Bashir Ahmad is widely regarded as the Godfather of Pakistan’s martial arts movement, and because of his hard work, he opened the door for some of the country’s most talented stars.
Over the past few years, a handful of Pakistani athletes have emerged in ONE Championship, and they have impressed the masses with their courage, inspiring life stories, and of course their ever-evolving skills.
There is no doubt that there will be more competitors from the country making their way to the ONE cage in the future, but here are three Pakistani heroes that are currently making the nation proud on the global stage.
He may be called “Psycho” inside the cage, but like his fellow martial arts contemporaries, Waqar Umar experienced much hardship growing up.
The family’s patriarch owned and operated a hardware shop in Lahore, Pakistan, but due to monetary struggles, he was unable to hire extra employees. That led to Umar having to leave school, and working at his dad’s store.
“We had some financial struggles growing up, and I used to see that,” the 26-year-old says. “So from then, I started to help my father in the shop, and started earning money.”
However, at the age of 16, he followed his older brother’s lead, and started training in the martial arts. He began with wushu, and then he learned other disciplines. In 2009, he started training under Bashir Ahmad at Synergy MMA, and made his professional cage debut in 2012.
“Psycho,” as he is called, won his first three professional bouts, and then finally joined ONE Championship in March 2014. He fell short in his promotional debut, but things only got rougher in the months to follow, as one of his brothers unfortunately lost his life.
Despite the heartache, Umar has continued to move forward, both in his life and his career.
The Pakistani is refining his talent at Rogue Fitness and Martial Arts Academy, and will return to the organization this coming Saturday, 24 March, at ONE: IRON WILL. He meets China’s Zhao Zhi Kang in a featherweight tilt.
“The Spider” was a victim of difficult circumstances growing up. His father was an athlete when he was younger, but was later unemployed after polio paralyzed his lower body. Despite this disability, Muhammad Imran‘s dad found a way to support his family by learning how to tailor. However, he succumbed to cancer when Imran was a teenager.
Before he passed away, however, Imran found his calling in the martial arts, and leaned on it heavily when times got rough.
Imran’s older brother had started training at Pakido Martial Arts Club, and while they could not afford paying for classes, the gym’s head instructor acknowledged their shared passion, and offered the two of them training scholarships.
After ten years of training, he turned professional at age 20, and quickly rose in the local combat sports scene. He even won a PFC Strawweight Championship. Despite not being by his side, Imran’s father continues to influence the 26-year-old, as his father’s words still resonate with him.
“Whatever work you do, do it with honesty, and put your heart into it,” Imran recalled his father telling him. To this day, the principle guides him in powering through his obstacles in life, and it was plain for all to see in his three-round battle against top flyweight contender Stefer Rahardian at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE.
The 25-year old was an aspiring doctor before local bullies changed his course. Ahmed Mujtaba would pursue martial arts to defend himself, but it actually ignited a passion that burns inside him to this day.
Bashir Ahmad’s career and vision inspired “The Wolverine” to follow in his footsteps — not only in the cage, but also away from it. While he earned little to nothing during his first few professional bouts, he persevered with the goal of making it to a larger international stage to help martial arts grow even more in Pakistan.
Mujtaba’s spirit has never wavered. He continues to cross-train at world-class gyms such as Renato Velame’s Fight House in Brazil to expand his skills, and “The Wolverine” is doing everything he can to bring honor to his country.