Turkish MMA Star Halil Amir’s Journey From Rough-And-Tumble Youth To ONE Championship
On April 21, undefeated Turkish MMA sensation Halil Amir returns to ONE Championship for his highly anticipated sophomore appearance in the Circle.
That night, the 28-year-old battles fellow undefeated phenom Maurice Abevi at ONE Fight Night 9: Nong-O vs. Haggerty on Prime Video live from the iconic Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
Ranked #4 in ONE’s talent-laden lightweight division after decimating veteran fan-favorite Timofey Nastyukhin in his promotional debut last September, Amir has all the makings of a future World Champion.
Naturally, fans want to know more about the hard-charging challenger and his journey to the world’s largest martial arts organization.
Fighting From An Early Age
Ethnically Turkish, Amir spent his early years living with his family in Kyrgyzstan. Looking back, he recalls a rough-and-tumble childhood filled with conflict and plenty of fist fights.
At the time, it all felt perfectly normal.
He told ONEFC.com:
“Yes, normally I was arguing, fighting, and I was in trouble a lot. I was always arguing with some people and I don’t know why. [Trouble] was always finding me everywhere.
“And that’s what happens everywhere in your youth. You argue, fight. It happened a lot in school time, high school time. It was a normal thing. It seems a little different to some. It seems strange, but it’s normal in our place.”
Searching for an outlet for his excessive energy, the youngster started taekwondo at the age of 8 before transitioning to boxing at 14. Still, he simply couldn’t help but find trouble.
Before long, Amir’s penchant for fighting caught the attention of his father, who worried that his son was headed down a dangerous path. He sent the restless teenager to live in the coastal city of Antalya, Turkey.
“It’s not hard in Kyrgyzstan for conflict to find you. So, I had been involved in many scraps – so many that my dad decided to send me off to Turkey.”
From Bruce Lee To MMA
Now living in Turkey hundreds of miles away from friends and family, Amir found himself diving deeper into martial arts, inspired by some of Hollywood’s most iconic action stars.
“I was watching them – Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Fighting movies were very interesting to me.”
After high school, Amir attended college, where he pursued a career in combat sports in earnest.
Up to that point, the promising young talent had trained exclusively in the striking arts. But once he stumbled upon a grappling class at his boxing gym, he realized that the all-encompassing sport of MMA was his life’s calling.
“Ironically, it was in my university boxing gym that I first encountered mixed martial arts. Some of these guys were preparing for their MMA debuts by themselves at this boxing gym, and they convinced me to try it out.
“I did my first bout in K-1 and came back to train with those same guys and attend BJJ classes in Antalya as well. I started taking part in local MMA amateur tournaments, and the rest is history.”
Much more than just an outlet for Amir’s physical nature and natural aggression, martial arts proved to be a powerful tool to help him through the difficult transition from Kyrgyzstan to Turkey.
“I already spoke Turkish fluently before moving. Still, I had no friends at all once I arrived and it was a rough time for me. But thankfully sports helped me to find an environment where I could meet other people who were interested in similar things as myself and make friends.”
Motivated By Turkish Pride
Like every other athlete in ONE, the Amir Team representative has his eyes set on 26 pounds of gold.
But the 28-year-old star is motivated by something bigger than himself – he wants to show that Turkish fighters belong on a global stage alongside the world’s very best martial artists in ONE.
“Bringing the championship belt to Turkey is very important to me. This is a great source of pride and motivates me because there is no big MMA organization belt in Turkey. As I explained, if I become the first Turkish fighter to win a belt in this organization, I would go down in history.”
Amir’s Turkish pride runs deep. Inspired by his ancestors’ warrior spirit, he aims to live up to his people’s reputation as fearless fighters.
“We are the grandchildren of the Ottoman Empire and everyone in the world has heard of the Ottoman Empire. They controlled the world for six hundred and twenty-odd years. The Turks were warriors back then and nothing has changed now.”
A Clash Of Undefeated Phenoms
Before he can take home a ONE World Title to Turkey, Amir first has to get through promotional newcomer Abevi at ONE Fight Night 9.
The Swede brings with him a perfect professional record and a 100 percent finishing rate, making this one of the most intriguing MMA contests so far this year.
The Turkish fighter respects his foe’s well-rounded skill set and lanky frame, recognizing that his slender build doesn’t necessarily mean Abevi is a weak athlete.
“His physique is good, fine, solid. He knows a bit of everything, striking, wrestling, grappling. I’ve seen very thin guys, but they were very strong. I’ve seen the opposite too, their physique looks good but they have no strength. We will see in the cage.”
If he picks up another thrilling victory on April 21, Amir will be 2-0 in ONE and rocketing toward the top of the lightweight division.
While he’s not ready to ask for an immediate World Title shot, the proud Turk knows that all he has to do is continue racking up the wins, and the rest will fall into place.
“Everyone’s goal is to become the champion and, hopefully, if I continue like this, they have no choice but to give me [a shot at the] belt.”