In a building in the middle of G-11 Markaz, a small club with a big reputation trains future mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters in Islamabad.
Fight Fortress, perhaps best known for producing 25-year-old Uloomi Karim – who defeated India’s Yadwinder Singh in MMA in the World Series of Fighting in Manila last month – has attracted clients as young as nine years old, as well as older clients interested in self defence training.
While the younger fighters are more inclined towards training for national and international competitions, girls, women and men come to Fight Fortress to learn self defence techniques.
Uloomi Karim trains members of the club every day, in addition to practicing for future fights. He is also studying at Bahria College.
Once the bass guitarist for the band Dissbelief, he has now devoted himself to MMA, but says he is passionate about both MMA and music. Due to limited time, however, he is limited to MMA.
“MMA is a new sport but gradually it will get people’s attention. In the last seven or eight years, people have become attracted to MMA and in the next decade, the country will produce more of the best fighters at the international level,” he said.
Uloomi added that the government has not given the sport attention; so many people are looking for training on their own. He said private clubs are working hard to participate in international competitions.
Fight Fortress was established by Ahtesham Karim, Uloomi’s brother and himself a black belt in karate. Ahtesham and Uloomi have another brother who is also an athlete and nutritionist, who trained Uloomi alongside Ahtesham.
Uloomi Karim said: “I am at this position due to the hard work of my brothers, who established the club and trained me and other fighters. The credit goes to my brothers, who came from a small area and provided me, and others, with the opportunity to introduce MMA to this part of the country.”
A club member, Dawood Mehmood, said the club is in a small space, but provides “fitness conscious people” to work out under the guidance of trainers.
He said children, young girls and women frequently visit the club for self defence training and fitness. “The trainers also recommend diet plans for visitors during their daily workout,” he said.
Shahbaz Ahmed, who used to train at the club and is now a trainer himself, said MMA brought positive change to youngsters and increased their level of confidence.
Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2016