Moroccan MMA fighter Khalid Ismail began his MMA career in 2010, before which he competed in jujitsu, kickboxing and wrestling. Fighting however, comes at a price. Due to a series of injuries, he has only been able to fight three times in the fiercely competitive UCMMA league, based in the UK. He won all three times.
Many of his fans now want him to take the next step: to compete in the world-renowned Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – the largest MMA competition in the world, based in the US – which he hopes to do soon.
A sharp entrepreneur, Ismail has also opened two popular gyms in London where he trains for fights as well as coaches aspiring fighters. Following the success of this pursuit, he now plans to open 10 more gyms within the next 10 years. He’s never been the quiet type, so it comes as no surprise that Ismail uses his popularity to voice strong opinions on global conflicts, such as the atrocities taking place in Gaza.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing and how you got into fighting.
I was born in East London to Moroccan parents and spent a lot of time in Meknes, Morocco, growing up. When I was five, my mum got me into training, because I suffered from asthma, so she went a bit sport-crazy and got me into everything. I played virtually every sport: football, cricket, karate – I had a big passion for all types of sport. When I was young, I saw people like Jackie Chan. Bruce Lee’s films were very popular and Jean-Claude Van Damme was also on the scene. That all inspired me and, because I was an aggressive child, it fit my personality.
How does fighting fit in with your beliefs and philosophy in life?
Islamically, you have to control your aggression and be a disciplined human being. For example, right now it’s 11.30pm and it’s Eid tomorrow. We’re going to train until 2am. You need discipline to do this. People who want to start training with me, I tell them to meet at 5.30am, again at 5pm and after a few days, they say how hard they are finding it. But what do you expect?
It’s not easy to get to Jannah [Paradise]. So this whole element of wanting to be a champion, it all ties in with our religion. The Prophet, peace be upon him, also encouraged wrestling, to train and to run, so it all fits perfectly together with what I do.
During Ramadan, I fast the whole day without food or water and then at night, I will train. This is more than any other fighter would do – what guy would fast all day then come to the gym in the evening to train? This mentally makes you stronger than your opponents.
Check out the full interview HERE!