Three years after his withdrawal from the Tokyo Worlds, former Iranian Saeid Mollaei faced Israeli Sagi Muki for the first time this Saturday at the Budapest Grand Slam. A fight that had an impact far beyond sport.
It was a highlight of the 2019 Worlds. Behind the scenes of the Nippon Budokan, when he was world number 1, the Iranian Saeid Mollaei saw his hopes of the title of world champion come up against politics. Opposed to the Belgian Matthias Casse, the native of Tehran had bowed to the “golden score” before giving up facing the Georgian Luka Maisuradze by advancing an injury to justify his package.
However, shortly after the competition, Saeid Mollaei did not hesitate to break a taboo by claiming that he was forced to do so, his family having been threatened, for the sole purpose of not getting on the podium alongside the Israeli Sagi Muki, then crowned world champion. A public outing which very quickly reacted to the International Judo Federation (IJF), which excluded Iran from all its competitions for four years. Forced to flee his country to take refuge in Germany, Saeid Mollaei participated in the last Olympic Games under the banner of Mongolia, with a silver medal at stake.
First ever contest between Saeid Mollaei and Sagi Muki! What a beautiful friendship between these judoka!
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Mollaei got the better of Muki
The 30-year-old judoka then changed his sporting nationality for the second time to represent Azerbaijan. At the end of this case, Saeid Mollaei and Sagi Muki became friends, with the former Iranian who didn’t hesitate to travel to Israel last year to take part in the Tel Aviv Grand Slam, during which he won silver. However, the two fighters never had the opportunity to face each other on the tatami. This changed this Saturday with the third round of the Budapest Grand Slam under 81kg category..
A fight which, from the draw, was highly anticipated and which, this time, took place. A tight fight that went to the “golden score”. While Saeid Mollaei ended up having the last word, the duel ended with a frank embrace between the two judokas. The Azerbaijani confided after this fight that “ it was so hard to face him “. Sagi Muki, for her part, immediately wanted to see her friend go for the gold medal. A fight that will undoubtedly mark the spirits.