KARACHI: “What makes a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter? Faith and poverty,” explains the 26-year-old Muhammad Imran who will be competing at the co-main event of One Championship on January 20 in Jakarta.
Imran is no ordinary 26-year-old and his journey into MMA defines his life. The youngster has a record of six professional fights out of which he has lost only one, but more importantly it is his passion to run the club Pakido, that he explains means, “Pakistani, do, representing the way in the Japanese language”.
Imran runs Pakido in his home town of Gujjar Khan Tehsil, where he is training for the One Championship event for at least six hours a day.
The One FC contract, he believes, has given him hope and motivation that he can have a new life and a career as an MMA fighter.
“It’s like going to a battle,” Imran told The Express Tribune. “I train three hours each in the morning and in the evening, covering all the exercises that can strengthen me: cardio, swimming, running, kick-boxing and so on.
He added: “It’s my battle with myself first and then of course when I get to the event, it will be all about standing tall in the ring. I wanted to go to the UFC too, but it will take time.”
Imran developed a taste of the MMA when he was just 10, following his older brother pro-fighter Muhammad Shahid. Meanwhile, the circumstances themselves pushed him towards MMA, as he lost his father at 15 and MMA became everything for him.
“Why do we take on fights and get beat up? Well it’s definitely faith first, and then poverty. One starts to think that taking a little beating wouldn’t hurt as much as the sport gets us money. It is one passion that can keep us disciplined given the children and youngsters in my town can easily get into drugs. It’s more like saving yourself and others from going astray,” said Imran.
Imran is training the younger athletes in Pakido, the first MMA club in Pakistan, while many older karatekas also come to him.
He described his inclination towards MMA as natural, given that he did not have many options while growing up in Gujjar Khan Tehsil.
“We didn’t have cricket, football or hockey, but there has always been these clubs, temporary but the clubs ran that trained kids in Karate, kushti, kabaddi and MMA. At Pakido now, we see the common stream that even our traditional games like kabaddi and kushti are about fights and winning and we have that culture that we can expand on, but we are still very small, I still have to pay rent for it, and there isn’t much support,” added Imran.
Called ‘The Spider’ for his grappling technique, Imran believes that it is high time for the government to start seeing MMA as a sport too.
Imran, who will be taking on Indonesia’s Stefer Rahardian, is training with his teacher and coach Jalil Ahmed.
He was the winner in the straw-weight championships of Pak Fight Club, and also holds a record of three national submission grappling events.
Imran further added that his promoter Muhammad Rizwan Ali, who runs Prime Sports management, has supported and guided him greatly.
Meanwhile, with a goal in mind and hope to inspire the youth in his Tehsil, along with the country, Imran feels winning the One Championship will change everything.
“It’s a big opportunity for me and I will fight to the best of my abilities and win. I have suffered a lot in my life and I think it’s my time to show the world that Pakistani MMA fighters can match the potential of others fighters from any other country,” concluded Imran.