As a child, Mohammad “O Lutador” Karaki dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Fast forward to 2018, and he is still reaching for the stars, but now as a mixed martial artist.
The unbeaten 27-year-old is getting ready for the biggest match of his career. He will challenge two-division ONE World Champion Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang in the main event of ONE: PURSUIT OF GREATNESS on Friday, 26 October.
Karaki’s journey to this historic bout at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar involved a much-traveled childhood, a twist of fate, and an ability to overcome the odds in critical moments.
A War-Torn Upbringing
Not even a war-torn upbringing could stop Mohammad "O lutador" karaki from achieving his martial arts dream.Yangon | 26 October | 6:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onegreatness18
Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, October 15, 2018
Like most Lebanese citizens, Karaki’s family has experienced their fair share of traveling, as they have fled the war-torn country on multiple occasions.
He was born in Morocco in 1991 – one year after Lebanon’s 15-year civil war ended – and returned with his family to a divided nation in the early 2000s.
In 2005, around the time he started to attend karate lessons, a wave of assassinations of political figures and journalists struck his native land. The following year, Israel launched a war against Lebanon, which drove his family to leave the Middle Eastern country once again.
Although these times were difficult, “O Lutador” believes these experiences helped make him into the man he is today.
“The biggest fighters have made themselves from nothing,” he says. “The lives of fighters usually have them endure tough upbringings, and I look up to those ideals.”
Despite the instability in his life, Karaki maintained a passion for karate, and eventually discovered mixed martial arts. Though his parents had reservations about his decision to pursue the sport at first, they soon changed their minds when he started to showcase his talents.
“I liked it a lot. It certainly sparked something inside of me,” he explains.
“[My parents] were hesitant and did not encourage me at first, then they saw the job I was doing, and they saw my potential.”
An Unexpected Debut
How martial arts helped Mohammad "O lutador" karaki conquer his childhood fears.Yangon | 26 October | 6:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onegreatness18
Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, October 14, 2018
Karaki discovered his potential as a professional mixed martial artist by accident.
He was training karate and jiu-jitsu when an unlikely opportunity to display his skills was presented to him in December 2012.
When a training partner picked up an injury, ruling him out of a scheduled bout, “O Lutador” stepped up to replace him.
The Beirut, Lebanon resident was slotted into a Desert Force event in Jordan where he faced Ammar Majed, who he defeated via TKO in the first round.
Once he got his first taste of competition, and victory, Karaki devoted his efforts to his development as a mixed martial artist so he could continue his career as he started it.
“I win because I hate losing. I breathe success in everything I do,” he says.
“This is what motivates me to go on and on, and whenever I set my mind to something, I have to achieve it.”
Overcoming The Odds
Why ONE middleweight World Title challenger Mohammad "O lutador" karaki almost quit martial arts Yangon | 26 October | 6:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onegreatness18
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, October 13, 2018
Karaki is never one to back down from a challenge, especially when gold is on the line.
For evidence of his heart and warrior spirit, look no further than his most recent title win in April. Despite carrying an injury that would have ruled many athletes out, he put on one of the best performances of his career.
“Professionals need to overcome hardships to become champions,” he says.
“During the last fight, my chest was injured, and people around me questioned whether I should be involved in that fight.
“I kept my injury private, only sharing my condition details with my close circle and I’m only talking about it after the fight that I won.”
When Karaki stepped into the cage, few people would have thought there was anything wrong with him as he applied a slick armbar to submit Morocco’s Salah Eddine Dekhissi in the first round. In victory, he claimed the Phoenix Middleweight Championship.
On 26 October, Aung La Nsang(Burmese Python) defends his ONE Middleweight World Title against undefeated two-division champion Mohammad "O lutador" karaki!Yangon | 26 October | 6:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onegreatness18
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, October 6, 2018
Despite being only 27, Karaki can already point to a list of accomplishments in his career.
“O Lutador” has won all nine of his contests – finishing five via submission and another three via TKO. He has also risen to fame in the Middle East and North Africa after claiming the Desert Force Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Titles, as well as the Phoenix Middleweight Championship.
Along with his defeat of Dekhissi, his bout in December 2015 stands out because he had to travel to his opponent’s home nation of Egypt and battle to win a hard-earned decision for the first, and only, time in his career.
“When I fought Ibrahim Elsawi, it was a very difficult match, so [beating him] and winning the Desert Force Middleweight Championship was special,” he says.
A similar dynamic will be in play when he chases his biggest prize to date – he will try to defeat Aung La N Sang in his homeland of Myanmar for the ONE Middleweight World Title.
No man has managed to do that yet, but “O Lutador” is confident he will be able to draw on all of his experiences to make history.
“When I chose to become a professional fighter, I told myself that I need to reach the highest level, and step by step, I’m getting there,” he says.