John Makdessi – No Bull from the Bull
The first time I laid eyes on John “The Bull” Makdessi, he was nose to nose with Lindsey Hawkes at the CFC 4 weigh-ins. Neither would back down from a five minute stare down and all the while The Bull’s manager was saying “Take his soul, John. Take his soul.” No emotions were shown. No smile. Nothing. He projected the quiet, assured confidence of an assassin and I lost my nerve to approach him for an interview. I doubt he would have said much anyways. Makdessi is no hype machine. Unlike others who give themselves accolades in interviews, Makessi generally does his talking in the ring.
At the fight the next day, Lindsey Hawkes and the rest of Winnipeg found out that Makdessi’s reputation was very factual. As usual, he started slowly – losing the first round in many fan’s eyes. “I take it all in,” Makdessi admits. “I start that way on purpose to see what my opponent is bringing to the fight – how he reacts to things. Once I figure it out, then I attack.”
Attack he did. Makdessi took apart his toughest opposition to date in the second round. Makdessi landed a few kicks, that he perfected with over ten years of kickboxing, and then he was a shark who smelled blood. With two minutes left in the fight, Makdessi poured it on the wounded Hawkes until it was mercifully stopped.
“My strategy was to do what I do best,” my reluctant interview subject told me when I finally caught up to him in Montreal. “People say I am weak on the ground, but that is because they have not seen me there. I train very hard with the very best, so the fights are easier.” Makdessi is uncomfortable talking about himself and refuses to be videotaped. At J Sports, he would rather have trainer Jonathan Chaimberg and fellow athletes David Loiseau and Denis Kang talk about him than himself.
They all concede that Makdessi works hard with Chaimberg saying that “John is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, workers in the gym.” Head trainer Firas Zahabi agrees stating that “John is a rising star so keep your eye on him. He’s on his way to become one of the best in the world.” High praise indeed when Ken Florian, Guillaume De Lorenzi, and Mike Ricci are other notable Lightweights from the same gym.
When the pad of paper is put aside, Makdessi opens up about his art.
“Fighting is a way to express myself. I want to out strike you and out think you. I won’t brawl with you. Why train if you are just going to brawl? If I want to brawl, I will go outside and brawl. MMA is about technique and I want to be known as the best striker in the world.”
He gives most of the credit for his success to Zahabi, Chaimberg, and Muay Thai coach Peter Sisomphou. After years of kickboxing, Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do training and winning Canadian and Olympic Junior titles, Makdessi has found a home for the past three years at one of the best MMA gyms in the world.
“Firas is my biggest challenge. He is a great fighter and a great coach. He is always teaching himself. He always surpasses me and he always has something to teach me. The gym is like an all star team. You know you have to train harder to get better than others.”
The cold fighter turns out to be an warm, emotional person when talking about people close to him. There is an obvious appreciation to his Team Bull group of family, friends and fans who have supported him throughout the years – particularly older brother David, who “helps me out a lot.”
This weekend, the cold, calculating assassin must return as the 6-0 Makdessi must face the more experienced Bendy Casimir at MFL 3. The 19-7 Casimir is coming off two fights at the WEC and is the step up that The Bull has been looking for. There were rumors this summer that Makdessi was offered a WEC fight, but a staph infection kept him on the shelf.
As for John’s prediction on the fight? Once again, there is little bravado from The Bull and no “KO Round 1” talk. He merely states, “I am always training and always improving. This fight will be a good test for me to see where I am at. The only thing that I can perdict is that I will be ready and I hope that I fight the best Casimir !”
Watch the MFL 3 fights on Saturday, as usual, Makdessi will let his performance speak for him.
**** All photos by Sean McManus.