Ali Motamed has finally achieved a major breakthrough.
The 28-year-old Iranian bantamweight earned his seventh victory at ONE Warrior Series 9 on Wednesday, 4 December, and his stellar performance earned him a six-figure contract and main roster spot in ONE Championship.
It has been a long road for Motamed, who began his martial arts journey and threw his first punch seven years ago.
As 2019 comes to a close, take this opportunity to learn all about the newest star to join The Home Of Martial Arts.
From Iran To Malaysia
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Motamed was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, where the two most popular sports were freestyle wrestling and football.
The latter, known as “the beautiful game,” caught his attention during his childhood. In fact, even as a teenager, he never thought about pursuing any other activity.
In 2010, his father decided to relocate from Iran to Malaysia to open a restaurant. Motamed followed to help with the business and study at school.
His dad, however, never found the kind of success he was hoping for with the new business and soon, he was planning to return back home to the Middle Eastern nation.
By then, Motamed had already put down roots in the Southeast Asian country. He had made some close friends and secured a good job, so he decided to stay.
“My father did not like Malaysia very much,” he says. “He was like, ‘I am going to go back to Iran,’ but I did not want to go. I wanted to stay there and start my own life.”
A New Passion Is Ignited
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While living in Malaysia back in 2012, Motamed stumbled upon a new passion.
“I think I threw my first punch [nearly] six years ago. Before that, I never watched a fight. I had never even seen a real fight. All I knew was Bruce Lee and [Jean-Claude] Van Damme in the movies,” he admits.
“One of my friends was a Muay Thai fighter, and he asked me to go watch his fight. Before that, I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what it was. I went there, and after I watched one fight, [I decided] this is what I wanted to do.
“The day after that, I started training. I went to the gym, and I started training and training. From that day, I was in fight camp. Since the first day, I looked at it as a professional thing.”
Although Motamed loved football, “the art of eight limbs” spoke to him in a way no other sport had. He always felt like something was missing from his life, and when he started training in Muay Thai, he felt whole. He loved the purity of the competition between two athletes in the ring.
The Iranian’s passion for Muay Thai grew quickly, and he received an offer to move from Malaysia to Thailand to further pursue a professional career in the discipline.
He immediately packed his bags, traveled north, and trained in the martial art’s birthplace. But as he was building up his striking arsenal, he discovered a combat sport that spoke even louder to him.
“The first few months was Muay Thai, and before that, I did not even know what mixed martial arts was,” Motamed continues.
“After [discovering mixed martial arts], I liked it better than Muay Thai. I started to do that instead, so I could do everything. I was doing Muay Thai, and then I was doing my jiu-jitsu.”
Getting His Parents’ Stamp Of Approval
He has had his ups and downs – including some sensational wins and frustrating defeats – but nothing dampened his passion.
While he was chasing his dream, he kept his parents in the dark — initially, that is.
Motamed did not tell his mother and father about his newfound endeavor in the beginning. Over time, however, he revealed his secret.
“At first, they didn’t know what I was doing. I did not tell them exactly what it was I was doing, but when I finally told them, they supported me,” he recalls.
“From the first day [I told them], they supported me, but they said to be careful. They wanted me to just do it for fun, not as a profession.
“But later, when they saw how I was getting better – and that I loved what I was doing, and how it made me a better person – they fully supported me.”
Making It To The Global Stage
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Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, December 6, 2019
Motamed’s love for the sport eventually led him to ONE Warrior Series in 2018, where he achieved his major breakthrough.
The Iranian had an incredible debut, as he knocked out South Korean prospect Dawoon Jung on the inaugural event in March 2018.
His next two bouts were not as kind. The bantamweight dropped a close decision to New Zealand’s Mark “Tyson” Fairtex Abelardo in a “Bout Of The Night” contender in July 2018, and then he fell to Mongolia’s Shinechagtga Zoltsetseg this past February.
Despite the losses, Motamed was not deterred.
“The thing is, I never go for winning or losing. I just go there to give everything I have, and leave everything I have inside the ring,” he says.
“The result does not really matter. Any time I go there, if I do not do what I have to do, then I will feel bad. But that is alright. I learned, and now I will go for the next one.”
That positive mindset would ultimately steer him towards his greatest success.
Motamed defeated Zechariah Lange via unanimous decision in August, and he followed that up with a split decision victory over Hikaru “The Painter” Yoshino in early December, which earned him the contract and main roster spot.
In 2020, he expects to continue building off the momentum he created in his ONE Warrior Series tenure and he will carry the valuable lessons he has learned to the global stage.
“I touched my goals, I touched my dreams. I am always learning,” the Iranian states. “It made me stronger to do what I love.”