Ali Motamed has become one of the standout talents in ONE Warrior Series.
In March, the 27-year-old Iranian striker impressed in the program’s Season 1 Finale with a highlight-reel knockout, and then in July, in the Season 2 Mid-Season Finale, he was part of a three-round thriller that stole the show.
Thanks to his explosive skill set and exciting style, it may be only a matter of time before the Team Envisage MMA representative makes the move to the bright lights of ONE Championship.
After coming such a long way in such a short amount of time, it is hard to imagine he had never thrown a punch until six years ago.
From Iran To Malaysia
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Growing up in Tehran, Iran, the two most popular sports were freestyle wrestling and football.
“The beautiful game” caught Motamed’s attention as a kid. In fact, even as a teenager, he never thought about pursuing any other activity.
In 2010, his father decided to relocate from Iran to Malaysia to open a restaurant in the Southeast Asian country. Motamed followed to help his dad with the business and study at school.
However, his father did not find the kind of success he was hoping for with his new business, and was soon planning to return back home to the Middle East.
By then, Motamed had put down roots in the country. He had made some close friends and secured a good job, so he decided to stay.
“My father did not like Malaysia very much,” he says.
“He was like, ‘I am going to go back to Iran,’ but I did not want to go. I wanted to stay there and start my own life.”
Finding Himself In Combat Sports
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It was also around this time, in 2012, that Motamed stumbled upon a new passion.
“When I was in Iran, I played football,” he says.
“One of my friends was a Muay Thai fighter, and he asked me to go watch his fight. Before that, I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what it was. I went there, and after I watched one fight, [I decided] this is what I wanted to do.
“The day after that, I started training. I went to the gym, and I started training and training. From that day, I was in fight camp. Since the first day, I looked at it as a professional thing.”
Although Motamed loved football, “the art of eight limbs” spoke to him in a way no other sport had. He always felt like something was missing from his life, and when he started training in Muay Thai, he felt whole. He loved the purity of the competition between two athletes in the ring.
“Two people go in there, put everything they have on the line, and they fight for it,” he explains.
The Iranian’s passion for Muay Thai grew quickly, and he received an offer to move from Malaysia to Thailand to further pursue a professional career in the discipline.
He immediately packed his bag, traveled north, and trained in the martial art’s birthplace. But as he was building up his striking arsenal, he discovered a combat sport that spoke even louder to him.
“The first few months was Muay Thai, and before that, I did not even know what mixed martial arts was,” Motamed admits.
“After [discovering mixed martial arts], I liked it better than Muay Thai. I started to do that instead, so I could do everything. I was doing Muay Thai, and then I was doing my jiu-jitsu.
Soon, he was prepared to enter the cage.
Gaining Support Along The Journey
He has had his ups and downs – including some sensational wins and frustrating defeats – but nothing has dampened his passion. Plus, his parents back in Iran gave him nothing but support, because they knew their son had found something he loved.
“I did not tell them exactly what it was I was doing, but when I finally told them, they supported me,” he says.
“From the first day, they supported me, but they said to be careful. They wanted me to just do it for fun, not as a profession. But later, when they saw how I was getting better – and that I loved what I was doing, and how it made me a better person – they fully supported me.”
Motamed’s love for the sport eventually led him to ONE Warrior Series in 2018, where he has made a name for himself.
At the ONE Warrior Series Season 1 Finale in March, he knocked out South Korean prospect Dawoon Jung with a single knee strike to the head – just 19 seconds into the second round.
In his sophomore outing four months later, he went the distance with Mark Abelardo in a thrilling match-up that was viewed by many as the best bout of the night. However, the Iranian suffered a broken hand in the second round of his bantamweight clash, and lost a unanimous decision.
Despite the disappointing outcome, Motamed would not trade the experience for anything.
“The thing is, I never go for winning or losing. I just go there to give everything I have, and leave everything I have inside the ring,” he says.
“The result does not really matter. Any time I go there, if I do not do what I have to do, then I will feel bad. I should not leave it in the judges’ hands, but I could not finish the fight after I broke my hand.
“But that is all right. I learned, and now I will go for the next one.”