Maged Hammo is looking to have championship gold wrapped around his waist for the first time.
Lethbridge, Alta.’s Hammo (9-5-1) takes on Edmonton, Alta.’s Neal Anderson (10-3) in the Unified MMA 40 co-feature. This contest is for the vacant Unified MMA featherweight championship and the card broadcasts on UFC Fight Pass. The bout goes live at River Cree Resort and Casino in Edmonton on Saturday night.
The matchup with Anderson is a classic Canadian Martial Arts Centre (CMC) vs. Shaved Bears MMA permutation, as far as representatives from two high-level gyms testing skills in a competitive, respect-oriented fashion.
“I know for a fact that he’s got some good power and reach on him. He’s a very good standup guy. I like to bang too, right. We’re both bangers, so I’m sure it’s going to be a standup war,” said Hammo in an interview with MMA Empire.
“If it goes to the ground, it goes to the ground. If it stays standing, it stays standing. But I do want to test myself against him with striking because I know he’s very well-rounded and I want to kind of see where I’m at standing. Basically, a way to see where you’re at in the competition time.”
A family-type vibe radiates at Hammo’s core training space, CMC, with great martial artists forming tight-knit bonds.
Hammo’s teammate, Neil Berry, is getting ready to vie for light heavyweight gold in the evening’s main event. The two CMC compatriots have been sharpening each other’s tools ahead of this mid-August card.
“Our camp is kind of together, Neil Berry’s and mine at the same time. We’re going for the same goal and we push each other. We feed off each other’s energy and we kind of just keep driving,” said Hammo.
“And then we got guys like Brandt Dewsbery, Spencer Rohovie, Tim Tamaki, all of those kinds of veterans that are coming in and helping us out whenever they can.”
Hammo’s last MMA fight came against Fred Stonehouse, and was a barn burner affair, one where many cage-side saw it as the fight of the night for Rumble in the Cage 59.
Much like the test Anderson presents, Hammo, 31, said Stonehouse was a dangerous opponent, but the type of opponent he likes to fight.
“He was very skilled, a very high-level guy. I was nervous coming into that fight actually, but I was feeling good still. I knew he was going to be a tough opponent,” said Hammo.
“The only way to get better is to fight guys like that, right. You don’t want to fight guys that you can just beat up no problem. You want to fight guys that can beat you up and then still come out on top. That’s the kind of fights I look for.”
This is further illustrated in Hammo’s individual approach and the quality of his other past opponents.
Hammo fought now-UFC featherweight Ryan Hall at the second Challenge MMA card in Aug. 2013. Fighting Hall at that early juncture in both of their careers has been a bit of a curiosity for Hammo to observe in subsequent years.
“I think I fought him too soon when I did fight him. I wasn’t where I’m at today jiu-jitsu-wise and he was an expert already. And I thought my striking would be enough for him, but I would fight him again right now. And I would beat him right now, in my opinion. Like in my head, that’s how I am right now because my jiu-jitsu and my ground game has come so far since,” said Hammo.
“I feel like it’d be a fair competition for him now and I would actually put up a good fight towards him. But I think back then I wasn’t experienced enough at all. I wasn’t ready and I just kind of jumped in there just because it’s a fight.”
A more cerebral approach and shored-up aspects of his game would lead to a different story unfurling in a potential rematch with the jiu-jitsu savant, per Hammo.
“Since that fight, I’ve been filling a lot of my holes and stuff like that because I knew after that fight I had to work on my ground game and I had to get better if I wanted to beat top-level guys like that. Look at him now, he’s already in the UFC beating top-level guys,” said Hammo.
“I feel like if I would have put my time in back then, I would have been the same level as him, kind of competing against those guys too. But different paths, different roads. Hopefully, one day, I can rematch with him so I can kind of get some revenge.”
Follow Hammo on social media: INSTAGRAM