The Legion Sports Club looks to be scaling new heights in the convoluted fitness landscape in Lebanon. Based in Antelias, it is much more than just a gym, but rather 5,000 square meters of sporting heaven comprising a range of sports activities from football to basketball, 1200 square meters of state-of-the-art bodybuilding space, to combat sports and everything in-between.
It is a dream facility concocted and realized by Abdo El Hage. A longtime combat sports fan and former Muay Thai competitor and White Weapon Championship Silver medalist, El Hage recently welcomed the head of the Lebanese Muay Thai Federation Master Sami Kiblawi. El Hage shared with Kiblawi his vision of building a Muay Thai team that would compete locally, regionally and internationally. He appears to be building on that promise rather quickly having already curated a team of over 50 students in a very short amount of time.
Ever one to lead by example, El Hage instills in his athletes a sense of team work and constant self-improvement, frequently attending seminars across the globe to better himself.
“I believe that in a team, no one gets left behind, from the bottom to the summit. No matter what your skill level is, everyone should feel strong in their own ways. In Legion, my students and I have a special relationship. They work hard and dedicate their time to this because they know that without their diligence, my coaching is useless and has no meaning. It is so much more than simple teaching a martial art – it’s about teaching discipline, ethics, behavior and having the right attitude to succeed in life.”
El Hage has a clear mission, building his own team or perhaps an army as they are called Legion after the unbreakable dominant Roman Army.
During Kiblawi’s visit, El Hage showed him around the enormous compound and they discussed the potential for the space to host future championships and seminars. They also discussed how to strengthen their team (‘Legion’) through collaboration and helping each other grow. Kiblawi even had the opportunity to supervise and lead two of the ongoing classes, lending his years of experience to the classmates in attendance. Kiblawi gave a rousing speech to the attending legionaires and encouraged them to compete in as many events as they could to garner experience before he spoke about the mentality required to succeed.
“You need to defeat yourself. I am 56 years old, I still train, coach the police. For 40 years, every day I wake up and my bed starts telling me, relax today, it’s just one day.
The real champions are not made in the ring, they are made in life. When u defeat yourself, set a goal and do the impossible to reach it. You set a life style, and you go for it! No matter what.
Be part of this family, be part of this community.”
Rounding off the exciting day, El Hage thanked Kiblawi for his visit, calling him the ‘godfather’ of Muay Thai and a leading figure for his constant support for all clubs under the federation. He then thanked his students for being his motivation every day.
El Hage had also mentioned the potential to create an MMA team and to also give opportunities for females to take part in the sport. Astoundingly, over 50% of his team are females.
“Soon you will see one of our fighters competing in an international competition abroad as well. We are sending our fighters to training camps in Thailand and one of them is Ibrahim Maksoud, who is going in November to train for one month and apply for “The Mongkol Khan” belt under the patronage of “The Lebanese Muay Thai Federation” president himself grand master Sami Kiblawi.”
Things appear to be looking very bright for his squad. In fact, some of them are already competing and achieving notable victories such as Sajad Chawi, a two time holder of the gold medal in the Open Asia All Martial Arts Championship in the 15-17 bracket. Ibrahim Maksoud also won the gold medal in the championship in the over 18 category and Abdo El Hares holds a gold medal for the fastest submission in the Open Combat Championship. These are the stars of tomorrow and Legion MMA are oozing not just potential, but genuine winners; you get the feeling that success is rubbing off in this team.