Farid Basharat doubts UFC will OK carrying Afghanistan flag despite new rule from Dana White

UFC CEO Dana White recently declared fighters in the promotion will once again be allowed to walk out with flags from their home countries. But it doesn’t appear that rule will apply to bantamweight prospect Farid Basharat or his older brother, Javid.

The Basharat siblings hail from Afghanistan, a country now led by the Taliban, which introduced a new flag in 2021. The new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan features a different flag from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which was internationally recognized until the current regime took over.

As a result, fighters from Afghanistan have not been able to walk out with a flag from their home country, and Basharat doesn’t expect that rule to change. He said his brother was already denied when he asked for permission surrounding his most recent bout at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi.

“I would love to walk out with the flag, but I don’t think they’re allowing the Afghanistan flag,” Basharat told MMA Fighting. “Not the Afghanistan flag.

“We tried in Abu Dhabi for Javid, and they said no. Because they don’t recognize the current government flag, and the old one is not an official flag. So what flag are you going to bring out? The Afghanistan flag I still a no-no.”

It’s a disappointing decision, but it’s one that’s out of Basharat’s control. Ideally, he wants to walk to the octagon with a flag from his home country as a symbol of hope to the people still living in Afghanistan, especially with so much strife and war that has infected the country for several decades. Basharat understands that better than most after his family had to flee Afghanistan. But that’s also part of the reason he’d love to give people there a light they could potentially find through the darkness.

“When you’re coming up in the game, and you visualize those big moments, like for me, I always visualize the Afghanistan flag with me and just representing my people,” Basharat said. “Now I’m always going to represent my people, but the flag is just a nice visual symbol of our people. With or without the flag, I’m always going to represent my people. But the flag it would be nice to showcase it.

“It’s no secret what’s been going on in Afghanistan for the past 40 or 50 years. We’re not the luckiest country in terms of stability and peace. People see war on TV, but they don’t realize that it creates and it breeds a population and children of war. War affects you like you cannot imagine. Myself and my brother are examples of this. We were living in a refugee camp for a few years. All of this sounds Hollywood, but people go through this. I can’t begin to explain how tough it is, even when you migrate to another country, the pain and the difficulties doesn’t stop.”

Basharat grew up in the U.K. and now resides in the U.S., where he trains in Las Vegas. But he never forgets where he came from. Still, that doesn’t quiet the feeling he has, like a man without a home as he walks to the cage.

“To this day, I feel there’s something that feels empty a little bit,” Basharat explained. “I can go to Vegas [or wherever], and I still feel like I’m some ways that I don’t have a home. For somebody to not feel like they have a homeland properly, for a man, it’s not a good thing.

“For me and Javid, it’s always about representing our people and representing Afghans and motivating them, and just showing them we came from where you came from, too. We’re a product of this war, as well, but with the correct mindset, the correct attitude, you can make it far.”

Basharat, who competes at UFC Vegas 84 on Jan. 13, didn’t necessarily start fighting just to serve as an inspiration for others. But it’s been an improbable and welcome addition to his repertoire as he continues to build on his undefeated record.

He hopes the promotion will eventually reverse course where the Afghanistan flag is concerned. But he’s going to be a symbol for the people there no matter what.

“Ultimately, like I always say, representing the Afghan people and inspiring the Afghan people, the next generation, is one of the biggest things that motivates me,” Basharat said. “Some of that is hinged on our success. The more success we have, the more we can inspire and the more people we reach. It’s important the way Javid and I carry ourselves, too, and just show people what Afghans are like.

“I’m always thinking am I doing right by my people? Am I reflecting on my community correctly? Me and Javid are always going to represent our people, but it’s a shame we’re not allowed to just carry our flag.”