Life as a professional athlete can be tough when your success relies upon your ability to keep your body in peak physical condition.
When you are a martial artist, the task of staying healthy is made that much more difficult by the intensity required for training and competing at the highest level.
Dutch-Moroccan kickboxer Tarik Khbabez – who will step into the ring as a professional for the 50th time to face Ibrahim El Bouni at ONE: PURSUIT OF GREATNESS in Yangon, Myanmar – knows this more than most.
Khbabez has been through illness and injuries that threatened to end his career before he became the world-class warrior he is today.
He will expect to come into the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in top shape on Friday, 26 October, but it was not long ago when the 26-year-old had to spend a long time on the sidelines due to a few catastrophic injuries, as well as a life-threatening illness.
Tarik Khbabez's incredible journey to ONE Super Series ⤵️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
In 2012 and 2013, his career could have been over after major back and knee ligament surgeries, which required six and nine months of rehabilitation, respectively.
The striker was forced to go from training twice a day, six days a week, to being sedentary. He tried to pass the time while he dreamed of returning to kickboxing.
Just when Khbabez was given the all-clear to resume training, he found his knee was not up to the task, and it forced another three months of misery on to him.
The Morocco-born kickboxer admits there were plenty of dark days during the rehabilitation process, but there were two things that brought some light back into his life and helped him focus on getting back to full health.
“I always stayed positive even though it was hard. I knew that one day I would be okay. The people close to me gave me all the love and the energy,” he says.
“I also watched my old fights. They gave me the power to believe and try harder in my recovery process.”
Speed + Power = Tarik Khbabez ????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 Thursday, October 11, 2018
The man from The Hague kept his eye on the light at the end of the tunnel, and after months of struggle, he was finally able to get back to work.
When he stepped through the door to his gym for the first time with his body in full working order, the emotions were powerful.
“I was home,” he beams. “This is what I do. This is me. Everything felt great.”
Khbabez’s unwavering fortitude helped him return to the ring, and then go on and achieve the biggest accolades of his career to date.
He won the SUPERKOMBAT World Grand Prix in 2014 after the back-to-back surgeries, and then again in 2015, twice being crowned SUPERKOMBAT Heavyweight World Champion.
However, his troubles were not over. The most severe threat to his career was still to come.
Tarik Khbabez's striking is ___ !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
“In 2016, I went to Russia for a fight. It didn’t end up well,” the ONE Super Series light heavyweight explains.
“I needed to go to the doctor, and somehow I ended up with a bacterial infection. I got really sick.
“As soon as the flight landed, I went to the emergency room. I arrived there and the next thing I know, they said, ‘We will operate on you right away.’ I ended up in a coma for three days.”
By this point, despite his mental and physical capacity to overcome dire situations in the past, Khbabez doubted whether he would ever be healthy enough to fulfill his potential in the ring.
“It has been surgery after surgery,” he continues. “I’ve come so far. I never thought I would be able to compete on a show like ONE Championship again.”
Despite the severity of his illness, however, the hardy Moroccan was back in the gym within five months.
Coming so close to losing everything gave Khbabez some clarity. He stared death in the face and survived – anything else pales in comparison.
The obstacles that he overcame gave him more hunger to succeed, and more urgency in achieving his goals. He has “struggled and survived,” and is now focusing on what lies ahead, rather than the past.
Overcoming everything he has been through taught the ARJ Trainingen product he cannot take anything for granted, and it solidified his championship-winning mindset.
“Everyone faces battles in life,” Khbabez says. “They make you stronger and make you become the person who you are today.
“I learned that your body and health is everything, so take care of your body and listen very carefully to it. That’s my lesson.”