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Crouching fighter, hidden talent

November 23, 2014

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Photo: Osama Abbas
Photo: Osama Abbas

Just past midnight, I was stranded at a roundabout in North Nazimabad unable to figure out where I was or where I was supposed to go. And like a knight in a shining motorcycle, a lean young man in a bright red Karachi University jacket came to my rescue and led me to a studio, literally in the middle of nowhere, where eager students from all strata of society had gathered at this late hour to learn from Bashir Ahmed, the man who is reputed to have pioneered the Mixed Martial Arts movement in Pakistan.

Bashir had just flown down from Lahore to conduct a three-day workshop on the sport and was on his way back to the United States where he is partially based.

I later found out that the athlete who had rescued me was Ovais Shah, who in the words of Pak-MMA president Mahmood Rahman, is “Karachi’s number one fighter” and the owner of 3G — a fully-equipped MMA studio in Karachi. “We have two studios right now,” said Ovais, “And we plan to open a third one soon in Defence.”

Photo: Rizwan Buttar
Photo: Rizwan Buttar

“You have to listen to your body,” said Bashir to his students, “You need to know what it needs — whether it’s more rest, more protein or carbohydrates etc. You also need to eat more. Otherwise you’ll just keep losing weight and not building any muscle. You need to double the portions you’re having right now.” Wow. Ladies, are you reading this? This is a sport where you have to eat more for ‘fear’ of losing weight!


Bashir Ahmed, the man responsible for introducing Mixed Martial Arts in Pakistan talks about the no-holds-barred sport that has taken the world by storm


Throw the letters MMA out and the first thing people in Pakistan think of is the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. Did Bashir ever get that reaction when he spoke to people about the sport? “I did before. Not anymore. People have a better idea of what it is and I have a better idea of how to explain it.”

Bashir wins his fight at ONE FC Malaysia via a first round rear-naked choke
Bashir wins his fight at ONE FC Malaysia via a first round rear-naked choke

How would he explain it? “I ask people: are you familiar with boxing, wrestling and the Martial arts? Mixed Martial Arts is all of them put together.”

  Photo: Nauman Shafique.
Photo: Nauman Shafique.
There are three different MMA promotions or companies running in Pakistan. Pakistan Fight Club was the first professional one and has had four tournaments. Vehshi Championship League is another from Lahore that has done three. Fighting Alliance, which is what Bashir is a part of, has had two so far.

What would you advise someone, in terms of preparation, who wants to start training? “If someone wants to start training tomorrow I’d say show up tomorrow and start training,” responded Bashir.

But do you have to make a major lifestyle adjustment? “Absolutely,” he responded, “And that comes down to: are you self-motivated? I don’t have to tell you to change your lifestyle. I’ll help you out but I don’t have to make the effort on your own. A coach’s job is to tell your athlete to do less, not more. If your coach is telling you to do more then you don’t have somebody who is championship material.”


“You shouldn’t be getting hurt in training although it does happen — especially if you’re training for a fight. In the fight itself though, you’re entering into a competition where the goal itself is to physically beat another person so you will get injured.”


Photo: Osama Abbas
Photo: Osama Abbas

What are the chances of getting hurt? “About the same as a lot of other sports,” said Bashir, “I trained in Thailand for about a year and a half. A lot of the Muay Thai fighters would complain about being tired and hurting their knee. I would ask how that happened and they’d respond it was because they were playing soccer. Injuries happen. They absolutely happen.”

“There is a difference between training and fighting,” he elaborated, “You shouldn’t be getting hurt in training although it does happen — especially if you’re training for a fight. In the fight itself though, you’re entering into a competition where the goal itself is to physically beat another person so you will get injured. After every Muay Thai fight I would see where all I’ve been injured although in MMA I haven’t been injured all that much.

How do you determine who wins? “It depends on the league you fight in,” responded Bashir, “I fight in a league which determines who wins by a near KO (knock out) submission, how much damage you inflicted on your opponent, who had better punching combinations and striking, who had better control on the ground/who was on top more, who was able to get a takedown or defend it and then who was aggressive.”

I read somewhere that in MMA there are no rules. “There are rules,” affirmed Bashir, “They’re far more limited than say, boxing, but that’s MMA. The point of MMA is to see if you take different fighters from different styles and see who wins. In order to have that you have to have a level platform. If you can’t take somebody and drag them to the ground, how is the wrestler ever going to compete with that? How would you know whose better: the boxer or the wrestler?”

“MMA does have rules but they’re more limited. You can’t maim somebody, you can’t strike somebody in the groin, you can’t strike a joint (you can attack it in a lock), you can’t bite anybody, grab an individual digit (a finger) or fishhook somebody, you can’t strike to the spine or back of the head, you can’t do anything that will put somebody at an immediate risk for a long-term injury. Can these injuries happen? Absolutely.”

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 23rd, 2014