Two of the top bantamweights in Western Canada are set to square off Friday night.
Michael Hay (5-1) will battle Jamie Siraj (5-2) at Unified MMA 35 in Enoch, Alta. to determine the new owner of the Unified MMA bantamweight title.
With the event taking place just outside of Edmonton, it’s essentially a hometown fight for Hay, who said it’s an exciting opportunity to have the chance to win a title in front of so many family and friends.
“It’s an awesome opportunity. It’s really good for me and good for Unified,” said Hay in an interview.
“This fight is basically in my backyard, so anyone who’s thinking they’re going to come in and get an easy fight versus me for this title is in for a rude awakening.”
However, Hay, 25, is not taking Siraj lightly and is fully aware of the dangers he poses everywhere in the cage.
He said Siraj is one of the most well-rounded fighters he’s faced so far, and knows he’ll have to put on a strong performance to leave as the champion.
“He’s not the type of fighter where if I attack one area or stop him in an area, I’ll beat him,” said Hay.
“He’s going to be a fun guy to fight all over the place. I hope I get to showcase a lot of different skills, and he should be a good opponent for me to do it against.”
Both Hay and Siraj have displayed elite ground games so far in their career, with nine of their 10 combined victories coming by way of submission.
With the strong skill-sets they both possess, Hay said he’s expecting a tough, strategical fight that likely doesn’t go five rounds.
“He says he’s going to come out and finish me in devastating fashion, but I think he’s full of it. He’s probably going to come in with more of a strategy than that,” said Hay.
“We’re two skilled guys, so there’s a lot of different ways this fight could go. I think you’ll see a pretty good technical battle.”
While Siraj, 24, does indeed see himself leaving the cage with an early finish, he said the longer the fight goes on, the better it is for him.
Hay has yet to fight outside of the first round in his career, while Siraj has done so on multiple occasions, including going into the fourth round in his BFL title fight with Cole Smith.
“There’s something different when you get out of that first round. You’re breathing heavy, your legs feel like they’re on fire, and you feel like you can’t move,” said Siraj in an interview.
“He’s not finishing me in the first round. If anything, it’ll be roles reversed and I’ll finish him in the first. If I have to take him to the second round, or bring him to the third, fourth, or fifth round, it’s going to be foreign territory for him. For me, I get stronger as the fight goes on.”
Siraj, fighting out of Vancouver, B.C., is no stranger to knowing what it takes to be a champion, having won the BFL bantamweight title back in 2016, before falling in his defence attempt against Smith.
This time around, Siraj said it’s not so much about winning the belt for him as it is about what comes with the belt.
“When you have the belt, there’s more recognition that comes with it. It’s more the status of being at the top,” said Siraj.
“It’s not really the belt that I’m after. I’m coming after the opponent, and belt is just the cherry on top of it.”
Although Hay has faced his share of tough opponents in his career, Siraj said Hay has yet to face someone as complete as him.
Siraj said he’s not underestimating Hay, but believes he has the upper hand on him wherever the fight goes.
“He has a good skill-set, especially on the ground, but he’s never seen a fighter that puts it together quite like me, and I think I have his number everywhere.” said Siraj.
“I can beat him standing, I’ll beat him at wrestling, and I’ll beat him at jiu-jitsu. I’m not taking him lightly and he’s brought out the best in me, but this is my time.”
“I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone that’s helped me over the years. Come by and enjoy the fight Dec. 7. It’s only up from here.”
“I’d like to give a shoutout to Blaine Graham from Vivint Smart Home, Trent Wittal from Catalyst Kinetics, Johnny Fletcher from Recovery Towing, Simona Marian from Talent Bid Recruiting, and Casey Bruinink from Main Street Nightclub.”