Lebanese MMA athlete Sandra Succar has creativity in her blood. She has many passions in life which include acting, singing, design, and of course MMA. Now she is using all these skills, and more, as a role model for the next generation of young women, to create something different in Lebanon, a change to cultural bias in a historically male-dominated society.
“I had that passion for sport since I was 10 years old when I used to run with my elder sister Sara who was an elite runner, but running was never enough for me so I started to train for martial arts. I wanted to become a great fighter because I needed to protect my mother and my sisters from the masculine society we were living in, and I wanted to show the world what a woman can do.”
There began her quest to change her life as she aspired to one day become a World Champion. She started to train alone in the dark for hours each day until she turned 16 and met a friend who shared the common dream of becoming a top athlete and started to train together. Turning 18, Succar moved from her village to the city where she met coach Michael Amer, and they forged a great relationship over their shared dreams for MMA success.
“In my first year of university, I won two championships in Muay Thai and went on to represent my country at the IFMA FISU 2019. Going in I was ranked fifth, but I lost that day due to my lack of experience.” One thing was very evident to her coach, her way of winning was through submission using her weight to her advantage, and so her potential for MMA was unlocked.
“We prepared for the 2019 GAMMA World Championships, but I finished third. It was on that day that I promised myself that I will never lose again.” Despite the pandemic-interrupted next couple of years which resulted in lost sponsors, by the start of 2022 Succar was ready to get into the ring again at the GAMMA World Championships.
“I prepared very well, so much so that I was leaving my training partners with scars (I had a lot of apologizing to do), but they still trained with me because they wanted me to win. When I arrived in Amsterdam I felt as if the whole universe was preparing me to win, and that’s exactly what happened. I won the World Championship because I fought with all that I had, using my faith and power. When I won my life changed and I am so grateful for that.”
In those three years, there were many challenges that Succar experienced, “In 2019, Lebanon was suffering from several crises. The rebellion was everywhere, roads were damaged, I lived next to the gym with no internet or tv for two months, and every time I managed to see something on TV it was sad news. I had no way to contact my family and friends, and it was mentally and physically extremely challenging. I was ready, but my heart was in pain because my country and people were suffering.”
“In 2022, I had lived with the suffering, I adapted, I wanted to change, I wanted to give hope, I wanted to raise the flag of my country no matter what. I wasn’t thinking of me, I was thinking of how joyful my friends, teammates, family, and country would be if I brought home the gold. I wanted to make history by being the first Arabian girl to win an MMA World Championships.”
That is exactly what she did and in doing so has become a true inspiration in Lebanon, not only for women and in combat communities, but now as a recognizable face across the world. She was recently awarded an honour by the President of Lebanon for her achievement, “for me, this recognition is great. I never imagined that I would merit this medal at such an age. It gives me more motivation to achieve great things in life and dream big and to show others what is possible. I hope this will also lead to additional funding for our sport when investors see the results.”
The Lebanese woman is a big believer in the values of the sport and encouraging youngsters who are just getting started, “MMA is for everyone. It will change your life once you start and there will be no going back because you’ll fall in love forever. You don’t necessarily need to compete, it is a sport like any other, you can practice and have fun. Dream big and have faith. Work as hard as you can, and nothing is impossible.”
Succar is an extremely talented MMA athlete with an amazing support system who she is very thankful for, “I learned that we could do great things alone, but we can create miracles together. We need a support system in our lives and if it is not family, we must create our own family of friends. A great support system can boost our performance beyond expectations.”
Unfortunately, there have been people who have tried to put her down at different stages of her career, but as a singer and songwriter she decided to put her feelings about that into a song called Shine Away as an outlet and a beacon of hope for others.
Going forward, she is preparing to defend her world title and gain more international experience before turning professional when the time is right. The entire GAMMA community wishes her the best of luck and is proud of her achievements to date.
Follow her journey on Instagram @sandrasuccar_