KARACHI: Irfan Ahmed will be making his professional debut at the ONE Warrior Series in Singapore on June 20 while his coach and the Shaheen Academy founder, also known as the Godfather of Mixed Martial Arts in Pakistan, Bashir Ahmed believes the fight will be important for his most hardworking student.
Irfan will take on Nepali kick-boxing champion Sandeep Gurung in the strawweight division. The ONE Warrior Series show will be hosted by former world champion Rich Franklin, who is talent hunting in Asia and Australia.
The 23-year-old fighter trains and lives at the Shaheen Academy that Bashir founded where aspiring athletes and the core team of the academy trains as well. The academy is a non-profit facility in Lahore with a focus on developing youth by sponsoring education and providing after-school tuition alongside martial arts training.
Irfan is looked up by the younger athletes as their big brother and so he would be representing the newer generation of MMA fighters of Pakistan with this fight.
“Irfan will be the fourth Pakistani MMA fighter to be at the ONE Championship, and second from this next generation after Anita Karim,” Bashir told The Express Tribune. “He is one of the most hardworking athletes that I’ve seen, that Pakistan has seen, at times I have to tell him to do less, and that is what championship are made of. As a coach, I want to tell the athlete to do more usually, but when you have to tell him to do less, that is championship material.”
With the fight, Irfan will be looking for an opportunity to win a $100,000 contract with ONE Championship, according to the press document, while he is the only Pakistani to be seen on the card.
Bashir said that Irfan is one of his first and best students. “I consider Irfan to be my first student who has a future, and I’ve had many students. He lives near the academy and for our core team, he is a big brother. The younger athletes see him the first thing in the morning and last at night. He is a pillar of our academy.”
Whereas Bashir added that the fight would be an interesting one as this is Irfan’s first professional one, and would be a test of his mental strength. “He loves to look for a knockout, and against Nepal’s kick-boxing champion I expect mental strength from him.”
Irfan’s debut at ONE Warrior Series will be the first time that a member of Team Shaheen will be competing internationally in professional MMA.
Originally from Chiniot and now training in Lahore, he is undefeated in national events and had represented Pakistan in the Amateur World Championships in Bahrain.
“I am thankful to ONE Warrior Series, especially to Rich Franklin and Bashir Ahmed, for this opportunity and InshaAllah, I will not disappoint my country,” said Irfan in a media statement. “All this would not be possible without my sponsors, coaches and teammates who are taking care of me as athletes and I won’t disappoint them.”