Rifts and falling-outs are a common feature in most sports, but even more so in mixed martial arts (MMA) — where gruelling training sessions, pressure to sell your brand, questionable advice and then the fight game itself sometimes bring out the worst in people.
Pakistan's MMA community hasn't been lucky on that front, with the word being that cagefighter Ahmed Mujtaba, aka 'The Wolverine', has severed ties with Team Fight Fortress (TFF) Islamabad — the MMA gym where he learned his ropes and under whose banner he embarked on a seven-fight winning streak.
Mujtaba, 25, who is scheduled to fight China's Jia Wen Ma on the main card of ONE Championship: Visions of Victory in Malaysia today, may have strained his relationship with TFF when none of their officials welcomed him at the airport following his disqualification win over Kai Wen Li in November last year. He had aired his grievance himself in a video soon after.
But despite their differences, Mujtaba had started his training camp for the Wen Ma fight under TFF coaches; although he didn't finish the camp, instead opting to train with a few of his fellow fighters, including Mehmosh "The Renegade" Raza.
When quizzed about why he didn't train under TFF coaches, Mujtaba told Dawn.com: "I am done with Fight Fortress. They don't have respect for their fighters."
While the novelty of being undefeated went away with his sole defeat at the hands of Keanu Subba last year, Mujtaba still has an impressive 8-1 career record. He, however, had looked vulnerable in his last fight, shooting for unnecessary takedowns against Subba — a strategy his TFF coach Ehtisham Kareem had been critical about.
Subba's rabbit punches also had Mujtaba lose consciousness, all of which goes on to prove that now, more than ever, the Wolverine needed seasoned help with his fight strategy.
That he goes into today's big bout without a full training camp under a seasoned MMA coach could spell trouble for Mujtaba. It could potentially be the difference between winning and losing.