This is the continutation of our Feature interview series, designed to share the inspiring stories of the GAMMA family – passionate and committed individuals who come together for their love of MMA.
For Italian MMA star Mehdi Taki, being crowned GAMMA World Champion earlier this year was an unforgettable moment for the young man who hails from the Province of Cremona close to Milan.
We caught up with him recently as he shared his memories of the World Championships and looked towards the future.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
GAMMA: It is now several weeks since you became Italy’s first ever MMA World Champion. How does it feel?
MT: Looking back at it I still find it hard to fully comprehend, it was an indescribable emotion. The build-up to the championships were a little bit turbulent and at one point I even thought I may not even make it to the event after several small physical issues prevented me from feeling 100% in the months before. Once I got into the ring, all these issues were no longer a problem and winning was an incredible joy. I have always strongly believed in my ambition to reach the highest levels, but sometimes there is a small element of doubt when you are not feeling great. I knew I was strong enough to make the podium, but the gold medal seemed like a monumental challenge, and I think that is why the victory is even more emotional for me.
GAMMA: Tell us a little about your route to the Final
MT: My first match was supposed to be against a Greek Athlete. I was feeling very energised and couldn’t wait to get the Championships started, but unfortunately my opponent injured himself during the warm-up, so I had to wait until the next round to get my campaign underway against a Slovak who was physically bigger than me. I had to compete cleverly and use his size against him and impose myself, which I managed to do, albeit suffering a foot injury in doing so. There was no time to dwell on that tough as the next match was against an American athlete who are always well conditioned for Championships. This was a very tough match, but I was able to secure the win and prepare myself for the final.
GAMMA: What are your memories from the final match?
MT: My opponent in the final was an athlete from Azerbaijan with whom I had become friends with during the GAMMA European Championships in Kyiv in 2021. It is always challenging to switch into fully competitive mode when you step into the ring with someone close to. Therefore, I immediately started to work on the mental preparation with my coaches Franza and Ferretti. As the time for the final came closer, the more the adrenaline rises, and the importance of the occasion is very present. When the bout got underway, I was struggling a bit until I could properly focus and get into a rhythm. Thankfully, I was able to win and then share a moment with my opponent and friend at the end of the match. I think we are even more connected since this moment and the shared respect we have for each other.
GAMMA: It looked like you were enjoying your time in the ring. How important is it to enjoy what you are doing during training and in competition?
MT: It’s true. I believe that in sport, like in any other workplace, if someone enjoys what they are doing, the fun is a natural consequence. There are obviously trade-offs, to have fun at competitions, you have train hard and make some sacrifices along the way. However, the passion and fun are fundamental.
GAMMA: As they say, behind every great athlete is an even greater support team. Who were the key people contributing to your success?
MT: I would especially like to thank my mom and Dad, Bouchra and Nour Eddine as well as all my family, friends and people who believed in me and supported me throughout my journey so far. Special thanks go to my training partners at the Padova Top Team and my coach Giuliano Pavan. I also thank Emiliano Lanci for the trust in me, my national teammates, the coaches Davide Ferretti, Marco Franza and Daniele Scarica, my nutritionist Luca Finocchio, and my massage therapist Raimondi.
Finally, I would like to thank GAMMA and GAMMA Italy, especially Carlo di Blasi, for the opportunity and for believing in me. it is an honour to have represented my country at these World Championships and I hope to be able to continue contributing to the success of MMA in Italy in the future.
GAMMA: What are your future goals in the sport?
MT: First and foremost, to continue improving myself from a technical and a mental perspective to be 100% ready for my next challenges. The intention is to contest some more semi-professional matches before hopefully being able to turn professional and to join one of the international promotions.
GAMMA: Congratulations once again and best wishes for the future.
To read more from this series, see our interviews with Laura Sanchez and Alexa Lucido.