Bashir Ahmad faces Tannaphong Khunhankaew at ONE FC 21 on October 17, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His historic development of the sport of MMA in Pakistan is still what he’s know for, but Ahmad’s driving passion to fight will be the focus now.
Ahmad has carried the pride of a nation each time he’s gone into the cage. And each time, he has given his utmost best, which has made him know for extreme heart and perseverance. But Ahmad doesn’t want to be continually thought of in this manner. He’s honed his skills for this fight, put in a deliberate training camp, whereas previously he was put upon with the task of growing Pakistan’s nascent MMA scene while trying to get his own start as a fighter.
The next match he faces pits him against a former training partner – it’s not a farfetched situation as Ahmad has been forced to find his training outside of his native Pakistan. However, as he told MMA-in-ASIA, it’s not a fight he feels is his to lose. Facing his fourth opponent in as many fights for ONE FC, Ahmad is confident his career is only getting stronger.
MMA-in-ASIA: What has your final camp been like? Where did you do it, and who did you train with?
Ahmad: I trained at Phuket Top Team where I have been since the first of October. I have been lucky enough to be training with two other ONE FC guys in Rob Lisita and Anatapong Bunrad. It’s been amazing, the atmosphere is amazing and it was a perfect end to the training camp. A lot of high, high level guys, very motivated team and great camaraderie. It has given me confidence I’ve unseen before in myself.
MMA-in-ASIA: Have you picked up any last minute techniques?
Ahmad: I may have tweaked a few things, but I merely sharpened the tools I brought with me to take the “Lanna Warrior” down.
MMA-in-ASIA: How is your gym in Pakistan? Any improvements? Still rolling brownouts?
Ahmad: My gym in Pakistan is chugging along but I have been going back and forth between Pakistan and America so it’s definitely not the same without my presence. There are rolling brownouts as ALWAYS. Plus a lot of political turmoil and then add in some floods which have affected a lot of people. Including our gym which was damaged, but it’s ok now.
MMA-in-ASIA: Have you made any advances in the Pakistani MMA scene?
Ahmad: The scene is solidifying but there haven’t been any major milestones in the past six months. I hope to make the fight this Friday one of them.
MMA-in-ASIA: With all these challenges you face – being a pioneer, opening a gym under such tough conditions – what do you do to stay focused in your day to day life?
Ahmad: The only thing that gives me focus is focusing on my spiritual life, which – as it is to all people – is a battle, a much tougher one than in the cage. The other component is enjoying time with my family and my siblings. I guess it’s God, family, and country – these are the thigns that push me.
“I’m going to be a destroyer.”
MMA-in-ASIA: Since you’ve been going back and forth to the US, are you considering moving back there? Or have your roots grown permanently into Pakistan?
Ahmad: I do not forsee myself living in the USA permanently. Asia is my home and my base is Pakistan. I’m not cut out for the west. People take things too seriously there.
MMA-in-ASIA: What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about your daily life in Pakistan?
Ahmad: That it entails bombs and bullets and war. Life is normal “Asian chaos” for the most part. Add a dash of extra chaos.
MMA-in-ASIA: You and your next opponent Tanaphong have some history. What was training with him like?
Ahmad: He’s a great guy, he epitomizes what I love about Thai people. We bonded over my cat, Mr.Bigglesworth. As for training, he helped as a pad holder and we would train MMA together. Overall, we had a good experience.
MMA-in-ASIA: His BJJ has improved. What do you think is your biggest challenge from him? Or is there one?
Ahmad: I’m sure his BJJ has improved, and so has mine. He’s well rounded, but I am better, and if people think this is a matter of taking the Muay Thai guy to the ground, they are wrong. I am very comfortable standing with him. I have fought Muay Thai guys with his experience and even more, and I hang with them. Shannon had a lot more experience than me in terms of how long he trained and how many MMA fights he had. Pucci was a world class grappler. This isn’t a Pucci situation where I have never competed with someone with that high level of skillset before.
I still consider this my most dangerous opponent, he has a lot more competition experience. Three times as many MMA fights and 15 times as many Muay Thai fights. But when I have not been the underdog? People need to realize I started martial arts at 23-years old, and that five of those years were spent managing Pakistan’s MMA scene. If this is where I am now, where am I going to be after three years of being a student again? I’m going to be a destroyer.