2020 was a challenging year for many, not least because of Covid-19, lockdowns, travel restrictions, and a lack of employment opportunities the world over. The trials and tribulations of a wide variety of industries was pretty much universal, and in most cases, sports were no exception. Last year was one wrought with difficulty and frustration, a monumental mental challenge with crippling financial implications not only for organisations, clubs, and promotions, but for athletes, aspirants, and employees within these fields.
The stars of Saracens MMA were no exception, despite the successes celebrated in our ‘2020: A Year in Review’ section. To recap, check out the links below:
But while the Saracens MMA team managed to believe, achieve and succeed in the face of all the challenges 2020 threw their way, fate threatened to derail two of the team’s top exponents – for Islam ‘The Egyptian Zombie’ Reda and Amr ‘The Falcon’ Maher, further misfortune would present itself in truly devastating form.
In August, Amr Maher and Team Quest Thailand prepared to make the huge announcement that ‘The Falcon’ had achieved the ambition he had held since his departure from Egypt to the Far East by signing a multi-fight deal with ONE Championship. His debut would take place in one of a series of shows ONE were running in Bangkok, with Coronavirus largely limiting the global giant’s geographic reach. Amr was thrilled, and ready to put on a show no matter who ONE decided to put in his way. His international successes now amounted to this, an opportunity to perform on a much larger platform. In many ways, this would be Amr’s chance to validate the many personal struggles he had faced throughout his life.
As a young man, Amr had found himself in hospital with a life threatening illness that left him weak and in doubt of his physical capabilities. Through martial arts, Amr overcame many of those concerns, although a broken leg and further medical complications would interrupt his training once he had established himself as an 8-2 pro MMA fighter by 2018. Still, come 2020, Amr felt in the best shape of his life – until a swelling in his leg hampered his training camp heading into the biggest fight of his life.
“I masked it really well throughout my training camp,” Amr told SaracensMMA.com. “Not to the point that my coaches didn’t recognise that my cardio was off and my leg was weird, but I pushed through, signed on the dotted line [with ONE Championship] and showed up to my medical.”
There, Amr’s ambitions would come crashing down around him.
“The doctor’s found something in their reports. They decided to dig a little deeper, and they told me I needed to be rushed into surgery. I was told there was a very serious infection in my leg, my heart was in hypertrophy, and my kidney was struggling to cope.”
With his body fighting something Amr had, to that point, tried to ignore, Amr heard the devastating news.
“They said ‘you might lose your leg’.”
Shaken to his core, Amr had gone from the elation of signing with one of the biggest martial arts promotions in the world to potentially losing a limb and seeing all his dreams come to an abrupt end; what’s more, his life was in real danger.
“It took four surgeries and five procedures to get the infection out and save the leg,” Amr explained. “Recovering from that was the hardest time of my life. It’s not even about what I lost, it’s not about the spotlight or my hard work, or even the chance to perform and to prove once and for all what I’m made of, it’s the fear of losing my leg and the fact that even after successful surgery I am left with serious muscle depletion and in a wheelchair.”
While Amr certainly did take stock of his life and was grateful to be in one piece, the mental toll the ordeal had taken was incredible. But refusing to fall into the trap of self-pity and depression, ‘The Falcon’ decided that the only way to go was forward.
“I decided to **** the victim mentality. That would only make things worse. It became about day-to-day living, working towards getting back to where I was before. I started to plan and write down all the things I could do and all the ways I could think of to get back to fighting again. I set myself a goal of three months, and worked towards it every day.”
From lying in a hospital bed with an open surgical wound in his leg to competing in martial arts competition in such a short space of time seemed unlikely to Amr’s closest friends and training partners – but fast forward three months and that’s exactly what Amr accomplished.
Three Muay Thai fights in the space of four months saw Amr close to being back to peak physical fitness – with Amr winning all three bouts! And things would get even better for ‘The Falcon’ – as ONE Championship renewed their interest, offering a new multi-fight deal.
Needless to say, 2020 and the early part of 2021 have been extremely eventful for the Saracens MMA fighter – and now, in some ways, the hard work begins as Amr looks to finally realize his potential on a truly global stage.
Oh, and one more thing – Happy Birthday, Champ!
Next week, we’ll look at the story of Islam ‘The Egyptian Zombie’ Reda and the rollercoaster ride that was 2020.
Welcome to Saracens MMA 2020: A Year in Review Part Three! Don’t forget to check out Part One and Part Two where you can find out all about the progress the new breed of Saracens MMA fighters, as well as some of the team’s biggest names and best fighters.
Ahmed ‘The Prince’ Faress made the announcement early this year that he had signed a deal with ONE Championship to compete on Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series. His first task under the ONE Warrior Series banner would not be an easy one – hugely experienced international veteran Alan ‘The Apprentice’ Philpott boasted several high level victories including for BAMMA, Absolute Championship Berkut (now ACA), and was riding a two-fight win streak on the Warrior Series itself. It was assumed one more victory would bring him the biggest contract of his career – a multi-fight deal to compete on ONE Championship’s flagship shows.
But fate had other plans. Instead of the hard-earned graduation of ‘The Apprentice’, this would be a crowning moment in the career of ‘The Prince’. With the weight of a nation on his shoulders, Ahmed prepared for battle in his native Cairo with Saracens MMA at the SBA Academy, a departure from previous fight camps in Thailand. It’s fair to say that Faress had plenty of doubters. From the outside looking in, Faress had dominated the sport in a country that had yet to flourish fully, despite the success of team mates like Ahmed ‘The Butcher’ Amir, Alaa ‘Thor’ Mansour and Eslam ‘Iron Man’ Syaha. After a few outings in Brave Combat Federation, Ahmed would find himself against an opponent with more than three times the number of fights of anyone he’d faced before.
It was a monumental task on paper; but Ahmed’s unerring confidence in his skills combined with the belief he had to make a statement on the biggest stage of his career made this a now-or-never encounter.
Ahmed’s game plan was smart, it’s execution flawless. Closing the distance after a back-and-forth striking exchange, Ahmed turned up the pressure with a clinch, before tripping Philpott to the ground and establishing top position. Philpott, much as he had done on tape during previous fights, defended himself before giving up the back. Still early in the fight, Philpott was able to get back to his feet, but only while carrying Faress on his back.
With a 100% finishing rate, including 12 submissions, Ahmed was in his element – and as he cranked in the rear naked choke, Philpott swiftly ran out of options and ideas. Once he had tapped, cornerman Ahmed ‘The Butcher’ Amir would scream with delight, run into the cage and embrace Faress – what so many in Egypt had thought impossible had become a reality.
Ahmed ‘The Prince’ Faress had put the country on the world map in one of the biggest promotions in existence.
At Brave Combat Federation 41, Ahmed ‘The Butcher’ Amir competed for the promotion for an incredible eighth time. Having been with Brave CF since the very first show, the Saracens and KHK representative took on the Republic of Ireland’s Cian Cowley as he sought a second consecutive win.
With a rear naked choke submission over Yousef Wehbe in December of 2019, Amir extended an unbeaten streak to three straight fights, factoring in a draw with England’s Sam Patterson the previous April.
At his tenacious best, Amir pressured Cowley from the off, mixing up the levels with takedowns, clinches and strikes to put the Irishman on the back foot. While Cowley refused to succumb to ‘The Butcher’s’ torturous forward pressure and cardio-sapping intensity, Ahmed Amir was able to take a clear Unanimous Decision victory to close out a successful 12 month period.
Since the fight, Ahmed Amir has made it clear that he is back in the hunt for the 155 lbs title, a belt that transferred from Cleiton ‘Predador’ to Amin Ayoub in November 2020. One thing is for sure, the Frenchman will have his hands full with the surging ‘Butcher’!
Please join us for Part Four of Saracens MMA: A Year in Review soon as we take a look at a year of real personal challenges for one of the team’s star fighters – Islam ‘The Egyptian Zombie’ Reda.
Welcome to Saracens MMA 2020: A Year in Review Part Two! Don’t forget to check out Part One where you can find out all about the progress the new breed of Saracens MMA fighters.
February 7, 2020 saw Probellum MMA host it’s debut show in Dubai, and no fewer three Saracens MMA fighters would be in action against international-level opposition.
First, Alaa ‘Thor’ Mansour (10-2) would return to the Middle East for his first fight in the region since a headline outing against US veteran JJ ‘Superman’ Ambrose in Kuwait. This time, Alaa would face Abu Dhabi-based Mohammad Ratib AlKhatib at 185 lbs. Alaa, fresh off a successful move to the Ukraine where he had beaten native Alexey Pasyuga in his WWFC debut, would prove too much for AlKhatib, at times toying with the UAE Warriors and Brave CF veteran. While Alaa wanted the finish, AlKhatib toughed it out, forcing Alaa to settle for an exhibition of his ever-improving MMA game.
Alaa was able to display a much improved clinch work as well as takedowns en route to a Unanimous Decision victory – and the tenth overall win of his career.
Unfortunately, Saracens’ premier flyweight, Mohamed ‘The Executioner’ Gamal (7-2) was unable to get the better of dangerous Welsh standout Aaron Aby, falling to a Unanimous Decision defeat. Nonetheless, Gamal picked up yet more international-level experience and has cemented himself as the number one ranked flyweight free agent in the Middle East. Saracens MMA cannot wait for Moha to get his next opportunity, where we’re sure he will showcase his razor sharp grappling and submission game, as well as improving striking.
Saracens MMA fighters did manage to get back in the win column at Probellum MMA, however, when South Sudanese standout Mohamed ‘John’ Jema (5-1) made quick work of Egyptian heavyweight Ahmed El Tayeb, better known internationally as Koko Hammer. One of the most respected Egyptian big men on the scene, Koko Hammer was entirely unable to withstand the heavy artillery of Jema, who recorded a fifth straight career win – all well within the distance.
At AUFC, one of the Saracens MMA team’s traditional hunting grounds, three top Saracens MMA stars would be back in action at each of AUFC 26, 27 and 28.
First up at AUFC 26, August 20 would see the return of Eslam ‘Ironman’ Syaha (10-2, 1 NC), the 27 year old physical phenom who had fought to an unfortunate split decision loss in his international MMA debut against highly-touted Djati Melan at the burgeoning Ares Fighting Championship promotion. Muscle-bound middleweight Syaha would prove far too much for opponent Ahmed Amer, ‘Ironman’ looking several levels above his gutsy compatriot and competitor. The fight would end inside the first round, Syaha making his mark in 2020 with a clean and decisive TKO victory.
AUFC 27 would take place the next weekend, August 28, and would see flyweight Al Hassan ‘Rush’ Abo Ali (5-5) take on the undefeated Maysara Mohamed. Unfortunately, Abo Ali’s night would end prematurely courtesy of an untimely injury, curtailing his campaign for the year.
Then, at AUFC 28 on September 25, Mohamed ‘John’ Jema (6-1) would return from his successful outing at Probellum to claim another scalp in the form of the previously unbeaten Adham Abdallah. Jema was able to once again pick up a TKO victory, continuing his 100 percent finish rate, this time in the second round. The South Sudanese titan now casts his eyes to a fight in Russia in early 2021.
Rounding out the year on October 18, Alaa ‘Thor’ Mansour (10-3) would return to the Ukraine following his victory at Probellum MMA, dropping two weight classes in order to make his lightweight debut. Looking lean and ripped, the one-time heavyweight fighter would take on the undefeated Anatoliy Zhurakivskiy (7-0) in a contender eliminator.
While the weight cut was perfectly executed, Alaa would find himself on the wrong end of a Unanimous Decision defeat, despite some strong moments in terms of clinchwork, takedowns, striking, and top control. A multi-levelled affair, Anatoliy and Alaa traded exchanges in all aspects of Mixed Martial Arts, with Anatoliy eventually getting the nod in a close encounter.
While inevitably proving a setback of ‘Thor’, his journey through the ranks of Ukrainian MMA has only just begun, and with a 1-1 mark in his new home, we can’t wait to see what he can acheive in 2021!
Well that’s it for Part Two of this End of Year series – do not miss Part Three, which will focus on the ground breaking year set by two of Saracens MMA’s premier pace-setters, Ahmed ‘The Prince’ Faress and Ahmed ‘The Butcher’ Amir!
2020 may have been a heavily disrupted year for many of us all around the world, but that hasn’t stopped the Saracens MMA team from achieving great things both in and out of Mixed Martial Arts competition.
From victories and conquests in new promotions, territories and even continents, to astonishing recoveries from career-threatening injuries, the trials and tribulations of the Saracens MMA team have extended well beyond those presented by Covid-19 and Coronavirus lockdowns. If any team anywhere in the world has collectively broken down more barriers, created more world first’s, and overcome more adversity, we would be impressed to hear about it!
In Part One of the Saracens MMA 2020 Year in Review, we start off with the successes of the newest emerging Saracens – the future of Egyptian MMA…
Among the proudest achievements of the rookie Saracens was that of Bassel Ahmed, Marwan Gamal, Omar Gomaa and Omar Khaled Fayoumi, who were all honoured with their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blue belts by Master Abdelhamed Sadik.
Sadik, an Egyptian national based out of Torrance, California, is a highly-regarded BJJ black belt and internationally-renowned coach that has not only represented Novaes BJJ in North Africa, but has led the way in terms of legitimacy and success with his students.
Congratulations Bassel, Marwan, Omar, and Omar Khaled on your success!
But the success on the mats wasn’t all the young guns had to offer…
Bassel Ahmed (4-0) had arguably the most impressive year of all the Saracens up-and-comers, rattling off three successive submission wins to end the year on a fantastic 4-0 mark. After dispatching both Hisham Nabil and Mahmoud Hanfy by first round Rear Naked Choke in August and September respectively, Bassel would round out the year with a third round Von Flue choke submission over Youssef Mohamed in November! The sky is the limit for this Saracens stand out.
Mohamed Tarek Mohey (2-0) had never competed professionally in MMA prior to 2020 – but that didn’t stop him scoring a pair of first round submission stoppages to kickstart what looks to be an exciting career ahead of him. First came a triangle choke win over Mohamed Gamal Awad, then a Rear Naked Choke over Abdelrahman Ahmed. Keep up the great work, Mohamed!
Mohamed Salem (4-0) is one of the more experienced Saracens – and, in truth, is no longer considered a part of the rookie team. A protégé of Ahmed ‘The Prince’ Faress, Mohamed Salem entered 2020 with a perfect 3-0 record – and he duly extended that mark in September, scoring a first round KO victory over Mohamed Alsotaz to maintain his pristine winning streak.
Omar Khaled Faymoui (1-0) made a long-anticipated first foray into professional MMA competition, and his first round TKO of Mostafa Khaled reinforced the faith bestowed in him by coach Ahmed Faress. We look forward to seeing Omar Khaled continue his winning ways in 2021.
Marwan Gamal (2-2) is never one to shy away from a tough challenge – and he took veteran Mohamed Samir into deep waters in a rare losing effort in 2020. ‘The Smooth Blade’, a consistent and talented performer in the Saracens MMA ranks, found himself on the wrong end of a Split Decision, but there was no faulting his spirit and willingness to improve as he turns his attentions to garnering yet more success in the New Year!
Adel Mohamed (1-0) made a successful transition to the pro ranks, overcoming Mohamed Alaa by first round TKO in the bantamweight division, while Ziad Ayman (1-1) recovered from a sole defeat in 2017 by submitting Ahmed Samir by first round Rear Naked Choke. Youssef Amr would also pick up a pro debut win when he dispatched Fathy ElPop by first round TKO.
In the amateur ranks, there were wins for Karim Mohsen, Adham Ehab and Ahmed Yousef, all scoring first round finishes. Gentlemen, keep up the great work!
Tomorrow, we will be back with Part Two of the Saracens MMA 2020: Year in Review! Do not miss it!
AUFC 21 turned out to be a sensational night for Saracens MMA, bringing victories for Marwan Gamal, Ahmed ‘The Silencer’ Thabet, and Ahmed ‘The Prince’ Faress – as well as honorary Saracen, Canada’s David Moon.
Marwan Gamal got the night off to a perfect start for Egypt’s finest fight force with a Unanimous Decision win over Ahmed Masood (see picture one, below), before David Moon made his long journey from Abbotsford, British Columbia worth it with a Unanimous Decision over an extremely tough and aggressive Amer El Shanshory. Moon told Saracens MMA he won by ‘staying calm and fighting smart’ in the face of a ferocious onslaught at times. With superior wrestling, Moon was able to ground El Shanshory for much of the second and third rounds, but there was no question El Shanshory pushed Moon as he sought to repel the Canadian in his home city of Cairo. With Brave CF legend Ahmed ‘The Butcher’ Amir in his corner, however, it was Moon who came out victorious in a gruelling encounter.
Ahmed Thabet would once again prove his superior striking acumen with a Unanimous Decision win over Mahmoud Mohareb to capture the AUFC Featherweight title, before Saracens MMA captain and inspiration Ahmed ‘The Prince’ Faress dispatched a durable and courageous Amir Nour courtesy of a second round TKO due to a cut opened up via a vicious elbow from full mount. With Faress reinforcing his position as Egypt’s number one fighter and AUFC Lightweight Champion, there is no question ‘The Prince’ is back having recovered from surgery to repair a broken clavicle.
More news to come on where ‘The Prince’ and the Saracens MMA team will compete next.
Ramadan Kareem from all here at SaracensMMA.com!