I came to Ireland with a different attitude. I had huge positive energy with me when I arrived here. After my last visit here – if you ask me how is it different this time around – compared to the previous times I was in Ireland – I say this cannot be compared to my previous visits. Now I’m running about as much in a week as I did in three years altogether the last time I was here. I’m doing this more professionally now. When I decided to come here, I made sure to plan every single aspect of it. Whether it’s rest, nutrition, sports, recovery – all the specs have been planned, and it’s also showing in my results. Athletes must always stay healthy. Because it’s more fun to exercise when you’re healthy. You simply cannot be a clutch player, or a good player in a team – if you cannot play due to injury. The same goes for MMA. You have to be able to train really intensively – leading up to a match. Dealing with injuries is out of the question at that time. We try to define the athlete’s muscular balance as well as possible. Looking for weaknesses, trying to balance them. We do this for two reasons. First, so the body could complete the tasks that this sport requires of it. And second, in order to stay healthy. These things always go hand in hand. To get good at this, to get good at anything really – you got to do it every day. And it’s not going to be days and weeks, it’s going to be months and years. And to do something every day for months and years, you’re not going to force yourself to do it. No amount of willpower will help you there. No amount of motivational speeches from me is going to make you do that. You got to do it because you enjoy it. That’s the number one aspect for me. I don’t want the training sessions to be super hard when in a week or two, your body starts to break down. I want them to be such that you can do a bit every day. And that’s what leads to someone getting to an expert level in year’s time. If I skip my morning run, breakfast won’t taste the same. Lunch, dinner, it messes up everything. Breaks my rhythm. And – I can’t go to sleep at the same time, my energy levels will be fluctuating. There is no shortcut here. You train hard out there. You eat right and healthy. And you think about the things you put into this machine that is your body. There has to be recovery – and above all else, your mind has to be in it. That’s what I’ve studied more than ever before. I always say, “Hard work, hard work” – that is what has gotten me this far. And – then I’ve begun to wonder, everybody’s training hard, right? So it’s about playing your cards right, having your mind and brain function better – so that even in a tight spot, you can act with reason and make the right moves. If it wasn’t for Betsafe – I can say the starting points would be the same they were in my previous match – but now we have made sure that everything – I can do to prepare for a match has been done the best way possible. Betsafe has made sure of that. I’m sure it’s Makwan’s first time he’s fighting a ranked fighter – in November in Madison Square Garden. That to me is a very strong indication that the UFC is taking him seriously. So now we have a real first step towards the UFC goal. We go in a do our job against this guy – in front of a Madison Square audience – then I think we’re on target for a 2020 title fight. If you think about where Makwan is about to fight – in New York against a guy from Bronx. I don’t think too many people are throwing serpentine when Makwan walks towards the ring. I believe Maku will just be laughing – “Haters gonna hate, I love it.” He’ll just get pumped up. I’m here to work like anyone else – it’s just that my job’s a little different. I don’t want to make it anything more than it is. If you say, “Go out there in front of a class and do a presentation” – then for me, going there and doing a presentation – and going to fight in Madison Square Garden, they’re both the same thing. I go out there, do my job, and get back. I’m the same person, the same guy, and that’s all there is to it. You definitely need to have a game plan going in. Now in saying that, I also warn my guys that we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know if two weeks out time we get a message – “Oh, that great kickboxer you were getting ready for, you’re fighting a high-level wrestler now.” Sometimes you commit a game plan and then it just comes into the fight and it goes out the window. So you got to train for everything and expect the unexpected. Sometimes game plans just don’t work, sometimes they do. Sometimes they’re great, sometimes they’re not. At the end of the day, it’s normally 15 minutes. So long as you prepare for war for 15 minutes – or 25 if it’s a title or main event – you should be able to face anything. For myself, the cornerstones in any coaching relationship are – first of all trust. I need to trust the athlete. I need to know everything I can about that athlete. Whether it’s about their civil life or anything. Especially if we’re working with commitment. I need to be the guy they can share their thoughts with, because a person’s psyche affects the way we work. It also affects their level of commitment. And that’s the other thing – so trust and commitment. So trust is the number one quality because – in the heat of the battle, your coach on the outside might be able to see something. Because they’re outside the chaos. And you have to trust them. And there is no way to get that, other than with time and experience. So I get some guys that join the gym and they might say, “Oh, I’ve a fight in two week’s time. Can you train me for and corner me?” “No, definitely not!” You won’t even hear my voice after that period of time. It’s going to take months and years for us to get a report – so that you will trust my calls. And I can also read your body language. I can look at my fighter and pretty accurately guess what their heart rate is. So that’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. I’ve never been a very religious person – but you know, all of this, it can’t just end like this. That once our life is over, it’s all a big nothing. It’s all over. I just don’t believe that – and I think it makes a big difference how you act during this life – in the things to come. Somebody once told me that – you need to treat people well and behave well, so that on the day of your own funeral – there will be more than just a few people there grieving for you. When I think about that, I realize I want – to have done the right thing if I gain success in something – so I can use that energy and that power – to share it with others so maybe someone else can also get all this. Because I won’t be here forever. Again, it’s not about what happens to me – as long as it doesn’t affect other people. As long as I don’t hurt others, it’s all okay. As a public figure I know my actions affect others. And because of that, I have to be serious about – my actions, the way I live, what I eat, what I drink, how I act – all of these things affect other people, they affect my own family. They will probably affect my kids too, because one day, when I have kids – and they say, “But daddy, you did that too, how can you refuse me that?” But how we use the power or energy we get from our achievements – well, I want to use it for the good of our society. This kind of success – it results in some people showing their support. And then there are jealous people that don’t appreciate it. Maku’s done a good job of dealing with these things. Even though his behaviour makes him a role model for many adolescents – it’s not his mission to be a role model. It just comes naturally. He doesn’t have to portray himself as a role model. He can also show some negative things. All that glitters is not gold. Makwan’s wins are a big deal to us. The phrase “he won” doesn’t cut it. He didn’t just win. He did something that forever stays in my mind and in my heart. It’s nice to see so many fans out there – both Finnish and Kurdish fans. You could almost say they’re all celebrating a win as if they were fighting themselves. Of course Makwan is the one fighting, but we all consider the wins our own. And whenever he succeeds, it feels like twice the win for me. There is no such thing as chance. You work hard for something. You think about it a lot – you attract things that relate to your thought. And then, at some point – I don’t know when – but I know that day is coming. None of my competitors are as dedicated to this as I am at the moment. I know it will bear fruit. There will be results. I will hold on to that, until I’ve reached my goal. Then, when I’ve reached my goal, then I will say I did it. And then I’ll take a break. After that, I can focus on other things. Until then, Makwan Amirkhani will be a very selfish person. I say selfish because I simply cannot put effort into anything else right now. I’ve given up things I love – I’ve given up things that make me smile and laugh – for the sake of not failing this mission. And I will not fail. You have my word on that. I’ll have a championship belt around my waist before we’re through 2020. Mark my words.