For anyone who doesn’t know, Noad Lahat is one of the few Israeli mma fighters prominent in the MMA world today. A member of the UFC’s featherweight division, Noad currently holds a professional record of 10 wins with only one loss.
Israel is known for its military martial art, Krav Maga. This system was developed specifically to teach 18 year olds how to be effective in dangerous situations. Krav Maga has become popular worldwide, but there are as of yet very few successful Israeli MMA fighters.
Noad was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to share some of his thoughts on MMA, BJJ and Krav Maga as he has personally experienced them.
Noad started judo when he was 4 years old, started training with the Israeli Olympic team when he was 15 and got his black belt when he was 18 in 2002. When he was 18 stopped training for 3 years due to his military service and then after that he went back to judo for one more year. After that he was looking for something else and he found jiu jitsu.
“I heard about Jiu Jitsu, and spoke to a few Jiu Jitsu guys. I was planning on going to South America to travel with my friends, but my plan was to go to two weeks to Brazil and train a little bit in Jiu Jitsu and then meet up with my friends. I got to train with Ricardo Vieira, one of the leaders of Checkmat, and never went anywhere else in South America. I stayed in Rio then came back to Israel and kept doing JJ then start training a little bit in MMA and loved it, and that’s where I am today.”
I asked Noad to tell me about some of his perspectives on BJJ for MMA, specifically sport BJJ for MMA, given his experience as a jiu jitsu competitor.
“I stopped doing sport BJJ when I got more serious about MMA, I had to pull a little bit away from the Jiu Jitsu because of the rules… they’re different games, especially at the lower weights with the sport of jiu jitsu, with all the berimbolo and stuff, it’s a completely different game. You can’t specialize in that and care about the points when you’re in the world of MMA. No gi is a little different like Abu Dhabi and stuff like that… but IBJJF rules are different. It’s hard to be in an organization like the UFC and then go focus like that and compete in an amateur tournament where there’s no money, and you have to dedicate major time to that and be focused, you can’t just go and jump in. And you see all the big guys like Jacare, when they went to MMA they stopped with jiu jitsu competition. Most of the people when they go MMA they stop jiu jitsu.”
In spite of his misgivings about competition oriented jiu jitsu, Noad still trains in the gi…
“It’s obvious who does jiu jitsu, who takes it seriously and who doesn’t. That’s what makes me such a good striker compared to other people. I’m not afraid to go down, to be on the bottom. Checkmat is famous for the bottom half guard. And that’s basically the worst position someone can put you in MMA. If I’m in half guard, that’s my best position. I feel comfortable there. That’s why I don’t mind the take down, the kicks; you grab my leg and take me down… That’s why jiu jitsu guys feel a little more relaxed…”
Noad did have some serious criticism of Jiu Jitsu as it stands in the MMA world today. “Many top MMA guy got their black belts never doing jiu jitsu… They’re wrapping the belt around their waist, without ever wearing a gi. I think it’s a joke. If you’re a black belt, you have to be a good jiu jitsu guy, MMA or not.”
One point of contention in the jiu jitsu community is the leglock game. Many high level jiujiteiros for the most part ignore it. I thought it would be interesting to get a BJJ guy in the MMA world’s perspective on it.
“It’s a little different. When you talk about Palhares for example, it’s a little different.
The way he’s built—he’s built for leg locks – look at his legs. He’s got two really big legs, short legs. He jumps on them. And he is extremely strong, naturally and not naturally. And he’s able to grab those legs. A lot of those guys, in jiu jitsu too, that’s something even the jiu jitsu guys don’t have. When they touch the legs, they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. And that’s because of the problem with IBJJF rules, leg locks are restricted. Most jiu jitsu guys, even black belts, don’t know leg locks. And when you roll with no gi, MMA, even with the high-level jiu jitsu black belts, the leg locks aren’t there.”
I was curious to see, from a BJJ guy doing MMA’s perspective why super effective heel hooks aren’t more common in MMA:
“The problem with leg locks, you see that even with Palhares, every time you meet a decent jiu jitsu guy, and he has a problem. He was never able to leg lock strong jiu jitsu guys. The problem with leg locks in MMA is that you give up your position and then you’re open to the strikes, which in competition jiu jitsu I’m not afraid of. I don’t have to worry about strikes when I’m on my back; I’ll try to get your ankle. It’s not a high risk. But in MMA, it’s a high-risk move. That’s the problem. I’ve seen many guys like Palhares who have nothing else to offer. So most of the attacks usually are available when you’re on the bottom. You’re on the bottom, you’re trying to get the guy off of you, attack his legs. It’s hard to try to submit someone punching you in the face. A submission might get you or it might not. A punch in the face it might knock you out or it might not… but it’s a bigger risk.”
I asked Noad to give me some of his insights about Krav Maga and why it hasn’t become a leading style for MMA.
“There’s no game, it is real life fighting. It’s just different. They train to handle specific situation, like groups or using rifles… it’s not a sport. That’s the difference between that and jiu jitsu today… but again, when someone’s trying to make money off it, it’s a little different.”
Noad won his most recent two fights in the UFC; we look forward to seeing what the technical and skilled mixed martial artist has to offer in his upcoming fights.