FIT IN THE CITY
Khalid Ismail is a British-Moroccan Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter who has trained in contact fighting since he was five years old. He came through injury and adversity to cement himself as one of the UK’s top fighters. He tells us why MMA is a great way to get fit.
DO YOU THINK THERE HAS BEEN A RISE IN MMA POPULARITY?
MMA is probably the fastest growing sport in the world today. It’s already huge in the US, but every year it’s getting bigger and bigger in the UK. It’ll continue to grow as it’s an exciting sport to watch, but at the same time it’s very technical.
HOW DO YOU SEE MMA?
MMA is a good metaphor for life – it is about struggle and respect – and when the time is right, you have to attack with everything you’ve got and never give up. I always have respect for my opponents and don’t make my move until the time is right.
YOU SUSTAINED A HORRIFIC BICEP INJURY THAT SAW YOU OUT OF ACTION FOR QUITE A WHILE. WHAT HAPPENED?
I was getting ready for my third fight last year and was in good condition, but on my last sparring session, as I threw my training partner wrestling, I heard a very loud snap in my arm. I looked down at my bicep and realised the whole muscle had detached, and was near my shoulder. Being a fighter, and just being the way I am, I decided my injury was a blessing, and I wasn’t going to let it get me down. I had surgery and as soon as I arrived home, I went for a power walk to make sure I understood that while my arm was injured, the rest of my body was still functioning fine. I could still train safely and correctly while rehabilitating my arm and I had to train myself mentally.
YOU WON YOUR COMEBACK FIGHT HANDS DOWN – HOW DID THAT FEEL?
It was great getting back into the cage and doing what I love. Winning a fight is always special but this was extra special due to the long, injury-induced lay-off.
YOU TOOK UP MARTIAL ARTS AS A RESULT OF SUFFERING WITH ASTHMA AS A CHILD – DID IT IMPROVE YOUR CONDITION?
Yes. My GP recommended to my mum that she encourage me to try some sort of sport, so that’s exactly what she did. I think it did help with my asthma, but more so
with my confidence – I wasn’t afraid to participate in sport and, even if I struggled, I learnt not to give up.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND MMA TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO FEEL SAFER WALKING HOME AT NIGHT?
I think Mixed Martial Arts is brilliant for anyone that wants to learn how to defend themselves. It suits any body type and gender, and works for any individual’s level of strength because it combines such a mix of different arts and skills.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHITE-COLLAR BOXING?
White collar boxing is great – most mixed martial artists have some sort of background in a base-sport like boxing or wrestling. Boxing is a huge part of MMA so I think its growth in every community should be supported.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND MMA TO THE STRESSED OUT, FRUSTRATED EXECUTIVE?
MMA is a great workout for stress release as you get to channel your anger by hitting and throwing things, which releases tension in a controlled environment. The strength and conditioning part of MMA training will help release endorphins that will keep you smiling long after your workout.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR THE TIME-POOR CITY WORKER WHO’D LIKE TO GET IN THE CAGE?
The time-honoured “little and often” works in this scenario. If you get a good trainer, they’ll be able to devise workout plans that will have plenty of quality, so you won’t have to worry too much about quantity.
DO YOU THINK GOOD FIGHTERS ARE BORN OR MADE?
I think fighters are born and then champions are made, through hard work, dedication and desire.
• Ismail runs the LDG gyms in North East London. For more information visit khalid-ismail.com or ldgfitnesscentre.com.