Following his win over Steven Siler at UFC on Fox 12, Noad Lahat is putting his fighting career on hold to rejoin the Israeli army in the conflict with Hamas militants on the Gaza strip.
Oddly enough, stepping into the cage Saturday night was actually the calm before the storm for Lahat, who entered the bout knowing he would be heading back to his homeland. As the up-and-coming featherweight danced under the bright lights of the UFC, his family and friends were ducking for cover from missiles and gunfire in what seems like a million miles away.
Lahat dedicated his win over Siler to peace, not war. Sadly, the history of mankind has taught us that the road to peace sometimes leads to war. When asked why he was returning to fight, Lahat explained during an appearance on the CNN Newsroom that there was simply “no other way.”
“You can’t achieve peace without being ready for war,” he said. “If people are attacking you and they’re not going to stop until you’re dead, then you have to go and fight. There’s no other way.”
Military life is engraved in the Lahat family name.
Noad served three-and-a-half years in the Israeli army, while both of his parents were former generals. His older brother and sister have both served as well, and his younger brother plans to do the same.
There is no pressure coming from the Israeli government forcing Lahat to return and fight for his homeland. The 30-year-old MMA fighter is acting on his own behalf in laying down the four-ounce gloves and putting his life at risk by taking up arms and joining the battlefront.
“It’s by choice. They can’t call me if I’m not there, but the second they called my friends...I got my ticket and said, ‘I’m ready to go back,’” said Lahat.
A series of back-and-forth incidents involving failed peace talks, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager led to the recent spark in the ongoing conflict.
On July 8, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) moved forward with Operation Protective Edge against Hamas militants in the Gaza strip. Military strikes have been carried out by both sides in the bloody conflict.
For Lahat, it’s just another round in an ongoing battle that isn’t any closer to being resolved.
“It’s just another round of this ridiculous game,” said Lahat. “Hamas are shooting at us. We try to respond, but we can’t because most of the world...don’t let us finish the job and take Hamas down. So we stop, and then they’re shooting again.”
In the face of uncertainty and chaos, Lahat urges his family and friends to “be strong” and stick together in the midst of yet another deadly conflict.
“We will win,” he said.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA writer for Rocktagon.