“If I hadn’t found my love for this sport, I reckon I’d be in jail right now,” says Ali Cevik.
Cevik, 23, is one of the three very different Aussies featured in the upcoming SBS documentary Caged, who all compete in the extreme pursuit of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) - better known as Cage Fighting.
Speaking with SBS Online this week, Cevik shared an insight into his earlier life: “I was leading the wrong path, being 17 or 18 - I use to go out, do dumb shit.”
“I was involved in a few things. My parents had to send me overseas for a while, just to get away.”
It was around then that he wandered into the Western Sydney gym run by his coach Fari Salievski.
“My intention was never to fight to be honest with you,” says Cevik.
The way Fari tells it though the young Cevik had a lot of aggression to let out. When Fari invited him to spar with some members of MMA coach’s top team, he was knocked to the ground almost instantly.
“That was the end of my ego, right there and then,” says Cevik.
Once he got involved with the disciplined training regimen required of MMA, his attitude began to change.
“When I started training, I just slowly drifted away from the crowd,” Cevik explains.
He even started honing his softer side. As seen in a sneak peek clip from the show below, Cevik developed a taste for pampering, with coach Fari more than happy to accompany him in what would seem a rather unlikely pastime for a cage fighter:
“I wear steal cap boots all day so I get dead skin around my toes,” explains Cevik of his pedicure habit. “I don’t like it – especially if I’m in bed with my missus and my feet are rubbing against hers… I don’t like it!”
Circumstances have changed significantly for the enterprising young concreter since his early days as a troublemaker.
“I just bought a house,” Cevik proudly reveals - an accomplishment that evades most Sydney-based 20-somethings let alone those who came from a rough start.
It wasn’t just a shift in character either, the discipline of MMA also brought about a dramatic physical change.
“I was pretty fat,” says Cevik. “I lost about 40-60 kilos – I was a really big boy.”
Now days Ali’s fighting fit at around 70kgs – but making weight before a fight can be a struggle.
“I love to eat,” says Cevik.
As the documentary explores, the task of making a lighter weight category for weigh-in – 24 hours out from a fight, can often be extremely grueling.
“Yeah, it sucks,” says Cevik.
Weight-cutting often involves forcing the fighter’s body through a period of extreme dehydration as the fastest method of reducing body mass – by shedding fluids. After they make weight, they’ve then got 24 hours to rehydrate, bulk up and hopefully then have the upper hand over their opponents.
The clip from the documentary below shows the intense method Cevik uses to shed the weight, with the encouragement of coach Fari, cutting more than six kilos in one day.
It’s a practice that can be intense, uncomfortable – and highly dangerous.
“I don’t think it’s all that suitable for me to be honest with you,” says Cevik. “I don’t feel good.”
“Doing big cuts – like eight or nine kilos is just stupid. I wouldn’t do the fight.”
Yet he’s not adverse to the practice altogether.
“If it’s like five-six kilos, that’s fine.”
Cevik justifies it, “it’s just all water.”
“I got used after a while,” he explains.
“At first it seems all dramatic: ‘oh shit, I’m get light headed. I’m getting dizzy,’ but you get used to it.”
“If you really stick it through that first time you do it, then you can stick it through all the other times you do it too, so it’s nothing major.”
To an outsider, that still seems like an awful lot of weight to shift in a matter of hours though – with the potential to cause heat stroke and the loss of vital fluids potentially threatening to organs. That doesn’t bother Cevik though.
“For me, I love food and I love to eat,” laughs Cevik.
He says that he doesn’t want to have to suffer through a strict diet for months on end.
“I’d rather keep eating and then just do big cuts.”