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1-on-1 with Bashir Ahmad, Pakistan’s leading man in MMA

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Bashir Ahmad will fight Martin Nguyen on September 27 in Jakarta. Credit: ONE Championship

Bashir Ahmad will fight Martin Nguyen on September 27 in Jakarta

Bashir Ahmad has been a staple on the ONE Championship roster after making the upset win against Shannon Wiratchai on the promotion’s debut. While his record seems spotty at 3-2, he definitely gained the reputation as a true warrior from his willingness to step in as last minute replacements, as well as the leading man in the Pakistani MMA.

“Somchai” is scheduled for to return to Jakarta for this clash against the undefeated Martin Nguyen (4-0) on 27 September as part of what is arguably ONE Championship’s most stacked card to date, and MMA Latest News crew managed to catch up with him during his fight camp in Bali MMA.

MMA Latest: To kick off, what does your nickname “Somchai” means?

Ahmad: The nickname Somchai is actually just a regular Thai name that means “Like a man” or a “a true man” but that makes it sound like that’s why I have it. When I first visited Thailand, a restaurant owner where I ate at regularly could not say Bashir and so as a joke called me Somchai. It just kind of spread from there and it stuck as my nickname. I spent almost a year never hearing my actual name.

MMA Latest: What drives you to accept the fight against Martin Nguyen?

Ahmad: Martin is a tough guy and he has a little more experience than me in terms of time and amateur fights. So it’s a good challenge. Plus, quite frankly – Matt Hume is a man I respect and if he thinks it’s a good matchup, I’ll take it.

MMA Latest: What are your thoughts about Nguyen and how do you think the fight will go?

Ahmad: From what I have seen, Martin is well rounded, he has a sports background so he is athletic and he works hard. He’ll be a good fight and I prepared very well for him. I feel like I have made great improvements in my game and I will be more dangerous than ever. I can’t say how it will end, but I can say I will be pushing and looking to finish him.

MMA Latest: Other than a fighter, you have been known as the driving force behind Pakistani MMA. How far has the Pakistani MMA grown since then?

Ahmad: I feel like I am always saying the same thing to the Pakistani MMA question. But we have new gyms, we have people working hard to put on shows and make the scene grow and I have to give a big thanks to Majid Gilani of PGC, Zubair Asghar of Coretex, Sheikh Sultan of VCL for working hard to make the scene vibrant and interesting and the numerous MMA gyms working hard like TFF led by mastermind Ehtisham Karim, Synergy led by Mahmood Rahman, 3G led by Ovais…gosh the list goes on and on.

But one development close to my heart is the opening of a gym in a slum, that I will be dedicating more of my time to in the coming months and years.

MMA Latest: As the leading man in Pakistan understand that you were invited to the International MMA Federation (IMMAF) in Las Vegas last July. What were your impressions and key takeaways from the event that you think can help the growth of Pakistani MMA?

Ahmad: The meeting with the IMMAF was awesome. I met some good people and I now have a roadmap to follow and try to convince other key players in the scene to follow to make MMA truly a part of the world MMA family.

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Highest Ranked Strawweight Outside of the UFC challenged Angela Lee to a title fight in One Championship

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28 Years Old, Zhang Weili(16-1) from China has challenged Strawweight champion Angela Lee for her strap in One Championship according to a source close to the Chinese fighter. Zhang who is the champion and fighting for Chinese based promotion Kunlun FC is currently negotiating on a one fight deal to face Angela. According to the source, they would like to determine who is the best women fighter in Asia in a one-off match and would have no problems to fight under the One Championship banner.

Zhang Weili(Left) at Kunlun FC 12

Since her pro debut loss in 2013, Zhang has racked up 16 wins in 3 years with a total of 15 finishes. She is the number #6 ranked women strawweight in the World according to Fightmatrix.com, just behind Rose Namajunas who will be facing UFC champion and number #1 ranked strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title next month. Angela, on the other hand, is 9 rungs below Zhang at number 15.

Fightmatrix rankings as per 9/10/2017

While ONE was very eager to have a cross-promotion fight between Angela Lee and Joanna Jedrzejczyk to determine who has the better strawweight, they seem less eager to have a Kunlun FC champion on board for a one fight deal. The source states that ONE would need for Zhang to sign a 2-year exclusive contract first before discussing further for a fight with Angela.

If the source is accurate, ONE seems to be covering their bases this time and would not like for their champion to lose the belt to another promotion without securing Zhang on an exclusive contract. Kunlun, on the other hand, would also not want to lose their best fighter to another Asian promotion. Zhang would be a huge asset to ONE for their expansion in China but it would be tough for them to pry off the Chinese fighter as the source states that Zhang is being paid handsomely on Kunlun FC.

While things are looking bleak for a match between Angela Lee and Zhang Weili to happen in the ONE Championship cage, the fans will be keeping their fingers crossed and hope that they could witness a fight between two of the best women Strawweights in Asia.

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Martin Nguyen to challenge Eduard Folayang’s title in Manila for the first champion vs champion fight in ONE Championship

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After speculations on who Martin Nguyen’s next opponent when he signed a fight contract, ONE Championship have confirmed that Martin Nguyen is set to challenge Eduard Folayang’s lightweight title in Manila on ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD on 10 November.

The fight is the latest in a series of cross-division fights announced after Shinya Aoki vs Ben Askren and Aung La NSang vs Alain Ngalani, but this will be the first time the reigning ONE Championship titleholders from two weight divisions will clash.

Nguyen’s coach, Fari Salievski, did tease on the idea of Nguyen fighting for the title in different weight divisions , but he teased on a bantamweight division since Martin was underweight for his featherweight title fight against Marat Gafurov.

Despite being on the lighter side of a featherweight division, the new champion decided to challenge the title against a fighter a weight class above him, and opens the possibility of the first fighter in ONE Championship to challenge the title in 3 weight divisions.

“I’m not out only to make a statement, but to go down in history as the best to ever compete under the ONE Championship banner” – Martin Nguyen

ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD will be held in Malls of Asia Arena in Manila on 10 November 2017

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Bashir Ahmad embraces new role in ONE Championship

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Bashir Ahmad is appointed as the Senior Manager of Industry Partnerships, the role made to develop and strengthen the relationships between ONE Championship and various MMA gyms and promotions.

“EssentiallyI see myself doing what I did in Pakistan and working to accelerate the growth of MMA in Asia with other players in the MMA scene,” Ahmad explained.

As the pioneer of Pakistani MMA, Bashir Ahmad has worked to promote MMA in Pakistan, most notably the Shaheen Gym project, a non-profit gym which serves to take at-risk youth off the street with the appeal and focus of MMA. With his new position in ONE, Ahmad believes he will be better positioned to develop MMA in Asia, particularly in his hometown Pakistan.

“I think it’s a win-win. I’ve learned about developing MMA in a really difficult market – Pakistan, and I bring that experience with me.”

“On the flip side, I get work with one of the world’s most professional martial arts brands and bring those lessons to my mission in Pakistan.”

4-3 on his professional MMA career, Ahmad has been fighting for ONE Championship since April 2013 and became the first ONE Championship athlete to make the transition from into the management role in the promotion. Despite this additional role, Ahmad is adamant that his new role in ONE Championship does not take him away from active competition.

“100% not retired. I can certainly train. If Martin can beat Gafurov while being a full-time mechanic, I can certainly train when I work in the MMA industry for a living. It’s about time management and training smart.”

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