The mixed martial arts (MMA) movement in Pakistan received a major boost on Saturday when both Uloomi Kareem Shaheen and Ahmed Mujtaba earned dominating wins over their respective opponents in their World Series of Fighting Global Championship (WSOFGC) bouts in Manila, Philippines.
Kareem’s victory in particular was special as in India’s Yadwinder Singh he was up against an opponent who enjoyed a two-inch size advantage and had never lost before. Yet, the corporeal and statistical edge that Singh (5’8) enjoyed evaporated as soon as the two fighters entered the cage.
The 25-year-old Kareem, fighting under Team Fight Fortress’s banner, dominated the bout from start to finish to earn a unanimous 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 win and improved his career MMA record to 6-3
“I dedicate this win to the people of Kashmir,” Karim told The Express Tribune,although he was careful not to give his triumph a political angle.
“I have nothing but respect for Yadwinder, and as both our camps agreed, sports and politics don’t match. Any tension there is between our countries should stay at the border and not be extended to regular folks’ lives.”
Karim, who hails from Shamshal Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, credited his coaches and parents for supporting his career in a sport that has yet to see big money pour in.
On the same card, Quetta’s Mujtaba faced local favourite Neil Larano and was even more spectacular, taking just one minute and eight seconds of the first round to finish the Filipino via an armbar triangle choke.
The victory saw Mujtaba extend his unbeaten streak to seven as he added the WSOFGC featherweight title to the UnderGround Battle title he already possessed.
Mujtaba also thanked his trainers and parents, but reserved special praise for the Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Science VC Farooq Bazai for his support.
The 23-year-old did have some complaints though as he feels his and other MMA fighters’ achievements go largely unnoticed in a country obsessed with cricket.
“The Balochistan government hasn’t offered me any support and has never recognised my achievements. The media too chases Amir Khan, who doesn’t even fight for the country. Yet, when me, a Pakistani born and bred, hoists the national flag at international level, nothing happens.
The disheartened champion continued: “Because of our talent we get a lot of offers to switch allegiance and represent other countries, but we resist those overtures just because we want to fight for Pakistan. However, there is a limit to the amount of cold shoulders one can take.”