“Jungle Cat” Muhammad Aiman will never forget the first time he told his mother that he was competing in mixed martial arts.
Long before he was an emerging bantamweight star in ONE Championship, he was an 18-year old kid in Malaysia who took up the sport without realizing it would become his life’s calling.
Muhd Aiman.Photo by THROWDOWN MALAYSIA.#MuhdAiman #ThrowdownArmy #ThrowdownMalaysia
He discovered the sport browsing YouTube, and was attracted to its multi-faceted nature. He and even practiced techniques he saw from online video tutorials.
Back then, Muhammad decided to compete just for fun in newly-formed local amateur promotion Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts (MIMMA), but soon, the casual adventure unexpectedly transformed into a serious career.
While visiting his mom in Kuala Lumpur, he finally revealed to her what he had been doing since moving out of the house. She was not too pleased.
“At first, she was not a big fan,” the 23-year-old recalls.
“Every mom wants their kids to go to college, and do normal stuff, like work in an office or be a doctor. For my mom, her son was fighting in a cage – that was not really easy to accept.
“She did not know about my first fight or my second fight, but she found out about my third fight. Me and my mom did not talk that much, but I was in the city, and I kind of forgot to tell her.
“So one day, it just came out, and then she yelled, like, ‘Why didn’t you ever tell me?’ She got angry, but then she was cool with it. I know she did not like it, because as soon as I finished my first season [with MIMMA], she immediately said, ‘You need to go to college.’”
Muhammad wanted to appease his mother, so he enrolled in college while still training in mixed martial arts.
However, it did not take him long to figure out that he was not built for the classroom. “Jungle Cat” realized he was made for the cage.
Muhammad’s transformation from student to full-time mixed martial artist came in large part thanks to some advice he received from his striking coach, who was a future ONE Lightweight World Title challenger.
“I was really struggling in college. I finished one semester, and I was an hour away from where I was training, so I was going back and forth. Really, I was just busy the whole day,” he explains.
“I met Ev Ting, and after seeing him, it kind of helped and made me realize I could be a professional fighter, too. He is one of the biggest reasons I became a professional fighter, to be honest.
“We trained together [at Klinch MMA], and I thought I was not cut out for college. I did not know what to do. He told me the story about how he did not go to college, and instead trained to become a professional fighter. It made me realize I could do the same thing. He made me realize I could be a professional fighter for a career.”
Once he made the decision to quit college and focus on mixed martial arts full-time, Muhammad was not sure what his mother’s reaction would be.
Fortunately, she got behind him, and she has since become one of his most ardent supporters – even if she does not necessarily like the thought of her son getting kicked and punched.
“She accepted it, but I still do not think she is a big fan of it,” the Malaysian laughs.
“She comes to all of my fights, but she still gets really nervous for all of them. She is a tough woman, and sometimes when she says she is nervous, I think she just says that because that is the thing to say. I do not think she is really nervous.”
Not only did she accept her son’s decision to embark on a martial arts career, she has become part of it by taking on a managerial role.
As he prepares for his exciting bantamweight clash with “Rock Man” Chen Lei at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON in Shanghai, China, on 8 September, Muhammad acknowledges how important it is to have his mother’s support.
“I did not think about it back then, but now I realize it is really important that she accepted my decision and supports me,” the Bali MMA product says.
“She has even helped me. I am really glad she is in my corner, and she accepted it. She even found me sponsorships to help get me money. She is the best.
“I feel like she is the best manager I have ever had, but I am not sure if I am going to have to start paying her now.”
Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast