Ilias Ennahachi is the latest Dutch-Moroccan kickboxing World Champion to enter ONE Super Series, and he plans to strike gold again by taking out Petchdam “The Baby Shark” Petchyindee Academy in his debut.
The 23-year-old from the Netherlands will go straight in at the top when he takes on the Thai superstar for the ONE Flyweight Kickboxing World Championship in the ONE: DREAMS OF GOLD main event on Friday, 16 August.
Ennahachi may be a fresh name in The Home Of Martial Arts, but his six kickboxing World Titles show he is likely to give his division’s number one the toughest test of his career at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.
Before he visits Petchdam’s hometown to try and take his belt, the SB Gym representative reveals how a lifetime of hard work has made him an elite athlete and prepared him to step out on the global stage for martial arts.
A Family Battling For Respect
Ennahachi was born in Utrecht in the Netherlands to Moroccan parents who endured some tough times so they could lay the foundations for the next generation of their family to have a better life.
“They were excluded because they were not from here,” he explains.
“They are immigrants, so they had to fight for their rights – my father sometimes literally had to fight with other people to be accepted here and to be one of them.
“My origin is Moroccan, but I was born in the Netherlands – I’m living in the Netherlands, and I grew up there, too. Everything started in the Netherlands, and I feel at home here.”
His father was a garbage collector for the local municipality, while his mother stayed at home to care for the children before she began work at a retirement home. Their hard work provided a good upbringing for their offspring.
“The place I grew up was great, my childhood together with my brother and sisters,” he remembers.
“My family means the world to me, it’s my number one [motivation].”
Martial Arts In The Blood
Ennahachi first discovered martial arts through his father and uncle who were both avid karatekas.
“My father always practiced martial arts. He and his brother did karate, and my cousins practiced kickboxing. I think martial arts is in our blood,” he says.
As a child, soccer was Ennahachi’s passion, but it was not too long before he joined a gym – spurred on by a challenge from one of his relatives.
“I had my first kickboxing lesson at the age of 11. My cousin told me that there was another boy of my age who was a good kickboxer and could beat me.
“I always had the pride within me, so if people told me that I couldn’t do something, I always wanted to prove myself. I joined my cousin at the gym and started sparring. My trainer told me that I did pretty well, so I was sold. Two months later, I had my first fight.”
After his first bout, the young Dutchman was hooked and never looked back. Everything about the sport of kickboxing had him entranced – from the physical challenges to the values in instilled in him.
His father was his main supporter, and one of his training partners, as he sought to make sure his son fulfilled his potential.
“Martial arts gives me a good feeling. The nerves, the respect you receive after the fight and train hard – it brings me to another dimension. I feel stronger and stronger,” says the 23-year-old.
“The one that I admired the most is my father. He always joined me in training, and he still does. That gave me the energy and power to train harder and do my best even more.”
Guided In The Right Direction
The respect Ennahachi had for his dad dragged him out of a downward spiral that could have derailed his martial arts career.
When he was 16, he started to neglect his training in search of a good time by indulging in vices.
“I had to choose between friends or fighting because I started to neglect kickboxing to be with my friends and followed the wrong path, coming home late, doing bad things,” he reveals.
When he was 17, his father stepped in to tell him to think of his future and gave him an ultimatum – either take kickboxing seriously and get back in the ring, or quit and waste his years of hard work.
“I was a hard decision to choose between my friends and martial arts. I wanted to keep doing both things,” he adds
“Martial arts gave me more stability. That, together with the things my father told me, opened my eyes. I chose to focus on martial arts 100 percent. Then everything started to go well, and I couldn’t stop.
“Martial arts ensured that I could leave bad things behind. It taught me to have respect, to be mature at a young age, and be happy with the things you have.”
No Turning Back On The Road To Success
16 AUGUST. BANGKOK. Petchdam Gaiyanghadao – defends his ONE Flyweight Kickboxing World Title against Dutch destroyer Ilias Ennahachi! Stamp Fairtex begins her quest for a mixed martial arts World Title against undefeated phenom Asha Roka! Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Smokin' Jo Nattawut and Samy Sana vs. Dzhabar Askerov in the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix semifinals!: Bangkok | 16 August | 7PM | ONE: DREAMS OF GOLD: Get your tickets at http://bit.ly/onegold19: Check local listings for global TV broadcast: Watch on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp : Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter
Posted by ONE Championship on Wednesday, 17 July 2019
With a renewed commitment to his sport, Ennahachi achieved great success.
As he built a stunning 34-3 record, he won and defended the Enfusion World Title, traveled to Japan to win the Blade World Championship, and captured WFL World Title in China.
His success, combined with his exciting style in the ring, earned him a contract with the world’s largest martial arts organization, and now he feels he has the best platform to showcase his skills and win the biggest prize in the game.
“When I signed a contract with ONE Championship it made me realize that all the hard work finally started to pay off,” he says.
“It opened doors so I could prove myself and to make my dreams come true.”
It will be no easy feat to defeat Petchdam, who has been on a tear in the Muay Thai and kickboxing ranks.
However, Ennahachi has the motivation and hunger to keep moving forward, no matter what the Thai throws at him.
“My biggest motivation not to quit fighting is my parents,” Ennahachi states.
“I want to prove myself more and more to my family – to my wife, to my sisters and brothers, and my parents – that [the training and sacrifice] was for a good reason.
“I worked hard for [this opportunity], and I have received something good in return. I will never give up on it.”