With inspiration such as Belal Muhammad; In the midst of decades of relentless and unforgiving conflict between Palestine and Israel, a phenomenon is emerging among the Palestinian youth. They are discovering an extraordinary source of empowerment within the sacred arena of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Within the confines of the MMA cage, these athletes are not only showcasing their remarkable skills but also proudly representing their beloved homeland on the global stage. Through the medium of MMA, they are finally able to amplify their voices, giving voice to the voiceless and allowing their spirit to shine.
Accordingly, it is a powerful testament to the resilience and determination of Palestinian youth, as they transcend barriers and proudly wave their nation’s flag, etching their country’s name on the map with unwavering pride.
Palestinian MMA Fighters
Belal Muhammad, a top-ranked welterweight in the UFC, may have been born in the USA but proudly embodies his parent’s nation of Palestine. Therefore, Muhammad explained in a media interview that no matter where he goes, he is representing Palestine.
The UFC disallowed athletes from having flags, but it was no issue for Belal Muhammad. He said:
“I have the blood inside of me. I don’t need the flag, I don’t need to carry it. I have it inside of me all the time. I have the people on my back no matter what so I don’t need to carry the flag for me to be able to represent them … I will fight you if you don’t take the Palestinian flag into battle.”
Belal Muhammad, a teammate of Khabib Nurmagomedov, just earned a win over Brazil’s Gilbert Burns to rise to the top place in the UFC welterweight rankings. Impressively, Muhammad has been unbeaten since 2019 and won a whopping nine bouts in that time.
In a different interview, Belal Muhammad wants to make it crystal clear that this only has to do with humanity. While speaking with MMA Mania, he explained:
“[The Israel-Palestine conflict] literally has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with humanity. People are literally dying and people are losing their homes. You show a picture of kids dying and I get so many comments like, ‘What about Hamas?’ Bro, you think this 3-year-old kid that just got bombed and killed is Hamas? People look for keywords, trigger words that will get other trolls that just comment on your thing to get a rise out of you.”
Muhammad adds that most of Palestine has been voiceless throughout the half-century of conflict. He explained:
“Not a lot of people know what’s really going on there. You don’t have the mainstream media really pushing the story of what’s happening and the history of it.”
While many people in the West may not understand the full picture, for many Palestinian young people, MMA has given them an opportunity to showcase their skills and spread their voices. Sport is a neutral and peaceful place. While a fistfight may not sound peaceful, many fighters find peace once the cage door is locked.
Ramsey Nijem is a retired MMA fighter who had notable wins in the UFC. He was born in the USA to Palestinian parents and always represented Palestine. In a 2014 interview with VICE, he explained how MMA is giving him an opportunity to give his people a voice. He said:
“Being Palestinian, I really think it helps me, you know, be the fighter I am. I’ve been to Palestine and I’ve been through the stops, and I’ve seen the guns, the walls, and… I’m grateful and blessed to actually be able to be fighting in a cage, in a controlled environment, and not for my life.”
He finds determination and strength in his Palestinian heritage. Nijem can fight for his nation in sport which sadly is not a reality for all youth of the nation.
There are plenty of other notable Palestinian MMA athletes to keep an eye on, such as Askar Askar, Mohammad Ihmoud, and, of course, the “Pride Of Palestine” himself Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady.
“Pride Of Palestine” Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady
“Pride Of Palestine” Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady has held notable world titles all around the globe. The 28-year-old athlete has earned gold in Desert Force, Fury FC, and others. In a 2018 interview, he said:
“I am humbled by the opportunity to represent Palestine as an athlete.”
Brave CEO Mohammed Shahid explained how vital sport is for youth. He explained:
“Sport can make a difference in society. Athletes have a strong influence over their fans and society at large. Our athletes have honored martial arts as a sport that showcases discipline, respect and commitment. We have successfully featured our open workout programs to motivate and support the upcoming generation. Our athletes have wholeheartedly supported such initiatives, setting aside their differences and treating their rivalry in a healthy way.”