Just last week, Pennsylvania native Bassil Hafez (6-1-1) stepped foot in the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia to headline CFFC 89 for the vacant welterweight title, a fight that had a lot of eyes glued to the – exclusively UFC Fight Pass aired – screen.
His opponent, Christien Savoie, was a highly touted fighter coming into this fight. The Canadain was making his U.S. debut, bringing his unblemished record (8-0) into the CFFC cage. Hafez, on the other hand, was a huge underdog coming into the fight with not many looks in his direction.
The fight started out with a heavy outside leg kick landed by Savoie. Hafez immediately closed the distance to secure a very tight bodylock takedown.
Methodically, Hafez moved from full-guard to half-guard to side control. Hafez locked in and cranked out a kimura. Though it did seem tight, he switched to an armbar. The perseverance of Savoie was on full display, as he was able to escape to get back to his feet.
Instead of letting Hafez back to his feet, Savoie followed Hafez down into his guard. The grappling advantage of Hafez was imminent, as he quickly locked in a tight triangle. A last-ditch effort from Savoie trying to slam his way out was futile; he couldn’t pull it off and was forced to tap.
The grappling ace squeezed out a career-first loss for Savoie, cinching the CFFC welterweight title in the process.
“I had a few gameplans going into the fight. Based on where the fight went right away, I saw an opportunity and jumped on it. Once I was able to get it to the ground, I felt that my ground control and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu were far more superior, and I showed it! My goal was a finish and I got the job done,” Hafez told MMA-Prospects.
“I didn’t pay much attention to being the underdog, honestly,” he said. “I looked at who he was as an opponent and what my strengths were. I believed that I could beat him before I got in the cage, and I proved it when I was in the cage. I did everything I said I wanted to do except for, maybe, [to] mix it up a little more on the feet, but I felt that I reacted well to his initial kicks and I’m confident even if the fight would have stayed standing.”
At a point in the now-28-year-old’s life, MMA was on the back burner. Instead, a whole different fight arose for Hafez.
In 2019, Hafez was in a significant car accident. He had internal bleeding and was in the ICU for nearly a week. After finally recovering from that trauma, Hafez ending up tearing the meniscus in both his knees, having to undergo two knee surgeries.
Despite the surgeries, there were still complications. With meniscus particles that were floating around in one of his knees, Hafez had to go through a third surgery, but since then he’s, he says he finally feels like he’s 100%.
“It was a horrible process. I had two surgeries with the same doctor at a top hospital in Philadelphia, and then I was still having serious issues from the second surgery. The doctor wouldn’t admit he messed up the second surgery and fix the issue. He told me to ‘Just get a knee replacement,’ and so I ended up having to go see about three or four different doctors over a year until finally one understood the issue and would operate on my knee. I’m thankful for Dr. Zgonis at the University of Pennsylvania hospital for saving my fighting career,” explained Hafez.
“Yeah, three knee surgeries and almost dying in a car accident was rough. 2019 was a horrible time for me and definitely tested me mentally and physically. There were a few times where I couldn’t picture the light at the end of the tunnel, but I kept believing in myself and that I knew I could do it. I know how tough and resilient I am, so it was just about making the people around me believe it as well. With enough perseverance, I got myself back to fight shape, and I’m improving every day,” said a determined Hafez.
Hafez has been a professional fighter since only 2016 but has been involved in MMA since 2012, starting his career off as an amateur. Even before MMA, Hafez has been athletically gifted from a young age.
“I played almost every sport growing up. I’ve played soccer, baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, and wrestling. I’ve been training Jiu-Jitsu and MMA for ten years now. I’m a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Ricardo and Phil Migliarese. I’m a son of two immigrants, a mother from Syria and a father from Egypt.”
Likewise, Hafez’s MMA journey began in his youth.
“As a kid, I used to get in street fights all the time. Then, as I got older, I continued getting in fights, but being eighteen, the repercussions are more serious. Since the day I saw UFC on Spike TV, I always wanted to be an MMA fighter. So, my cousins were training BJJ at the time and brought me to the gym. Since my first day on the mat, I always believed in what I was doing. In MMA/BJJ, I stayed the course, put my head down, and worked diligently. I received my black belt. Now, I want to receive a contract from a larger promotion. I will make it happen.”
After such a big win in a promotion like CFFC, especially on a platform like UFC Fight Pass, Bassil Hafez has stamped a major prospect label beside his name.
Before his most recent fight, in large part due to the two-year layoff prompted by his car accident and subsequent surgeries, Hafez wasn’t really known to a major audience. But for those just getting to know Hafez know, you’re in for a treat.
“For someone who is new to watching me, just know I always try to put on exciting fights and I always leave everything in the cage. I bust my ass in training and I always make weight! As for myself, I would love to fight in the UFC or one of the other large promotions.”
Hafez’s hopes and goals remain at an all-time high following his CFFC title victory.
“I want to prove I belong with the top fighters in the world. I see myself being a top contender and fighting for another world championship [in the next three years].”