Ep. #29 – Farah Hannoun

Farah Hannoun is a journalist for MMA Junkie based out of Cairo, Egypt. She is also the owner of well established Instagram and Facebook page @ufcnewsalerts which provides timely and accurate news about the UFC.


Farah Hannoun: All right all right, so how are things uh, you’re you’re in cairo, right, yeah yeah? How are things there with the the pandemic and everything uh they’re they’re? Okay, they’re, i mean there’s a curfew: um people aren’t really falling good. Unfortunately, like they’re supposed to but uh they’re trying to tame the situation. We don’t have as many cases as like the us and europe and stuff, but uh they’re, trying to tame it. People are just not really listening, but um. They have a curfew intact and i think next month or something they’re gon na start to open up more things or try to at least yeah. I’M in uh, i’m in canada, on the east coast of canada and same sort of thing like they just opened up like golf courses and stuff like that, but it’s very uh, like the the mayor, i guess uh said like we’re gon na open stuff up, but Don’T be stupid, which obviously means people are gon na, be stupid, uh but yeah. It’S it’s weird, it’s too weird time, um and how do you feel about the ufc doing what they’re doing like? Obviously as a ufc fan? I love it, but you know a lot of the media have been giving dana backlash. A lot of them are supportive. Where do you stand on that? You know what in the beginning it was a bit like. Maybe they shouldn’t do it and stuff like that, but then i realized it’s like with this thing. It’S kind of hard to know when things can get back to normal. There isn’t like one thing: that’s gon na happen where everything’s, suddenly gon na be okay and people need to get back to their lives and get back to their jobs so um. I understand that dana kind of wants to be ahead of the curve and then be the first one to do so is he’s stubborn like that, but i just feel like if you look at the other sports like they’re, eventually like i think it was bundesliga like They they started and others are trying to follow suit. So eventually, everybody’s gon na try to start up again uh, because i don’t see things being completely fine and okay any time soon. So we kind of have to get on with our lives, because a lot of people are losing jobs and and stuff like that and businesses, and need to continue operating. So, in the grand scheme of things i you know as long as they try to do it safely. The issue with these things, unless, like god forbid something really bad happens, people are just going to continue trying. I mean that’s how it is that people don’t want to sit around yeah. I agree i mean you mentioned bundesliga. I think we’re both big soccer fans. You obviously support real madrid. I’M a barsa fan personally so a little bit of a clash, but hopefully that gets up running soon because you know uh, the la liga is a tight race. There, yeah yeah, i mean we would just want. Like the whole, there will be no crowd anytime soon, but at least that we get, i hope we get to watch the games at home at least yeah. The the no crowds in the ufc is very, like you, don’t notice it when the fight’s taking place other than like you hear the shots and stuff, but i find like in between rounds. It’S super weird uh, like not hearing anything. It’S it’s odd and you even heard greg hardy say like oh, it’s nice hearing, daniel cormier, because he gave me some tips like i can’t i can’t imagine like that’s that’s something that fighters are used to yeah. I mean it’s definitely different. I guess people were on the contender series or ultimate fighter it’s a little louder, because they’ve got their teams, whatever team they’re on or their family or whatever, so maybe a little louder, but um, i think in the fight they don’t feel maybe in um in between Rounds and stuff, like it’s cool in a spectator standpoint, because you kind of get to hear them when they’re like breathing heavy, and then i was thinking like. Oh this guy’s gas, but i’m like maybe he’s always breathing heavy like that. So if you can’t hear it so it’s just different, it’s interesting to watch it like that, but i think it works. I mean i don’t like as a spectator. I don’t see too much of a difference. It’S not bothering uh me personally, so uh yeah. I think it works completely fine. I’D like to talk a little bit. I guess about your journey because it’s very like unorthodox, almost it’s very different than most people, obviously um you’re on the other side of the world, so you’ve got to stay up till crack of dawn watching fights. I’Ve always been a fan of yours. I’Ve followed ufc news alerts for for a couple years. Now i find it’s accurate and quick um. I like guys like nolan as well marcel dorf, there’s a few people i follow, who aren’t as big, i guess, but kind of talk a little bit about your journey. Obviously, being in cairo um and your background, i think you’re, moroccan and palestinian – am i correct yeah and how you got into mma. Obviously, it’s not as big over there, especially a couple years ago. It wasn’t big at all and how did you fall in love with it and kind of talk a little bit about your journey? I guess. Oh, my brother got me into mma. Like i grew up with my brother and my cousin. It was all guys, so they were like either watching pro wrestling or eventually it became mma, so whatever they would watch, i would as well because we’d spend summers together in morocco and stuff, so i kind of got into mma through through my brother, my cousins. So my brother would show me all fights and stuff, so i’ve been watching mma, maybe since like 2009, but i wasn’t like following it religiously or anything like i wasn’t staying up every weekend, but he’d show me like flights to george st pierre anderson, silva matt, hughes, Yoda machida uh, all those guys and um at some of wec, as well with with cruz and faber and those guys. So i i started watching it in the beginning, just like that, and then eventually i think it was sun and silver. One uh because, like the the build up to the fight, was so much fun and i remember my cousin kept like sending me so many like uh highlights and stuff like you got ta watch. The press conference got ta watch this, so you got me into it and it kind of it’s similar to the whole pro wrestling thing, because i used to watch pro wrestling as a kid so uh. I could definitely appreciate that part of the game and uh. It was fun like the build up was fun and i was already familiar with who andres and silva was not so much chill and then like watching the buildup and stuff like that. So we gather together and we watch the fight live. So that was like the first time i watched, i could complete build up to a fight with the wings everything and then the way the fight, panned out and stuff was pretty incredible, like the massive comeback by silva and stuff, and i think since then i’ve been Intrigued by the other aspects of of the the sport other than the fight itself, like everything that goes in it uh, but as far as like uh covering the sport like i’ve always wanted to like be a journalist like i played pretty much every sport as a Kid growing up, so uh sports have been a big part of my life but uh with mma um. I kind of wanted to cover basketball. I’M not gon na lie like that was the aim. Basketball is my sport. I play basketball. I still play basketball today until today for fun, uh, but uh. That was the aim and then for some reason, and last second, i just made a last-second switch. I’M like there are a lot of people who cover basketball. Um i feel like mma is it’s just a sport like people? Don’T like the fighters, don’t get the the appreciation that they deserve the recognition they deserve and i felt like i could contribute in some shape or form, because that was always my goal like i wanted to like grow big enough where i’m actually contributing uh. In terms of uh coverage and stuff, like that, and i just felt like the fighters weren’t getting um the coverage that they deserved so and i made a last-second switch from from basketball. Although it’s my sport, like most people, that know me back home, will know me as like the basketball player, they might not even know that i cover mma, but i made a last second switch and started covering mma yeah. I mean i’ve been die, hard, mma ice soccer is my my first first sport um, but mma i kind of fell in love with it. The same way, rampage rashad uh. When rampage broke down that door on the ultimate fighter. I was like okay. This is, i feel him like. I was like that’s me like. I want to do that same thing. I’M angry all the time uh, so i could relate to rampage and that’s kind of how i got how i got into it. It’S got to be weird being in egypt, though, like i feel like being on the other side of the world. Obviously uh in the middle east, mma isn’t as large. I guess as it is here. Obviously brave, for example, has started to to make a presence. I guess, but a couple years ago i think when you got started it didn’t it wasn’t as big um. What were the difficulties? You had um, just kind of making a name for yourself out there in the mma world. It was definitely tough because, like i said, like a lot of people until today, like especially back home and stuff, won’t really know me as like animatronics. They don’t really understand what i do uh. So i’ve kind of been like on my own journey, like a little bit alone and as i like, rose up the ranks as you want. If you want to say it like that um, so it’s been tough in that regard. For sure there is no local scene to cover uh, so that was hard as well, because a lot of people start out like that, and i knew that couldn’t be my way uh. So i i went straight like most. People cover like the regional, shows and try to be unique in that regard and then grow from there. I took an opposite approach because i’m like i can’t do that, like i’m, not gon na get anywhere like that uh. So i started like covering the ufc, which is why i started uh that ufc page on instagram, because um as a football fan or soccer um like i, i used to watch it as a kid and i used to play as a kid. But then i stopped for years when i became a basketball fan and then i wanted to catch up, and i knew i had so much to catch up on with football. So a friend of mine showed me an instagram page that it was like a football page that had all the updates, so i’ll tell you like rial is playing this team. Whatever o’clock ronaldo scored this many gold and it had all the information there and i’m like. I like this concept of going to one place and finding all the information. So i’m like why don’t i do that for mma uh? There were a few out there, but i’m like i look at them and i’m like they’re great pages, but a lot of them were just like fun highlights and and jokes and memes and stuff i’m like no. I can actually do something. Um, like super kind of like informative and stuff, i’m like i know it’s gon na, take a lot of time. Uh. I never knew how much time was gon na take up like i kind of uh. It was super hectic until today. It still is super hectic to try to run that page. Why don’t? I have like make a page where it’s a source where everybody can get all the information they need, and i wanted to focus on the uc because i’m like, if i make a ufc and bellator and all of this, it’s not going to be as good, because It’S just going to be way too tough and i’m going to end up posting like 35 times a day and people are just gon na hit the unfollow button or get super annoyed. So i started the opposite way. I went like cover the ufc. Try to make a name for myself and when i do, then i can start benefiting the fighters in the middle east, because i grew a platform, that’s big enough, where i’m beneficial to them uh, instead of vice versa, because i knew it wasn’t gon na work. That way, yeah i find especially like right now. I i started this three weeks ago, i’m an accountant nine to five. So i was like you know what i’m just gon na ask on twitter. I’Ve had this twitter page for a little while, where i like match make after after the fights just hobby, no reason i’m not trying to make it big or anything um, and i was like, if i start a podcast and just interview random people who would be On like who’s interested and within five minutes, mike rodriguez, eric anders like all these guys were like yeah come on, and i didn’t even know they followed me and i was like wow all right, great um and i find they’re a lot more approachable than like. You have a much better chance of reaching an eric anders than you would someone on the lakers, and you know i i found it’s they’re they’re super welcoming they’re open to talk to whoever and it’s almost caught me off guard like within four interviews. I was speaking to a world champion boxer. I was like this is ridiculous um, but they’re all open to talk. It’S. It’S really really nice to see as a fan, i guess to have to have people just opening, opening up and being willing to talk. As for the middle east, i’ve i’ve interviewed motas asgar, but is there? Is there any other fighters? Muhammad, i think, is the biggest name in the ufc. Is there any other fighters, i’m not familiar with the local scene? I think a lot of people who follow me aren’t familiar with the local scene in the middle east. Is there any names out there? You’Re like you, got ta watch this guy or or this girl they’re gon na make it big yeah i mean there are. There? Are some really solid fighters? Uh like braves, welterweight champions, uh, jordanian he’s a really good fighter. He started out at cage warriors actually even shared a card with conor mcgregor back in the day, uh he’s a really talented guy. That was on a seven. I think seven fight win streak, uh won. The title then lost his title in a controversial, close decision that got his title back in a very definitive win in the rematch and he’s he’s fought some really high level guys as well. So he was one of the guys that i was hoping was going to be on that ufc abu dhabi card in september, but unfortunately that was right before he lost his title. So i knew that. I don’t know if that he was on their radar because kind of one of the things that bothered me with that abu dhabi card i felt like it was more of a ufc russia or ufc dagestan card, and i i wish they had invested a little bit More in the middle eastern town, because i feel like there are a lot of solid fighters uh because in in it team, nogueira and in dubai has got a couple fighters. Uh monir lazez is another one he’s a great fighter he’s a great striker super entertaining. I think his first fight with brave was one of the best fights i’d see in all year of any any promotion, so he’s a super, exciting talented fighter as well. Uh trains multiple times with darren till when darren till comes into town in dubai they’re. Under the same management of ntk, so uh till sparse him quite a bit, so he’s he’s a great fighter as well. That’S another guy uh he’s from tunis tunisia, so uh uh he’s lost his last cup in a row. He trains out of 47 me, but he’s also a really talented guy young guy. I believe he used to drop down to featherweight, but he still got uh. He won the the the lightweight title for brave but lost it uh, but he’s a really talented fighter he’s on a two fight losing skit, but he’s still got a lot of potential. I i hope to see like a lot of four guys, ended up on contender series and then the ufc and look they’re doing great things. So i believe that that could be his path as well uh, so yeah there are um. There are a lot of talented guys in the middle east. They just need that platform. I guess that opportunity and that’s what i hoped ufc abu dhabi would be for them, and i was a little disappointed in that regard, that it wasn’t uh, but maybe well, maybe not this year but next year. What? What do you think it will take before you see like an influx of talent from the middle east? There’S only a handful like the the zaitar brothers, who are great uh and below, i think, are the only three i can really think of. On top of my head, what do you think it’ll take before like they start bringing them in and make a big name for themselves, like the russians like russia right now, like half the roster seems to be russian um? What do you think it’ll take before you know? We see maybe even a world champion even in the ufc from the middle east. Do you think that’s realistic within like a five year period, or do you think it’s much much longer down the road um? I think they just need to invest in the market. I think that’s what it is. I mean them signing the five year deal with. Abu dhabi is great. I remember asking then why the press conference he said they would consider doing a contender series there uh. So that would be huge for the region as well. So i think they just need to invest in it because the talent is there, but sometimes there might be guys that i don’t even know about uh that could end up being world champions one day. You know what i mean, but you just they just need that platform and then brave do a good job. You know they’re they’re, an international organization and they put on good, shows i’ve covered numerous uh shows of theirs. So uh they kind of they just need the platform, and i think, if uh, if the uc did what i wish, they would have done uh in september, maybe next time, since it’s a five-year deal by giving those guys a chance, especially that you get guys who Get injured and pull out and they need late replacements and those are the guys that should be called up since they’re. Based there i mean i thought uh. When dawn madge lost his opponent, they did get ferris gm who’s, uh algerian french. Actually so he he’s based in france, but i thought they could have called up this uh moroccan fighter, munir based in dubai trains out of team noguera he’s an entertaining fighter as well. I felt like he should upon the call. I mean why not uh if this is a local card, think about it. If it was like ufc korea, ufc, south korea or ufc, whatever um, you would think that they’d call up those guys right and we’ve seen that we’ve seen fighters uh, whether it’s in the north korea cards or auckland courts or whatever like get high billing in the Main card and stuff like that, so that’s what these shows are for, so i just feel like they need to invest in in the market a little bit more, whether through a contender series or uh pfl have a partnership with uae warriors, which is another organization, and They were going to do like a featherweight tournament together, so yeah stuff, like that um has there any ever been like i’ve seen you interview guys like frankie edgar and every time i see them. I’M like. Oh, my god, like i’d, die to interview, frank. Is there anybody? That’S that you’ve interviewed who you’ve kind of been like taken away by, like oh, my god, i’m interviewing frankie edgar? Is there anybody? That’S like kind of taking you away uh i mean it was back in the day. Maybe it was a little more exciting uh, just because uh, when i’m running around like now working for mma, junkie, it’s nice and – and i know that saying that i work for mma junkie – helps me land a lot of these interviews back in the day when i Just had my name, maybe it felt a little more satisfying or more fulfilling, because i’m like um, i’m just trying to hustle and get stuff done so yeah. I remember back in the day i interviewed um, i think kevin lee. I was in morocco uh. There was a brave show that i didn’t even know about. I just found out the announcement and i happened to be there, so i took the train to tangier and there was a show and kevin lee was cornering his brother, so that was cool like it was random and it was spontaneous and it felt really cool frankie Edgar was super cool as well uh back in the day that was a few years ago, i believe uh john kavanagh as well those guys but yeah. I spoke to israel sanya recently, that was cool. I mean the the fighters that um will give you a good interview as well. It’S super cool to talk to them as well, because uh they’ll kind of give you as a journalist everything you want, because then you can just imagine the headlines that you’re gon na write after and stuff like that, so uh yeah, colby, covington’s, another fun one as Well, he always has something to say so so yeah i’ve been fortunate enough with those guys to get those interviews um where, where in morocco were you from, like i’ve, been i’ve been to tangier like i’m from spain, so i just ferry across we’re exactly in morocco. Are you from uh casablanca? Okay? So that’s not too too far from tangier a little bit. I mean it’s more, maybe like uh, well, the fast rain that they’re building now maybe like two three hours so yeah with the fast training, no not before. Okay, so we’ll kind of like wrap it up. I guess talking about the the three cards that that have happened. We seemed like we went like a year without fights and then in a week we just got bombarded with 30 fights um. Has there been any fighter that stood out to you more that obviously geichi had an amazing performance, you’re gon na fight khabib uh, but is there any fighter that really stood out to you uh in these past three cards? Oh, this is a tough one. I’M gon na have to put my thinking hat on, but if i go card by card i mean 249 um calvin keator. I was very impressed with uh. I i believe he could win that fight for sure, but to finish jeremy stephens, like that i mean stevens. Uh doesn’t get finished too easily. He sees a tough fight. He’S had some losses on his record, but a lot of them have been by decision so that finish by cater, i think, was great and it kind of really uh like propelled him as a top contender. Even though he had that recent loss to the beach, so i was really impressed with calvin keator uh looking at the car was long after that was uh they’re all called jacksonville. Oh, it’s nothing over yeah, i mean that was very impressive about glover, but i think the story of that uh fight was more the stoppage and stuff like. I was surprised. I go over at 40 years old to be able to put up a performance like that. He’S on a four or five win streak, i believe so for sure, for him to get that second life in terms of contention. The light heavyweight division is very impressive. I feel like i’m missing somebody, though i’m trying to think there were a lot of close decisions. Yesterday, yeah very very a lot of commercial decisions, too yeah very controversial, oh drew dober’s. Another one drew dover’s. I was very impressed with him uh to get the finish like that uh against alexander hernandez. So that’s another guy that i felt like emerged. Um, like into a player in the lightweight division, i’m probably missing a couple more so many people had great performances, but those come to mind and uh. I guess kind of like lastly um the little platform i do have of like 400 followers. It’S all come from from making fights so we’ll kind of like match up. I guess the there’s a couple fighters to me that i can’t really pinpoint who i should match them up with one of them being glover to shara he’s 40 years old uh. The light heavyweight division seems to be at a standstill, who should john fight next? Who do you think he should find next? I personally think, jan i’m, i’m not a fan of rematches right away. Um, do you think that’s the fight or do you think dominic’s a fight for glover, maybe um? Okay yeah? I was thinking john john jones for clover yeah yeah, oh you’re, asking who should john jones play: yeah? Okay, my bad yeah? Okay, sorry, because you’re talking about uh jon jones, um yeah, i think young i think he like, although there were close fights with santos and reyes um. I i like what john has been doing like fighting the the next contender in line. It’S rare these days, as we can see in mma for a guy to consistently keep fighting the number one contender. So i respect him a lot in that regard and why not jan i mean he had a first round knockout over uh coriander right in front of jon jones uh, there’s nothing more. He could have done in that regard and drawn team game now he’s talking about francis, so that that’ll be interesting to see if that happens. But uh. I think john has just been lacking that real motivation, because he went from that superheated rivalry with dc uh, and then these guys are yeah they’re kind of talking back and forth with them a little bit, but they don’t hold that name value. Maybe that he’s looking for or pay-per-view buys or whatnot, but um. I think, if he’s going to go like the way he’s been going fighting the next guy in line, i think tiago, santos and dominic korea should fight, and i think john jones should fight yan valhovich and where does that leave glover? Is that a glover should fight um like who? Should he fight next kind of puts glover in a weird spot, where he’s like, 40 years old, he’s, probably a fight away from a title, but two guys have had splits yawns in a very good spot. Do you propel, do you like you’re, like glover’s 40, give them a shot or you’re like it doesn’t deserve it? Yet it’s not about this you’re not deserving. I just think john, like john, is in a position where maybe he can choose who he wants to fight. I mean he’s been kind of the king of the division for so long yeah he’s been stripped and whatnot, but um. I think, for him. He’D be a little more motivated to fight yan then go over, even though glover was super impressive. But here you fought him before and he already beat him and it wasn’t even one of those close controversial decisions. So if he’s tentative to rematch race, not because he’s afraid or ducking him or anything like that, but from a motivational standpoint, if he’s tentative to rematch, santos and reyes, who took him to the brink, i don’t see him fighting over next, all right and then. Lastly, one non-mma question: why is ronaldo better than messi? I could go all day. I could call it no, but look. Look, i think. Messi, like talent, wise uh, i’d, say he’s better than ronaldo he’s just like a little wizard, like um i’ll admit, i’m blown away. Every time i watch, i watch every barcelona game as well, so i like to keep an eye. Barcelona atletico, probably watch all their games as well as real, but back in the day when ronaldo was with real madrid, i just always like this killer. Instinct uh. You know he gets criticized a lot for being overly passionate if, if realer up for zero – and he gets really angry if he misses – and it’s like what difference does it make? But i like that passion i can relate to that passion. So i’ve always liked that killer instinct. That ronaldo has the the comebacks that he’s made. Was it trying to remember what team it was against that german team, not dortmund? No, no, no dorman uh wolfsburg or something when, when they were down 2-0 and they ended up winning, he had that hat trick like just that killer instinct, like that will to win like never say, die attitude. Kind of reminds me of kind of, like michael jordan and stuff, like that. You know late, great kobe, bryant, so that added to that killer attitude, so i’ve always like resonated with uh with cristiano. So uh, that’s what i can say yeah my uh. My brother plays for fc basil and he watches videos non-stop and we’re like watch ronaldo like we’re all die hard and messy fans, but messi’s, you know it’s an all-natural you’re, not gon na be able to just become messy. Where you can work hard enough. You can learn ronaldo’s work ethic. You can learn from ronaldo a lot easier than it is to learn from messi um with messi, like i’m sure, he’s worked like no doubt about it. Uh, but the work ethic ronaldo has, i think, stands about kind of like a kobe, bryant type thing where you know: there’s no cheat meals, there’s no days off it’s and uh. I i admire ronaldo, but i’m a barsa fan, so i have to root for messi yeah. It’S it’s like that. That’S the thing like i respect messi, like obviously i get angry at him. Sometimes when he was waving that barcelona, i was not happy at all. So i’ll get my moments where um, like i hate messi in the moment, but like i definitely respect him, he’s he’s a legend for sure. Well, thank you. For the time i’ve i’ve been a fan of of your page for a little while now, so i appreciate you taking the time to to jump on and talk to me for for 20 minutes, and i wish you all the best with mma junkie and i’ll. Keep keep an eye out for your stuff all right. I appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me all right. All the best me too

Sergio Pineiro

Sergio Pineiro is the Founder of FighterPath.com and host of the Quarantinecast podcast. Based in Canada he is both a sports journalist and MMA enthusiast. He practices the sport but has a passion for the individual stories of training, fighting and living the fighting lifestyle.

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