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Friday, April 19, 2024  
09 Shawwal 1445  

Pakistani chai wala crowned international MMA champion

Fighter decries the lack of govt interest in promoting the game
Bakhat Muhammad - via author
Bakhat Muhammad - via author

Bakhat Muhammad, who works at a tea shop in Soldier Bazar Karachi, emerged as the winner of the Fight Night event in Tehran, Iran. However, he has decried the lack of government interest in promoting sports in the country.

Muhammad, who learned MMA from Proficient Academy Karachi in 2019, fought his first international competition in Khost, Afghanistan, in August 2021 where he defeated his first international opponent, Ibrahim Muhammadi (65 kg).

The competition was organised by the Afghan government and named Khatri Fight Night (KFN).

He then competed in his second international fight (Asian Fight Night) in Peshawar, in which he defeated his 65-kg opponent, Umer.

Muhammad recently fought in an international fight (Fight Night) against Qasim Rahemi, earning the title.

He has also won many national competitions, including the National Fight Tournament, Karachi Cage Fight League, Kick Boxing Fight, Kick Boxing Quetta, and Liyari Youth Fight.

While he continues to prevail in local and international competitions, Muhammad faces difficulties in finding sponsorship to participate on the international level.

According to him, he has to look for people to sponsor him every time he is invited to participate in an international competition.

Being a less popular sport in Pakistan, sponsors usually avoid events about which they have little to no information.

“We need to make people more aware of this game, we need to tell them that it’s an interesting and healthy game,” he said.

Recalling his struggles to secure sponsorship, an emotional Muhammad said that he had to approach several people for his past competitions.

Rejected by many, he finally managed to convince Shoib Buth, a local businessman, Niamat Allah Emat, Changazi Group, and some clubs to sponsor him.

According to Muhammad, competing in fights on a local level is easier as clubs and organisers finance the competitors.

However, it is the international arena where athletes find it challenging to show their potential as the governments seem less interested in promoting the game.

“We have to face visa and immigration problems for international competition. Sometimes visas are not received until the date of the competition,” he said.

With his MMA career, Muhammad is also pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering (BSSE) from Ilma University Karachi.

Belonging to a middle-class family, the 27-year-old athlete works at Tea Shop to cover the expenses of his studies, family, and mixed martial arts club.

He has a rigorous daily routine as he arrives at the tea shop at 5am in the morning, and then joins the club at 3pm to practice mixed martial arts. From there, Muhammad sets off to the university at 5pm and ends his day at 12pm.

While his family is unable to support his career financially, Muhammad enjoys their moral and psychological support. His father and brothers are big fans of physical games.

Muhammad lamented the fact that the government’s total focus has been on cricket while ignoring all other games.

For him, the lack of government interest has resulted in the waste of talented athletes as they find it hard to self-finance their sports activities.

The MMA star urged the government to provide facilities for the athletes so that they can win more international titles at the international level.

“I want to fight more international fights for my beloved country. The nation, especially youth, should participate in physical games because games give us mental and physical relaxation,” Muhammad concluded.

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