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The path to MMA today is pretty straight forward. You probably achieved success in a combat sport, often wrestling, and then go to an MMA gym and work hard for years, then start fighting and work harder. It's hard, but the same path everyone follows in every sport.
However, the sport is now global, but not every nation has an MMA gym in every city. In a recent interview, BRAVE CF featherweight Mehmosh "The Renegade" Raza who grew up in Pakistan and Ireland, had an old school beginning, watching instructional tapes and engaging in illegal rooftop fights.
“Growing up, I was bullied a lot,” said Raza to Joao Vitor Xavier for BraveCF.com. “I did not fit in Pakistan nor in Ireland, I was made fun of constantly, for my looks, my accent and so on. In Ireland, I would be involved in a fight every day after school. It was always the same crowd of boys, sometimes some girls too, and there I was in the middle, getting into a fight with someone. Thankfully most of the time I would always win and then walk home with my sister like nothing had happened."
“In Pakistan, I was pounded by 15 guys. I remember I went to defend a friend that was being jumped by a few guys and all of a sudden, I was surrounded by 15 guys, beaten like hell. They hit me in the head a lot, up to the point I wasn’t even aware of what was going on around me anymore. A friend of mine who was into bodybuilding came blazing through all of them, hurled me over his shoulder, and carried me away. That was probably fun to watch for a third person but definitely it wasn’t for me at the time."
Then a cousin visited from Canada and brought with him some tapes of MMA fights - until that point, three words that Mehmosh had never heard next to each other.
“My cousin showed up with a few tapes of old PRIDE and UFC fights, he also had some boxing tips videos," recalled Raza. "Those are definitely the first memories I have of getting to know the sport and falling in love with it. It was love at first sight, I spent several days watching fights and those tutorials over and over again but one fight in special stood out for me and was the one I watched more and that really made me a huge fan, it was Wanderlei Silva vs Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson in Japan.”
With a newly found passion for MMA, Mehmosh now faced the obstacle of how to train in Pakistan, where the MMA scene was virtually nonexistent. Through a friend, Mehmosh heard about illegal fights that took place on a rooftop, and thought that would be a good way to start. This experience would change his life forever.
“They called those smoker fights beatdowns, if I’m not mistaken," he said. "Every few months, people would gather on those rooftops and participate in these secret fights. You didn’t need experience, you just signed up; send them your name and weight, and they would match you with someone to fight. Knowing that, I went to a gym, hit a heavy bag for like a week and a half, and said ‘this might be enough, I’m gonna sign up now.’”
“I showed up with my friend at this rooftop, they checked my weight and matched me up with a guy who had fought over there a few times before. Well, as you can imagine, I got absolutely smoked. The only good thing about it was that right after it I knew I wanted proper mentoring and training and that was when I joined Team Fight Fortress and haven’t looked back since.”
Under the guidance of head coaches Sultan Ali and Ehtisham Karim Shaheen, pioneering coaches in the region, Mehmosh Raza grew into one of the most promising and talented prospects not only in Pakistan but in the whole South Asia scene. He went abroad, and began to test himself internationally.
“I fought Igor Grytskiv which is probably my toughest fight so far," recalled Raza. "He was coming off seven back-to-back finishes all first-round armbars, and I remember being smashed in the first round. He destroyed my patellar tendon, kicked it so bad that I had a Grade 1 ACL injury, but I managed to turn it around and ended up winning. It’s a great story overall because the fight started with me being beaten up pretty bad and still won. It was a dramatic comeback."
Still relatively young, at age 25, and already competing at the highest level of the BRAVE Combat Federation, Mehmosh Raza has big plans.
“My legacy is everything to me," he said. "I want to put where I come from on the map for the right reasons. It’d be a very strong message to say that the best in the world is here, he comes from Pakistan, and he’s doing positive things. I want to leave a good message, help people become the best, and let them know that they can do good things, spread positivity and make the world a better place, inshallah."