Interviews

Arifa Bseiso: First Lady of MMA in the Middle East

Watching the 30 second clip you could be forgiven for thinking that you had accidentally managed to click on the fast forward button. The person you are watching on your screen slams their fists into pads with a ridiculous mix of speed and power. Right cross, left uppercut and 7 other strikes in 3 seconds later it slowly dawns on you… you are watching Arifa Bseiso, 2 time boxing champ/Captain of the Jordanian female boxing team/Desert Force presenter, going through her boxing workout.

ArabsMMA caught up with the First Lady of MMA in the Middle East and talked boxing, Desert Force, getting punched in the face, interviewing bloodied fighters and the possibility of her becoming one of the first Female MMA fighters.


Arifa great to catch up with you! Can you give our readers a quick introduction on who you are and what brought you to where you are?

I’m a 28 year old aspiring filmmaker. I earned my Bachelors degree in Film and Journalism from the Lebanese American University of Beirut in 2006.  I work as a freelance Assistant Director in TV commercials, feature films and documentaries. I am the two time national boxing champion of Jordan in my weight category as well as being the captain of the national women’s boxing team of Jordan. My favorite color is hot pink and I am a libra. I love to watch movies, read and travel.

You started your fighting career a little bit later in your life at 23 to get into shape initially. How did Boxing go from an pastime into an obsession?

I was never really an athlete.  At 23  I discovered my passion and  my coach discovered my talent for boxing. I started training on a daily basis to make up for all the lost time. My coach Ayman Al Nady invested all his time in me, he used to train me for hours, physically and even theoretically. He always used to say you are going to become a boxing champion, I used to smile-  by mere coincidence  5 months later -the first ever national boxing championship for women was held, my coach said your competing I was like WHO ME??? Hahahah I’ve never been punched in the face! The minute I finished that sentence he punched me in the face and said well, now you have. So I competed and I won, and after that there was no turning back. One of my biggest challenges to starting an athletic career at 23 is that I’m still trying to  physically transform my body  to an athletes’ and to master the mental and physical aspects  of boxing. Boxing taught me discipline, patience, self confidence and also self control.I have also become more humble because there is nothing more humbling that getting punched in the face. I have learned to never under estimate my opponent, or anyone and to keep pushing myself. You really never know what type of person you are until you have been tested, and stepping into the ring is always a major test. Above all, I learned that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and do what you love.

Which boxers do you look up to?

Mike Tyson and Lucia Rijker. In MMA I love to watch GSP, Diaz, Dos Santos and a few others who have adapted their boxing skills for MMA.

What are your Boxing goals for 2013?

I am ready for whatever the boxing federation has in store for us in 2013. Exciting times!!

Exciting times indeed! Given the close relationship between yourself and Desert Force and the Team Mirza fighters, have you dabbled in other martial arts like BJJ?

I trained MMA at Team Mirza. MMA conditioning is second to none. I absolutely adore muay thai, knees…clinch.. Elbows are my absolute favorite however! My muay thai Coach Ismael Moeen incorporates his knowledge of Muay Thai into my boxing training me as a boxer.  BJJ is also fascinating to me I love watching it but I personally never really got into it  , I train takedown defenses on a regular basis to keep my reactions and body sharp . As you can see I love mixing up my training.. im always up for a challenge – every single time I train I learn something new.

Speaking of Muay Thai, you also recently went to Thailand to train with Tiger Muay Thai. How was that?

I went to Tiger Muay Thai and MMA training camp in Phuket Thailand for a month. I went in monsoon season the humidity was 100000  and still it was one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life both physically and mentally. I trained harder than ever, I mainly focused on muay thai and boxing, I also took a few wrestling and MMA classes with UFC fighter Roger Huerta.

How did you first get into Desert Force?

Zaid Abou Soud, Desert Force general manager, approached me with the idea of being the announcer. I was a bit reluctant at first, considering I had never presented or announced anything before. The support I received from him encouraged me to get over my doubts, and go for it! For sure it took time to get comfortable with the mic, manage to remember all the details and keep up with the fast momentum of the fights.  The sport is quite male dominated worldwide. The whole experience was so much fun, and i enjoyed being inside the cage. The only other comparable adrenaline boost is being in the ring myself. Six events later, I learned a lot but also felt ready to retire my cage mic . I made my backstage debut in Desert Force Semi Final Round, I absolutely loved every single minute of being backstage!! Cant wait to get back in there in June.

What was your first Desert Force match you watched and the first one you announced?

The first fight I watched was Desert Force’s first event ever in 2010: Gabriel Tayeh vs Jad il Wahsh where Gabriel won by submission. First fight I ever announced was: “in the blue corner weighing in at 70kgs from Egypt Mahmoud Saeed in the red corner Elie el Rayess from Lebanon”-  Elie won by doctors stoppage.

That was a great fight! And what was your favourite fight at Desert Force so far?

Hashem Arkhagha vs Ibrahim Al Sawi middleweight title fight was epic

What’s a great backstage story you could share with the Desert Force fans?

In my backstage debut –  my job was to interview the fighters. Interviewing the winner is easy- however if he’s injured or bleeding he’s not really camera ready while spitting blood in the medical room-  however all 22 fighters with no exceptions took the time to talk to me and answer my questions regardless of how random my questions were. Interviewing Amir Ismail the minute after he lost his fight to Feras Saada with his face all bruised and his eye popping out was quite an experience, and for a person who just lost and was hurt he was the nicest, calmest friendliest guy I have ever met and he showed great sportsmanship.

Amir did look pretty banged up I must say! Which fighter would you like to see in Desert Force?

I would love to see Jordan’s first ever Olympic boxer Ehab Darwish AlMatbouli inside the Desert Force cage, he would be phenomenal to watch.

What are your thoughts on the potential of a female MMA Scene in the Middle East/World Wide ?

I’m a huge WMMA fan, those women are tough, disciplined and the best at what they do- I’m so inspired by them. Ronda Rousey headlining and winning UFC 157 was epic! And I cant wait for Miesha Tate vs Cat Zingango- the winner of this fight will coach The Utlimate fighter VS Ronda Rousey so that’s bound to create a generation of female fans, athletes and aspiring WMMA fighters for sure. INVICTA FC which is basically the biggest female fighting organization will have Cris Cyborg back in the cage vs Fionna Mexlow April 5th!!

I’m not very familiar with WMMA fighters in the Middle East as of yet, but I definitely believe the region is capable of generating top level WMMA fighters. Martial Arts and Combat Sports are becoming more and more acceptable and mainstream, even my mom trains boxing now!!  I hope that when young women see me in the ring, that they think:  she can do it I can too! I have inspired my friends and family to realize their athletic potential whatever age they are.  I do hope my experience encourages women to put their gloves on and get into the ring or the cage.

Are we going to see you in the Octagon anytime soon as a fighter?
My main focus is amateur boxing for now, so not anytime soon.

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