The War Lion: Exclusive Uncut Interview With Amr Hafiz

Amr Hafiz loves getting into trouble; sanctioned and refereed trouble. Reshmi Revi caught up with the 37-year-old Egyptian who is the proud coach, mentor and owner of Warlions MMA at WCE 2016

Tell us about your MMA background.

I started in 1999 as a Greek Roman Wrestler. I come from a family of freestyle wrestlers; my father and uncles are on the national team and still in the federation. I was convinced to shift to judo after six years in wrestling and so I did judo for about five years before trying my hand at kickboxing. After another four or five years I took it up a notch with Muay Thai. I went to Thailand and stayed there for a while. I did a couple of competitions here and there. I competed in Lebanon in 2008 in the first Arab Muay Thai comp and took home first place. I then took three years off as I sustained multiple injuries. Later I went to Canada and trained at the famous Tapout Gym in Burlington. I knew by then I was done as a fighter but as I loved educating and coaching people, I went to Florida, USA to study MMA conditioning and obtained my fitness certificates. When I came back to Kuwait I opened my own gym and 18 months later, I got an offer from Gold’s Gym to house my MMA club at their facility.

What exactly is Warlions MMA?

We are the first and biggest MMA club in Kuwait. We competed at local shows like the GFC before doing fights in Bahrain, Dubai and Egypt and I’m happy to say we win most of our fights.

We recently got onboard Desert Force, which is the largest MMA promotion company in the Arab World and hosts most of the top ranked MMA fighters in the region. At present I have six fighters on that show.

What’s the secret to your success?

I’m an ambitious person. I want to be number one in the world. Yes it’s a big aspiration but I believe I can do it. The success of my team is due to me creating a family and not a team. Most good MMA schools have a family mentality amongst the fighters and I’ve implemented what I’ve learnt and seen through my own experience as a fighter. Also in Warlions, our fighters come from all backgrounds and nationalities.

What’s your technical style and methodology of fighting like?

The first thing is stamina; endurance, stamina and speed are our weapons. If you see any of our fighters in the tournaments most people will know it’s our guy as apparently we rarely gas out in fights. As I’m a certified Level 1 CrossFit instructor, we do a lot of CrossFit. Our conditioning drills are akin to the WODs (workout of the day) with a lot of power lifts. Also when it comes to fights, we’ve been prepping straight for the last three years without a day off.

Name two martial arts that are your signature strengths in your school.

Wrestling and boxing.

How’s your school different from the rest of the MMA schools in Kuwait?

There’s a team and a school. Both offer very different training mentalities. At a school, you pay your fees and go. With the team I have, we have to select you. I don’t accept quitters. If there’s this guy and he has good technique and spars well but when I put him under pressure, he breaks, he’s won’t be on my team.

How are you finding the GFC at the WCE?

Amazing. It’s our eighth GFC. We’ve participated from GFC 2 until now.

And do you win all the time?

Oh no! It’s a learning experience. If you lose, it’s not failure. You have to fight the best to be the best. If I were winning easy fights we wouldn’t have been selected to compete in Desert Force.

What would your advice be to someone wanting to take up MMA?

He has to decide what he wants to do with MMA. If it’s self-defense and fitness its amazing; cardio and sparring burns a lot of calories. If he wants to compete, they have to pay the price of time, money, effort and no social life. If you’re not willing to deal with defeat don’t get into it. Some of the best fighters get defeated at times. And unlike bodybuilding there’s very little financial return in this field.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the cage?

I was 33 and had sustained multiple injuries; knee injury, elbow injury, two teeth knocked out. At an interclub competition my coach said “don’t compete, you’re too old for that. If you’re going to fight you’ll fight with this 19-year-old”. I was adamant on fighting, as I had nothing to lose. First round I beat the heck out of this guy and for some reason he was smiling through out. Can you imagine? I’m sitting on his chest in the cage, in mount position and giving him elbows to the face and broke his nose and he didn’t flinch. In the second round after the bell had sounded, he actually mouthed me to come on over. At that, I tapped out. I was so exhausted.

If you could have a rematch of any of your fights, which one would it be?

In 2001 before I left Egypt and I was a wrestler. One of my friends was a kung fu coach in Sanshou. He asked me: “why don’t you do this interstate competition. You can punch, take down and that’s it”. I thought it should be easy. I won all the preliminary fights and went on to the finals. The guy in the finals was actually on the national Sanshou team with a track record of 21 wins and no losses. I don’t know what happened but I slipped in the ring and he ended up kicking my face like a football. He broke a tooth of mine and I passed out for three hours. When I woke up, I was at home and I was so mad as I’ve never been knocked out before.

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