Daily Israel Report

Martial Arts Champ Going Home to Fight in Gaza

Noad Lahat wins UFC featherweight bout and says: 'I love California, but I need to go and defend my home.'
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 7/28/2014, 9:04 PM

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Noad “Neo” Lahat, who scored a unanimous decision victory against Steven Siler on Saturday at UFC on Fox 12, is on his way home to Israel, to join the fighting in Gaza.

“This last two months has been an absolute hell, worrying about all my friends and family,” Lahat told an interviewer after the fight. “I just knew I had to go back and help my country... I wanted to show my flag and use my victory to give my family strength in this dark time.

“I want to stay here and have fun and enjoy the rest of the week after two really tough months. But man, I’m going to have to go, otherwise I’m not going to have a home. My mom and my dad have 15 seconds to run to get shelter when missiles are falling on them, and I’m here in sunny California. I love California, but I need to go and defend my home.”

Lahat is the UFC’s second Israeli-born fighter, told MMAfighting.com: "My family has about 15 seconds every time an alarm goes off to take a shelter from missiles. And for us, it’s not some faraway war on the other side of the world. It’s by my home. I need to go protect my family, protect my country, protect my future."

"As soon as they call my unit, I’m in," Lahat says. "I’m going to join my brothers, the same people I served with for years. And there’s no other way for me. And for me to be here, not at home right now, it’s something that…it’s beyond miserable. For me to be here and not at home right now, not being at home with my people. To be fighting in sunny California, it’s a horrible feeling."

Lahat served for three-and-a-half years in the Israeli army as part of a paratrooper unit.

He says his teammates at the American Kickboxing Academy have been empathetic to his plight, and have helped him by "punching me as hard as they can."

"The only time I could take my mind off of that was in the gym sparring," he says. "Other than that, I am watching news or on the phone with friends and family all the time. It’s been a hard camp."

"It’s more than moral. We can’t lose the war. If we lose there is no hope for me. California is not my home. I love California, and it’s nice, but it’s not my home. It’s a great place, but it’s not my place. For me, if I want to go back home, I need to protect it."