A hero’s welcome

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A hero’s welcome

HE FOUGHT HIS way to the top, and now Thabet Agha has been crowned Al Batal, the winner of the region’s first all-Arab mixed martial arts reality show.

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Published: Sat 20 Jul 2013, 10:21 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:58 PM

Agha, 23, was recently announced as the winning contestant during the final episode of the TV show, which aired on FX. Given the outstanding reception the first season received, show organisers have announced that Al Batal will come back in 2014 for a second season.

As the winner of Al Batal, which means ‘hero’ in Arabic, Agha received a Dhs75,000 cash prize and a multi-fight contract with ADFC, the Middle East’s leading MMA promotion organisation. He conquered 13 of the region’s amateur Welterweight MMA fighters, including Georges ‘Bulldozer’ Eid in the finale episode.

Of Syrian nationality, Agha was born in Yemen and currently lives in Jordan where he practices combat sambo. In addition to fighting, Agha is in his final year of university and will soon graduate as an accountant.

Throughout the competition, the 14 MMA fighter contestants endured strenuous training sessions with three MMA luminaries: Founding Partner of MMA Conditioning Luiz Eduardo ‘Lula’ Guerreiro, renowned UAE-based Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter Abdelaziz Cherigui and acclaimed Brazilian National Boxing Coach Ulysses Pereira. Additionally, they competed against one another in teams, with head to head battle eliminations knocking out one fighter every episode.

Following his victory, Agha talks about the hardships of training and how the hit reality show changed his life.

How do you describe your experience with Al Batal?

It was a challenging yet exciting journey that I did not imagine myself being part of. I had the chance to be trained and guided by three of the best coaches in the world. Overall, it was a rough ride with a successful finish.

What was the main challenge to winning the title?

Every week presented new physical and psychological challenges. The bigger challenge was adapting to a new home and a new family, the Al Batal contenders, whom I have learnt a lot from. I especially enjoyed learning about their different cultures and backgrounds.

Can you tell us about the training you underwent?

I had strength and conditioning training with Coach Lula, boxing and striking training with Coach Ulysses and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training with Coach Aziz. Coach Lula used Ford F150 trucks in our training and although it looked easy, it really wasn’t. Pushing and pulling trucks is not as easy as you may think but the results of such functional training really paid off stamina wise. In addition to training, the challenges we underwent were pretty tough. We had two challenges per week. They were physically demanding and mentally exhausting.

How do you describe your relationship with the rest of the contestants?

We all came in for one purpose and that was to win. Inside the ring, we were pushing ourselves to self-achieve and avoid elimination. Outside the ring, just like any family we had our agreements and disagreements, but we remained a family with solid bonds.

What is your advice to the talents participating in the next season of Al Batal?

Do not underestimate the experience, pursue what you came here for and believe in yourselves. Stay focused on your training, listen to the guidance of the coaches and enjoy the company of your new brothers.

What do you think about the rising popularity of martial arts in the UAE?

It is extremely exciting and motivating to see a sport like MMA becoming more popular in the Middle East. I believe that MMA has a large fan base in the region and many talents are pursuing this sport as a career. Unfortunately, there was not much attention given to it in the past. When I initially started off in this competition, my motivation was purely for the platform that Al Batal offered; taking MMA from the confines of the gym and a hobby to the mainstream. It provided an opportunity for fighters like me to showcase their skills and more importantly, compete.

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