ST. PETERSBURG - Growing up in Sari, Iran, bordering the Caspian Sea, Mehrdad Khan Moayedi didn't have dreams of becoming Bruce Lee or Muhammad Ali. He had visions of it.
Thousands of miles from his country and two decades removed from religious and political reform that coerced him to leave his family when he was 20, Moayedi, now 40 and a resident of St. Petersburg, has become witness to some of those visions. The movie deal and the cultural movement, he said, are on their way.
"The purity of the heart shows on the face," said Moayedi, the "Persian Warrior," an international master of martial arts and owner of a dojang (school) at 3028 9th St. N. in St. Petersburg. "I believed in what I wanted to do. I wanted to be superstar. I've always been a fighter, and a promoter of what I do, and by the time I was ready to leave, we were training underground. I didn't want to be the next in line to be shot at by an Iraqi."
The history of Iran is harsh with war. Moayedi's business is relatively the same. He challenges anyone. He will fight anyone. He will beat anyone.
"I used to take down all the street bullies," he said. "I was boxing by the time I was 4. Training was always brutal, but it is a way of life. I would get to see the movies with Bruce Lee and watch Ali fights and say that's what I wanted to be. A superstar that's more than a superstar."
At age 7 Moayedi was in full martial arts training. By the time he was 15, he was an undefeated bare-knuckle boxer at the local and not-so-local fight clubs of Iran. Extensive and relentless training led him outside of the country when reform culminated in the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Moayedi's record is 39-3 in professional bouts with 35 of his wins being knockouts, varying from Muay Thai kickboxing, Persian wrestling and ultimate fighting or K1. He has traveled the world to fight, but now has the world traveling to fight here.
After moving from Canada to St. Petersburg in 1990, he opened his school in 1993, and in 2002 had the Florida Boxing Commission sanction (a rarity) a draft of rules he wrote. The bouts are Shin Do Kumate bouts, which allow a fighter with many styles to enter a ring. Moayedi founded the World Shin Do Kumate Association and MKM Knockout that together have put on six Kumates since 2002.
On Saturday, at Kumate VII in Tampa, Moayedi was supposed to fight for the first time since 2003, when he beat Atlanta's Lane Collyer at Kumate II. But three fighters, including James Sisco who has 36 career wins, backed out.
"The ring to me is easy," Moayedi said. "There are things outside of it, though. I've learned a lot in this country. I am a big believer in America. I want to be huge someday, so when I do go back home, I can easily persuade my people into giving the country back to the shah and going back to the Persian culture we grew up in."