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.