Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Javid Basharat would love nothing more than to walk to the octagon for his UFC debut this weekend with the flag of Afghanistan wrapped around his shoulders.
Sadly, that won’t be allowed.
According to the bantamweight prospect, a similar request was denied when Basharat attempted to earn his UFC contract on the UFC’s Contender Series, and he’s still not allowed to carry the flag for his home nation as he prepares to meet Trevin Jones on the UFC Vegas 50 preliminary card.
“Unfortunately, I’m not [allowed],” Basharat told MMA Fighting. “I asked them, they said no. It’s just very annoying. It’s sad, but it is what it is. I don’t know much about politics to know as to why, and I don’t know anything about these legal documents and stuff, but they won’t allow the Afghanistan flag.
“What annoys me more is not having it on my T-shirt and my fight kit because they’re going to be limited versions. There’s not that many Afghan fighters. There’s only Nasrat [Haqparast] right now in the UFC. I wanted to have a kit with the Afghan flag on it and my name on it, you know?”
Basharat knows how much representation matters, especially given the volatility that has enveloped Afghanistan for more than 40 years.
He would love the chance to give the people in his home country someone they could root for on an international stage like the UFC, while also potentially inspiring them to find hope when it seems like they may be constantly surrounded by despair.
“I want these people to feel like they’re still important,” Basharat said. “You have to be proud of your country. That’s where your blood is from, and you have greatness within you. The thing is with the Afghan kids right now, they don’t have much to look up to. There’s a few people doing well, like the cricket team, but they don’t have that much to look up. I just want to be another person they can look up to. Not just kids but the whole nation.
“These little things, they matter. Unfortunately, we live in a time where the sport’s athletes are the best representation of the country, because politically, everybody’s a mess. I just want to be proud of that. I want to represent that.”
Basharat doesn’t know why exactly his request to walk out with the Afghanistan flag has been denied, although he harbors no ill will toward the UFC. It’s the company’s decision to make.
Of course, he’s not alone when it comes to confounding decisions — Brian Kelleher was recently told by the UFC that he couldn’t walk out with a peace flag after he initially wanted to use the flag from Ukraine for his fight at UFC 272.
“It is bizarre, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s the UFC’s fault,” Basharat said. “I think there’s commissions and God knows what goes on behind the scenes. So I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s the UFC’s fault, I have a feeling. They’re usually cool with that stuff.
“It’s better for them as marketing to have you represent your country, but there must be more to it behind the scenes. It is annoying, it is frustrating, but it is what it is. I’ll be the walking flag [for Afghanistan].”
As far as his fight goes, Basharat is anxious to prove himself in the UFC and build upon his perfect 11-0 record. He still possesses a 100-percent finishing rate.
Basharat was happy to get a more established opponent like Jones for his debut, because it’s exactly the type of fight he wasn’t able to land while competing on the European regional circuit when he was first making waves in the sport.
“If you look at my record, I don’t have that many fights against top competition as Trevin,” Basharat said. “That literally comes down to not being able to get fights in Europe. These Americans don’t understand how easy it is to get fights here. In Europe, it’s a nightmare, especially during COVID. Some of the guys on my record, they don’t have deep résumés but they’re actually decent fighters.
“Trevin is a great fighter. I keep saying this, the way he fought his last fight, that’s not Trevin. I know what weight cuts do to you, and during all those weight cuts, he had do like three in a month. I give Trevin his props. I’m not deluded and thinking Trevin’s not a good fighter. He is a good fighter. But it’s a good time for me to show how good I really am.”