Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is certainly creating a lot of buzz nowadays. It is a very exciting sport, in fact one of the fastest developing sports right now. And in spite of what a lot of people, not involved in MMA, might think, it requires a lot of technique, precision, dedication and relentless commitment. A number of events have been held in Bahrain as part of supporting and enhancing the Amateur MMA scene and the athletes involved in it. In fact, H.H Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the ultimate supporter of KHK MMA made his amateur debut last April, 2016 in an event that had some of the best Indian amateurs square off with Bahrain’s top athletes. He won his fight in under 12 seconds! And remarkably, after having cornered Hussein Mahdi Maki Ayyad at the 2015 IMMAF European Open Championship, H.H Shaikh Khalid and Hussein will now be fighting in the same fight card at home.
Hussein was the first athlete to bring a medal back to Bahrain in an international competition. He represented Bahrain in Birmingham, raising the flag on the podium! He went on to compete in the 2016 IMMAF Worlds where he came short in the opening round. Weekender managed to speak to the man of the hour to learn more of his passion and his future plans as he passionately strives to make a strong mark in a sport that is still relatively new in Bahrain.
W. Even in athleticism, this is a rather unique field to take up. What led you towards mixed martial arts?
Hussein: You need to be really good in more than one style of fighting or martial arts, and that provides a lot of challenges. And every athlete likes challenges.
W. Do you think it’s a sport that is still in its infancy stage in Bahrain?
Hussein: Yes, MMA is still relatively new in Bahrain and all over the Arab region, compared to the rest of the world. Yet since H.H Shaikh Khalid took interest in it, it started developing at a very quick pace, and thanks to his support we are catching up with the rest quickly, with medals in competitions like European and World Championships act as a living proof of that.
W. How can the youth be involved in taking up this sports as a serious career choice and pursue it with passion?
Hussein: Recently there have been many more opportunities for young people who want to pursue athletic careers in Bahrain, mainly thanks to great initiatives by H.H Shaikh Nasser and HH Shaikh Khalid. So if anyone is interested in a sport, now is the time to become serious about it.
W. What has been your most memorable match till date?
Hussein: The fights I had in the European Championship in 2015 were probably the most memorable, because I won bronze, the first medal in the history of amateur MMA for our Kingdom.
W. Being the first athlete to bring back a medal to Bahrain, does it add pressure on you to continue to perform at your best?
Hussein: Of course it adds pressure, but also it motivates, because it proved to me and others that we are among the best and that we can and should compete for the highest medals.
W. What unique styles have you adapted that gives you an edge over your opponents?
Hussein: I believe I am a well rounded athlete, because even though my striking is my base, my grappling and wrestling are also up to par. It is thanks to the fact that I started training years ago in Reza’s Martial Art Center, that provides world class training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, thai boxing and MMA and then I was selected by H.H Shaikh Khalid to join his MMA team, KHK. H.H Shaikh Khalid provided us with the best facility to train, where he also lead us by example, as he is a great MMA athlete and competitor himself. He trains harder than anyone. With his leadership and support I believe I can achieve anything that I put my mind to.
W. What are your views on the recently announced: Bahrain vs. India Amateur MMA Championship?
Hussein: It’s always great to have more opportunities to compete and get more experience. This will give us another chance to prove that we are the best and constantly improving.
W. In what ways will you prepare for it and how important do you think these small events are to make mixed martial arts a strong sport in Bahrain?
Hussein: As I said, such events give us a chance to get more in-cage experience, which is valuable to any MMA athlete. To prepare, I will add even more training time and try to fix mistakes from my previous fights.
W. What are your future plans and what can we expect from Hussein and his passionate stride of winning in 2017?
Hussein: My plan is to win medals in 2017, a lot of them. I have to prepare really well for the IMMAF World Championships this year that will take place in Bahrain in October. At the end I would like to thank H.H Shaikh Khalid once again for giving me this opportunity and I promise I will not let him or Bahrain down.