KARACHI: No matter what the sport, Pakistan and India matches are always tense affairs; with the contests becoming larger than the game itself. It will be no different on Saturday, when two of the best mixed martial arts fighters from the neighbouring countries take on each other in a World Series of Fighting Global Championship bout at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Manila, Philippines.
Representing Pakistan and Team Fight Fortress in the flyweight fight will be Philippines’ UnderGround Battle (UGB) MMA champion Uloomi Karim, while the undefeated Yadwinder Singh will fight out of the Indian corner.
At 5’6”, Karim may be two inches shorter than Singh, but his confidence heading into the bout is touching the sky. “I have worked extremely hard on my cardio for this fight, and I'm confident it will make a difference,” he told The Express Tribune.
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Discussing his opponent, he added: "Yadwinder is a traditional wrestler who has transitioned into the MMA, while my strength lies is striking. Hence, the fight won't just have the Pakistan-India angle to it but will also be a battle of styles."
Such is the nature of the sport that blood is bound to be spilled when Karim and Singh enter the cage, but once the fight is over, the two will respect each other; as is the norm in the world of MMA.
"Yadwinder and his [Team Relentless] camp are always very respectful and supportive, and we also reciprocate with the same," explained Karim.
On the same card, Karim's good friend Ahmed ‘Wolverine’ Mujtaba will also be in action against Philippines' Neil Larano in a featherweight fight. Like Uloomi, he too is a reigning UGB champion and is supremely confident in his ability.
However, he complained that despite their sacrifices to raise the Pakistani flag at a global stage, their efforts go largely unnoticed.
"My parents, my trainers and my university have invested a lot of time and energy into my career. We are finally getting results, yet there is no support whatsoever," said Mujtaba, who is an aspiring engineer and studies at the Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences in Quetta.
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Mujtaba and Karim are from a new breed of athletes in Pakistan, who are just as dedicated to their studies as they are to their sport. Both are studying computer engineering, and when not in training, attend their university classes like regular students.
All they seek in return is a bit of attention and respect from sports fans in Pakistan. They may not have bats and balls in their hands, but they are just as talented as the Afridis and the Akhtars of our world.
The fight will be streamed live on wsofgc.com at 3pm (PKT) on Saturday.