his eyes.

IS BETWEEN 20-40%”

”The problems with my vision started when I was around 12-13 years old. I had big issues with what we thought was allergies and itchy eyes. The only aid I had was eye drops which I used on a daily basis. The doctors said I would grow away from the problems within a few years, but when my vision started to deteriorate they decided for urgent surgery. My eyes were inflamed and a coating had been formed from an eye fluid. The surgery didn’t do any difference and since then I’ve had six more surgeries. They’ve tested laser, syringes, scraping the coating but nothing has helped. Now we’ve tried all known treatments and there’s nothing more to do. Because of this I had trouble seeing far away and my vision in blurry more or less all the time. It makes it difficult for me to read and concentrate for longer periods of time, which aren’t really the best conditions when you’re in school.”

”The consequences of my eye problems differ a bit from day to day, it’s for example much worse if I haven’t slept well. But I was like this even before I started training martial arts so I’ve never felt that it effects my fighting in a negative way. My vision capacity is between 20-40% and it’s mainly after my fights I have pain in my eyes because I’ve concentrated so much. If it’s very strong lights I can have trouble seeing, and it put me in quite a funny situation one time. I was walking in towards the ring for the final in my second kickboxing World Championship when they suddenly turned on a huge spotlight straight at me. I was walking on a platform and suddenly I couldn’t see a thing. The music was blasting and I was dancing forward, screaming to my coach: ‘YOU HAVE TO GUIDE ME, I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING!’ Luckily enough I didn’t fall down from the platform, it’s a memory I laugh a lot about.”

From beginner to World Champion

One day when Sadibou was 15-16 years old he went together with his friend Gabriel to Wasa Kampsportscenter and the trainer Roland “Rolly” Peltier to try his first martial arts practice. The gym was focusing on Taekwondo but at the time when Sadibou came they had started moving more towards kickboxing. He became very fascinated of how fun, difficult and complex the training was and he signed up right away and didn’t miss a single training during the whole semester. “I always came there to train before the sessions started and I stayed afterwards to watch the competition group train. You can definitely say I was hooked and I learned a lot in a short period of time. After a few months Rolly said it was time for me to start competing.”

Sadibou loved competing and took as many fights he could. During the first three, four years he didn’t lose a single fight. One day when he was 19 his trainer Rolly, who was also head of the National team in kickboxing, came with some information. “In three weeks we’re going to the European Championship, he said. Who? Me? Sure, I had competed some but I had no idea how my level was compared to other top kickboxers. So we went to the EC and it was just kids’ play all the way through the tournament. That was the first time I realized that I was pretty good at this.” The preparations for the WC started right away. A bad meniscus forced him to surgery not long before the competition but he went anyway and decided to only kick with the other leg. “I managed to get to the final where I faced a skilled Russian fighter, Sergey Bogdan. I kicked him again and again in the stomach and when he finally started to break down he signalled to the referee that I kicked him in the groin. They took a point away from me but I still felt confident about the win. After the fight the judges seemed to disagree about the result and started discussing in Russian, and finally they awarded Bogdan with the win. It was a huge scandal and we decided to never again compete in the organization WAKO.”


Shortly thereafter Sadibou took up Muay Thai as well. He adjusted well to the different set of rules and managed to win three WC gold medals in kickboxing, WC gold medal in Muay Thai class B and silver in class A. He was part of the Swedish National Team in both styles at the same time. Around that time people started talking more and more about MMA. “I thought it seemed extremely boring and wasn’t interested at all. But with time I realized that it was the toughest challenge possible within martial arts, so I decided to try it out. Rolly and I first went to a wrestling gym in Huddinge, thinking that would be a good foundation to start with. The trainer we talked to was really nice and informed us about the training schedule. Then he pointed at the group he said I could train in. It was a children’s group! The oldest was like 12 and I was 24. So we said thank you and left, and instead we contacted Omar [Bouiche] and Pancrase gym instead. There are not many people in the world who are on Omar’s level. Then I have Rolly who can teach anyone how to kick and Kenta [Hammarström] who has the best BJJ gym in Sweden: Prana.”

Show me the money

A few months after his first MMA training, Sadibou has his first fight at IRFA and since then he has had six more with a result of five wins and two losses. The most recent fight against David Round ended in a spectacular fashion and the video of it spread rapidly across the globe. The video shows how Round started pushing Sadibou during the weigh-ins and gave him the finger. 30 seconds into the fight he was mocking Sadibou by letting his hands down and leaning forward. He probably regretted it afterwards as Sadibou got him with a lightning fast head kick and won by knockout. “It was fun to see it spread as it did. My friends wrote to me about all who had posted it, like [Chris] Cyborg, BJ Penn, Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male. I guess people like you got what you asked for videos. David sent me a photo of a casted arm after the fight with the text ‘you broke my arm with the first kick’.

BETWEEN 5 000 – 15 000 SEK.
BETWEEN 30 000 – 60 000 SEK”

Throughout the years Sadibou has had all kinds of jobs, but his goal is now to work as little as possible to be able to focus completely on his training. He’s currently working at Kampsportslabbet where he gives classes and has PT customers. “I’m vet grateful and loyal to Kevin [Arroyo] who took me in and we’ve really become a family. The ideal would of course be if I didn’t have to work at all, but I need resources for that. I’m getting great help from my sponsor NOCCO BCAA and I’m open for more collaborations. Then it’s also about getting paid better for the fights. I’ve fought for almost nothing for years, but it won’t work anymore. A shitty number is anything between 5 000 – 15 000 SEK. A better number is something between 30 000 – 60 000 SEK. I’ve agreed to low payments previously because I wanted to fight so much, but now I have to get what I deserve.”

”My goal is to get in to the big organizations as soon as possible, mainly the UFC. To reach that I have to work hard and fight frequently. I’m still not as comfortable with MMA as I was with kickboxing and Muay Thai, but at the same time I’m incredibly much more comfortable now than just a year ago. MY plan was actually to compete in the National Championship of Submission/Wrestling this weekend, but since I’ve been on vacation I’ll save it for next year, but my point is that I’m no longer afraid to end up on the ground. It happens that I get offers to have kickboxing fights, for example from Glory and Rumble of the Kings. But if I should take a side step from my MMA career it really has to be worth it, both with a great opponent who motivates me as well as a reasonable pay check. So far no offer has been attractive enough.”


Sources of inspiration and movie roles

When Sadibou was younger he looked up to Mike Tyson and wanted to fight like him. Later on he realized that Tyson was short and fought at a short distance, while he himself was tall and needed a longer distance. Since then he has found many other sources of inspiration. “The greatest athletes I admire are [Michael] Jordan, Tyson and Muhammed Ali, but I could probably give you a list of a hundred more names. In fighting the greatest in my eyes have been Anderson Silva, but it all changed when he got busted for steroids. Remy Bonjasky was my favourite fighter when I trained kickboxing and one time he came to Wasa to give a seminar, so I got to train with him, that was an awesome experience! If I would wish for an interview with someone I’d pick Khabib [Nurmagomedov], I’m sure he has a lot of stories to tell.”

Another line of business Sadibou has got in contact with is the movie business. When one of his best friends offered him a part in a movie he didn’t hesitate to say yes. “My friend had the lead role in a Vietnamese action comedy and they created a role just for me. So I went to Vietnam for ten days last spring to shoot my scenes and I’ll be back there in two weeks to attend the premiere. The movie is called Saigon Bodyguards and my character is sort of the final enemy, fighting my friend in the lead. The movie is huge in Vietnam and they predict it will break all records over there. To shoot a movie was one of the funniest things I’ve ever done and it’s absolutely something I will do more of later in life!”

The next time we see Sadibou in the octagon is 1st of April 2017 when he’s booked for Superior Challenge. If he will have his will, he’ll have a fight before that as well. But first he’ll have a honeymoon with his wife which they’ve waited for since the wedding in September. Sadibou truly believes that 2017 will be a great year for him and he’s full of motivation. FighterInterviews wishes him good luck and is thankful for his time.