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A close encounter with Desert Force Prodigy Abdul-Kareem Al Selwady

Youssef Nassar, and avid fan of MMA and a close affiliate of ArabsMMA, brings us an up-close and personal look into Abdul-Kareem Al Selwady’s life as he prepares for his next bout in Desert Force.

“I practiced everything I could, striking, conditioning, jiu jitsu, boxing… wait not jiu jitsu, but I did practice escapes. I only had 12 days” Abdul-Kareem explained as we were sitting in the car on the way to get a coffee. He was describing how having awoken to a phone call from Desert Force Champion Hashem Arkhagha in October last year in the early morning, Abdul-Kareem was still slightly groggy when he was asked if he would like to be a part of Desert Force round 1 on September 2012. “I’m not sure man, its still early morning and I’m beat today” came his response. Unsure whether his friend understood his question properly, Hashem responded “I mean Desert Force, do you want to be part of the next round in 12 days time”. At this point, Abdul-Kareem was certainly wide awake.

I first met Abdul-Kareem at the end of January at the Team Mirza gym in Amman to go over the type of coverage we wanted to put together. He was extremely welcoming and suggested we go grab a coffee since a Jiu Jitsu class was going on at the time. It was during this short car ride that I got a glimpse of what makes Abdul-Kareem such a prodigious fighter who made his professional debut at 17 years old (the youngest Desert Force combatant) against an opponent 9 years his senior, namely his unshakeable will to succeed and self belief in his capabilities, a trait that would accompany him from a young age.

Abdul-Kareem was always a fan of MMA and in particular the UFC that he would watch with his dad from the age of 7. It wasn’t until the age of 15 that he decided to actively pursue Muay Thai and kickboxing classes having moved back to Jordan from Baton Rouge then. His natural talents ensured that he quickly rose through the ranks and successfully competed at 4 regional Muay Thai events taking home the gold medal on 2 separate occasions under the tutelage of his striking coach Essa Abu Nassar. His father was delighted that his son enjoyed such large success, himself previously an amateur kickboxer whose career was cut short by injury. What was to come next can only be describe as a combination of fate, brilliant timing and determination.

Abdel-Kareem saw a Facebook posting one day put out by Team Mirza. They were looking for sparring partners for Haider Rashed and Malick Quran to prepare them for their upcoming fights on Desert Force (which they would both go on to win). To Team Mirza’s surprise, they found out that Abdul-Kareem wasn’t merely content with being an inferior sparring partner but was genuinely putting up a strong showing every time he was asked to spar, something which caught the eye of Hashem Arkhagha. When one of the 66KG fighters withdrew due to injury, Hashem did not hesitate to ask Abdul-Kareem if he would consider jumping in. Persuading his dad, or so Abdul-Kareem thought might not be such an easy task.

To his surprise, his father was ecstatic! His training camp had officially begun and he was now a member of Team Mirza!

His first fight against 26 year old Noor el Din would end in a TKO for Abdul-Kareem. Despite his coaches focusing on his stand-up game and little to no emphasis on his ground game apart from escapes, Selwady managed to take down Noor el Din 5 times, the last one would mark the beginning of the end of the bout.

His upcoming fight against fellow Jordanian Ahmad Ansari promises to be one of the highlight matches of the fight card. Asked if he has any difficult feelings going up against a fellow Jordanian, he remarked “I have a lot of respect for Ahmad, but that’s going to be forgotten once we are in the cage for fifteen minutes. We are colleagues before and after, but not during fight. This is war”. Unlike his debut fight, this time Abdul-Kareem has had two and a half months off from school to focus purely on his training. The teachers and students have been extremely supportive of his endeavors and will most certainly be ringside on the evening of the 7th of March.

“Hopefully my actions will show how hard I’ve trained” he says. And who would doubt him? After such a remarkable debut on 12 days notice, imagine what kind of a fighter we will see with two and a half months of training.

Favourite Arab MMA fighter: Hashem Arkhagha
Non-Arab: George St Pierre
First snack after weigh in: Everything but maybe some waffles and pancakes – he had a 10 stack after last fight
Dream fight: me against myself

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