Bashir Ahmad is single-handedly responsible for the existence of a MMA scene in Pakistan. After going to university in the United States he decided to head home to Lahore in order to introduce the sport of MMA to people in his homeland.
There is now an established promotion, Pak MMA, which has held two professional events to date and a camp called Synergy MMA which is where Ahmad teaches and trains. For the past few years he has put his own career on hold on order to focus on his commitments as a promoter, trainer and referee but that all changed when the 30 year old signed with ONE FC and he will be taking on unbeaten featherweight Shannon Wiratchai at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on April 5.
Indian MMA has made a lot of headlines in the last year and while the SFL is currently in hiatus it has helped fighters there get experience inside the cage. Ahmad is adamant that, while Pakistan discovered the sport much more recently than its neighbor, the fighters in his homeland will able to hold their own against their Indian counterparts.
For the time being he is focused on facing Wiratchai at ONE FC: Kings & Champions when he will become the first Pakistani to ever fight for a major international promotion but Ahmad has his sights firmly set on facing Indian opponents in the future and hopes ONE FC matchmaker Matt Hume will oblige him.
What was the MMA scene like in Pakistan when you first returned?
Non-existent. That sums it up. There were a couple of gyms that knew what it was and maybe dabbled in it, but nothing in terms of a scene, gyms dedicated to it, events. Nothing. When I arrived MMA in Pakistan was essentially a Facebook page and me.
Why did you decide to return?
I returned because I just had a burning feeling inside. A gut feeling that this was something that would fulfill me and would lead me to where I need to be in life.
Whats the MMA scene like in Pakistan now?
Inch by inch, day by day it grows. New gyms, new fight teams, new events. People are seeing the possibility of this being an industry and want to be a part of it. Gyms which at first were just karate gyms, and were stuck in the martial arts era of Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme are suddenly MMA gyms. I get approached by people, influential people, looking for information on how to make a business off of this, either as a promotion or as a gym. These people have not taken the big big step just yet, but they will.
Let me tell you, there is something brewing just around the corner and soon this sport is going to be mainstream and claims about it competing with cricket may still seem far fetched but will not seem impossible. But at the same time it’s really bittersweet because along with growth you also get people who are simply jumping the bandwagon, have no real passion for the sport or martial arts but simply want to take advantage of the hard work that others before them did, the true pioneers who were with me from the day I landed in the country. But that’s the nature of the beast though and I think in all Asian countries where MMA is new and starting to take off you have that issue come up. However, for better or for worse the more people who enter the industry the more opportunities. A rising tide lifts all boats.
How important so you think this ONE FC fight is for you and for Pakistani MMA?
This fight is so important for me, it is my chance to show my skills fighting on the biggest stage in all of Asia. This is the first real challenge I will be facing, the first time I am gonna face someone who really knows MMA and has more experience than I do. I have said this before but the reason I compete, the real, inner reason is to see where I am as a person and as a martial artist and to learn where my skills lie and how good I really am. For that reason this fight is really important and it has me highly motivated and very, very excited. It’s also important because it marks the true beginning of my professional career and will set the tone for the coming, months and years of my fighting career.
For Pakistani MMA, this can be huge. That’s why I have to lay it all down on the line. An exciting, edge of your seat fight is gonna pump up the MMA scene and hopefully get some more media attention. ONE FC is on Star Sports in Pakistan so everyone there will be able to watch my fight live and I want to make it a fight to remember.
What are your thoughts on Shannon Wiratchai as an opponent?
I have mixed emotions about facing a Thai because I have spent a considerable amount of time in Thailand and I consider it my second home. Shannon has been getting better with each fight and I look forward to seeing what he bring to the table for this one, but, unfortunately for him, whatever it is it won’t be enough. I feel this is my time and I have the necessary weapons to dispatch my opponent efficiently.
Are you hoping ONE FC will match you with an Indian in the future?
OF COURSE! That is a historic MMA bout and I think I deserve that honor. I also believe that ONE FC is the only promotion right now that can make that happen in a fair manner. It is the biggest MMA promotion in Asia but it is also completely neutral so I think it would be the perfect place for the first ever Pakistan vs India match up and I want to be a part of it.
How do you think the MMA scene in India compares with Pakistan?
MMA in India started in 2000. We really started in 2009. That’s a nine year advantage. But if you look at the two in terms of the skill level of fighters and the scene, you would never think it’s a nine year difference. At the rate we are moving and because we naturally have tougher people (sorry India, I love you but it’s true!) when Pakistan vs India fights start happening regularly, Pakistan is going to have the edge.
Where are you training and who are you training with in preparation for this fight?
I had some pre-preparation at Team Quest Thailand but I am currently training at my gym Synergy MMA in Lahore. I am training with some of the best guys in the country Like Team Fight Fortress and with different professionals from various backgrounds in different martial arts. I may end my training camp outside of the country but that is still to be decided. I am getting my butt kicked everyday and I want this training camp to be over so I can just get in that cage and finally fight. My ONE FC debut is long overdue. Also add a thank you to my sponsors Depilex for Men.