KARACHI: Yes, Pakistan can produce female MMA fighters.
When Rida Marriyam takes on her debut international fight, she will not only be breaking the stereotype that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a masculine sport, but will also be making history for the country.
The 28-year-old from Lahore hopes to prove that pursuing sports like MMA does not take away a woman’s femininity; instead, the ring is free of all prejudices constructed by the society.
She wants women to know that even in a country like Pakistan, having a career in MMA is possible.
“I feel MMA is gender neutral,” Rida says while talking to The Express Tribune. “I don’t believe you lose your femininity. The sport can empower men and women both. However, women have to put in extra effort when it comes to physical strength.”
She says it is very exciting when young boys and girls come to the gym and see women training for MMA. They understand that anyone and everyone can make a career in the sport, irrespective of gender.
Marriyam began training in combat sports with boxing, moving on to Jiu Jitsu in 2015 and then progressing to MMA. She is currently training at the Rogue Fitness and Martial Arts Academy. Her training includes weight training, MMA and boxing, as well as Jiu Jitsu which she enjoys a lot.
Speaking about her upcoming fight Marriyam said: “I’m training for the fight and it requires our best. I’m working hard, five days a week for at least four hours every day, with my trainers at the gym. I’m already 28 so I know I don’t have a lot of time.”
Marriyam recently competed in her first amateur boxing bout against an athlete from her former club.
“We had a match and my opponent was just as good, we will be fighting again next month,” she said. “This fight was important to find out how long I can last in the ring. I had never competed in a match before and gradually my coaches can gauge my progress.”
Marriyam hopes to step into the international arena with the intention to change Pakistan’s image. She hopes to challenge the perception that men are a hurdle in women’s progress in the country.
“My trainers are all men and they are supportive. The perception that Muslim men don’t encourage women to pursue their goals needs to change.”
Finally Marriyam wants young people interested in sports to understand that: “Anyone, no matter where they are, can dream and achieve what they what. They just need to find proper guidance and keep trying.”
Admitting that the international bout will be difficult for her she hopes to learn from the experience and see how fighters from other countries prepare and perform. “We need to try at least and not give up,” she said.