“I look at basic, I look at typical,” Dada told New Times in a recent sit-down at Hard Rock Hollywood. “I look at standard, and I look at generic. I am none of that. I am that prescribed. I am something you can’t get this over the counter. You have to have special paperwork to get this over the counter and I don’t know how many people can pull it off.”
“It is the mind frame,” Dada says. “It is seeing things for not just what they are, but what they can be. It is ever-evolving for me and they say creative minds are a terrible thing to waste, and I am a true believer that creative minds never take a day off.”
He is also a survivor. Doctors said he died twice in the ring following his MMA fight with Kimbo Slice in 2016 at Bellator 149.
The 42-year-old Dada spoke candidly about his brush with death while promoting the Brawl III: Brawl at The Rock, a 10-bout, bare-knuckle boxing event inside the 3-sided Trigon on Saturday night at the new Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Resort and Casino in Hollywood.
“That was a level I had never experienced,” Dada said. “The energy, that place was sold out and the crowd, it would zap everything from you. Hit or miss, you just have to be focused.
Dada says he remembers everything from the fight. “I knew I was in trouble in the second round because my body started to shut down. He threw 78 punches and I took 57. There was no way I was going to let someone reel off 78 punches.”
He recalled doctors, trainers, and everyone backstage discussing that he was dead. He was being asked to move his extremities and there was doubt he was alive or just having nervous twitches. Dada said his heart stopped the first time for five minutes and then again for eight more minutes.
“I had the will and the want and the fight to live,” Dada said. “They were saying there was nothing else to do. My brothers were saying they are going to see a miracle. I could have laid down and given up — I am here to fight the good fight. My work is not done.”
Dada said he is bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter than he was when he fought Slice, who was later found to have failed his pre-fight drug test when lab results found traces of the anabolic steroid nandrolone. Slice passed away four months after the fight.
Making a comeback to the ring is not off the table, Dada said.
“They said my EKG was better now than it was before the fight,” Dada said. “Everything is better now."
Still, it's clear he's moving on — moving up, really.
"I have more projects I want to get done," he says. "I feel that I am bigger than just a fighter, there is much more than just fighting and I can give unconditional wisdom to these individuals on the 7th and I feel I am more valuable on the marketing and promotion and development side than the fighting side."
“Can I fight?” Dada asked, “Yes, I can. Will I make a comeback? Eventually, I will. Right now we are going to build an empire that is going to rival anything that is dealing with combat sports.”
“I knew I was tough and I knew I had a chance coming into the fight because my other fights,” Dada said. “Quitting was never an option. I was willing to die in that ring and that is the difference between me and everyone else in that ring because that is where I come from. It is all or nothing.”
The 6-foot-3, 258-pound Dada is beaming about this weekend's event.
Literally and figuratively, the gloves are off for these bar-knuckled pugilists. Dada referenced the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), known for its Wrestlemania events that play to packed arenas and stadiums across the country.
“This is all about raising the bar. I prided myself on a little bit of WWE,” Dada said. “This is the real deal — you are going to see personality and character and you are going to see one hell of great performance out of each and everybody because they understand, winning or losing, is the difference in your career. Everybody likes a winner, and you were given an opportunity because you deserve it.”
Dada said there may not be any of the 10 fights that go the distance Saturday night. He said the pressure on the fighters pales in comparison to the pressure of where they come from.
“They come from poverty,” said Dada, who came of age in backyards in Cutler Bay and now resides in Perrine. “We are giving them outlets and they can only go up from here. They know the only way they can go anywhere is to put on a great show. This is the end game for a lot of these dudes.
“Most of these guys don’t have a high school education,” Dada continued. “Most of them don’t have skills. They don’t have a trade. They got two strikes against them and they don’t want to get a third. They got two hands, a love for a sport, an art form called combat sports."
The fight card is headlined by a super heavyweight showdown between Chris Barnett (20-6) and Matt Kovacs (19-12-1, 15 KOs), and a light heavyweight battle between Mike Trujillo (4-5) and Matt Delanoit (27-14-0, 1 no contest).
Undefeated female strawweight Lokadia Carthan (12-0) of Riviera Beach and Miami's middleweight Isiah Quinones (4-1) will also appear on the undercard.
Among the combatants in a featured 185-pound round-robin tournament at Brawl 3 are two Floridians who will go head to head: undefeated South Florida-native Rene Rodriguez (12-0) vs. Miami's bruiser Robert Brown (4-0).
“At the end of the day, I am telling them from experience that they have to be smart,” Dada said. “You don’t want to be the highlight on someone’s highlight reel.”
Brawl 3: Brawl at the Rock. 8 p.m. Saturday, March 7, Hard Rock Live, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood; seminolehardrockhollywood.com. Tickets range from $45 to $305 via myhrl.com.