‘It Motivates Me Every Day’ – Osamah Almarwai’s Quest To Inspire Middle East With ONE World Title Win

Osamah Almarwai

Osamah Almarwai has been a BJJ black belt for just over a year, but he is already one of the planet’s best competitors and poised to achieve greatness in his ONE Championship debut.

At ONE Fight Night 10: Johnson vs. Moraes III on Prime Video, the Yemeni jiu-jitsu stylist will challenge Mikey “Darth Rigatoni” Musumeci for his ONE Flyweight Submission Grappling World Title.

As Almarwai prepares for his highly anticipated showdown with Musumeci at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado on Friday, May 5, find out about his journey to the top of the grappling world and the pressures of representing the Middle East on the global stage.

Engineered For Success

Born and raised in Saudi Arabia to Yemeni parents, Almarwai grew up focusing on and excelling in school.

After shining as a student in high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and, later, a master’s degree in engineering management, all while training in BJJ.

According to him, the discipline he honed in the classroom extended to the jiu-jitsu mats, just as jiu-jitsu helped him succeed with his studies.

Almarwai explained:

“My parents were very strict when it came to school. They always wanted me to get A’s. I mean, I had some fights here and there. But I didn’t get in trouble, like, not big trouble. I was a straight-A student. I was very good at school. 

“I think that helped me a lot in terms of discipline with jiu-jitsu because I was very disciplined in school. And vice versa, jiu-jitsu helped me with school and finishing my engineering degree because I was trying to get schoolwork done so that I could train. On the weekend, I would study and try to do all my homework so I could train during the week.”

While his parents demanded excellence in school, that doesn’t mean they shunned his passion for martial arts. 

Almarwai first found BJJ as a teenager, following in the footsteps of his older brother. His parents supported his martial arts aspirations immediately, knowing he had the discipline and drive to succeed athletically, just as he did academically.

He said:

“My parents had no problems with me doing martial arts. My father was very supportive. My mom passed away in 2015. She had pancreatic cancer, but she was supportive also. My father is now very proud of me. He’s always messaging me. He’s very excited about this upcoming match.”

Finding His Stride At Atos

Throughout college, Almarwai competed around the Middle East, racking up wins as a blue, purple, and brown belt. 

When he moved to the U.S. for graduate school, he began to take his BJJ training more seriously. Eventually, he landed at the famed Atos Jiu-Jitsu Academy in San Diego, California, where he learned under the tutelage of BJJ legend Andre Galvao and alongside world-class competitors like Tye Ruotolo and ONE Lightweight Submission Grappling World Champion Kade Ruotolo.

The 30-year-old looks back at this time as a turning point in his career, the first inkling that he could become one of the best in the world.

He said:

“Actually, I didn’t have big dreams, to be honest with you, in the colored belts. I just wanted to compete. And then, as a brown belt, I started taking training seriously because I was training at the best academy.

My first camp at Atos was the ADCC camp in 2019. It was a very tough camp. So I was like, ‘Why can’t I win a World Championship if I’m training with the best? It doesn’t get harder than this.’ I was telling myself it doesn’t get harder than Atos.”

Indeed, the Yemeni grappler soon found plenty of success competing as a brown belt, taking home gold at the 2021 IBJJF No-Gi World Championships before Galvao awarded him his black belt in early 2022.

But success can be a double-edged sword. With winning came high expectations, and when he didn’t live up to those expectations, Almarwai struggled with self-doubt.

He bounced back from losses and the mental roadblocks that came with them by speaking with his Atos teammates, who encouraged him to continue putting in the work necessary to reach his goals.

Almarwai recalled:

“I remember the [IBBJF] Gi Worlds. I think I got third place after winning No-Gi Worlds as a brown belt. And it was hard, man, because I’m at the top. How did I lose? And that’s what’s great about Atos. You have people who’ve been through the process.

We have [ADCC World Champion] Kaynan Duarte, we have the Ruotolos, you have Professor Galvao. We have so many top-level guys, and you talk to them, and they’re like, ‘This is normal for an athlete. You always go up and down, but you do your best.’ I just overcame that and kept competing as a black belt.”

Carrying A Region’s Expectations On His Shoulders

After earning his black belt last year, Almarwai’s competitive career took off. He won gold at a number of major IBJJF competitions, including the IBJJF No-Gi World Championships, where he became the first-ever black belt World Champion from the Middle East.

In a matter of months, the Saudi native had garnered the reputation as one of the world’s best no-gi jiu-jitsu competitors at any weight. Moreover, he drew tons of attention from the Middle East, with grappling fans from all over the region voicing their support for him.

Speaking about the pressures and joys that come along with being the torchbearer for the Middle East, Almarwai offered:

“It’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders because I’m kind of the only high-level black belt who is representing the Middle East at the highest level. But I’m also super proud of it. It motivates me every day, especially when I see the messages.

Some people message me and show me their kids doing jiu-jitsu, and they’re like, ‘Hey, my kid is doing jiu-jitsu. I’m from Yemen.’ Or, ‘I’m from Saudi,’ or, ‘I’m from the UAE.’ And it’s very, very motivating and inspiring.”

A true martial artist, Almarwai is humble to his core. He says the outpouring of support from the Middle East, both after he became a World Champion and when his showdown with Musumeci was announced, came as a surprise.

Recognizing that he is an inspiration to other grapplers from the region, Almarwai is motivated to continue his incredible run of success at the highest levels of grappling.

He said:

“I didn’t know I was inspiring other people because I just trained and competed. I really like that I have a lot of support back home. And when this fight was announced, man, people were just going crazy in the Middle East, just messaging me, tagging me in their photos.

“Through all the hardships, what motivates me is now knowing that a lot of people back home, in the Middle East, are looking up to me. So I have to be an example on not giving up.” 

Getting Ready For The Biggest Match Of His Life

On May 5, Almarwai will make his ONE debut in the biggest opportunity of his competitive career, and he’ll do it in the organization’s historic debut on U.S. soil.

The Atos man couldn’t have imagined a better scenario for his first promotional outing than challenging reigning king Musumeci for World Title gold on such a memorable occasion.

He said:

“I’m very honored to be part of the history of ONE Championship now because it’s a historic moment. The first event in the U.S., and I’m fighting on the main card in a World Title fight. I mean, it doesn’t get better than this.”

Excitement aside, the Yemeni grappler will certainly have his hands full when he clashes with “Darth Rigatoni.” Undefeated in three bouts inside the Circle, Musumeci is considered by many to be the world’s top pound-for-pound submission grappler.

Almarwai welcomes the challenge and is preparing with the utmost care and attention, ready to prove he belongs among the best of the best.

Talking about what his World Title showdown with Musumeci means to him, Almarwai said:

“It’s really an honor to compete against him. This is a very big opportunity to showcase my skills, and I’m very, very, very excited, man.”

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