We recently caught up with the winners of the coveted contracts with ONE Lumpinee following the 2022 GAMMA Asian-Pacific Championships who shared their thoughts on this life-changing opportunity:
GAMMA: Let’s start from the beginning of your journey: where does your passion for martial arts come from?
Farida Abdueva (FA): My brother practiced Muay Thai, so I watched him compete since I was young. I always liked the sport but hesitated to say to my parents that I liked combat sports and wanted to compete myself. However, I started practicing Muay Thai when I was 14 and it was much more than just a hobby, I got hooked from the very beginning. I had no idea about the different organisations involved in the management of combat sports, I just did my best every time I was in the gym and never missed training. Anytime I lost, it motivated me to work even harder and become a better athlete.
Sumit Bhyan (SB): My journey into combat sports began in 2018. When I began training I never thought my life would change like this drastically but I always hoped to make it to the top in the sport. I didn’t imagine it to be so soon, but after a year of training I competed at the GAMMA World Championships in Singapore 2019 and won a silver medal. This moment changed my life and made me more confident and I started imagining myself being the one to beat. I started working harder than ever and finally this year I am blessed with this opportunity.
Almaz Sarsembekov (AS): My brother introduced me to Muay Thai 10 years ago, and that started this great journey.
GAMMA: Who has been the most important figure in your life to help guide your growth as an athlete and person?
FA: My coach is always with me and always helps me to achieve my goals. He believes in me more than anyone else and I am forever grateful to him for everything he has done for me.
SB: My great friend Atif Mohammad ‘the hawk’ who has been with me for as long as I can remember, helping me to evolve not just as an athlete but as an individual both on and off the mat. He is a professional MMA athlete fighter who has an amazing skillset and great energy and has been very humble in sharing his knowledge and experience with me which has been a turning point in my life. My father, mother and brother are the ones constantly supporting me through life. I hold these people dear to my heart and I hope to bring all the deserved fame and respect to them.
AS: My coach Dias Kabduov has done a tremendous job to help me grow as an athlete, so I’m very grateful to him for everything that he’s done for me.
GAMMA: GAMMA aims to offer its athletes the best platform to showcase their talent. How much have GAMMA competitions helped you in your growth as a martial arts athlete?
FA: I was ready to make my GAMMA debut last year but as I was only 17, I had to wait one more year. Now I was given the opportunity to prove myself and I am very happy that I did well at the Asian-Pacific championships. I was pleasantly surprised by the overall level of GAMMA events. I have taken part in multiple international events, but I haven’t experienced such high levels of organisation anywhere else. It felt like I was competing at a world-class professional promotion.
SB: GAMMA competitions have brought out the best in me as I have got the opportunity to compete with the top athletes in the world. The level of competition is very tough and as an athlete you need to compete with the best, to be the best. I have had the opportunity to compete in two world championships and two continental championships with GAMMA. The competitions definitely shape us to be better athletes and the professionalism is outstanding which makes it an organisation that definitely develops athletes into world class talent.
GAMMA: Lumpinee stadium and ONE Championship represent two of the most iconic organisations in the combat sports industry. How do you feel about being rewarded with the opportunity to compete as part of these events?
FA: Making my debut at a ONE Championship event has always been my dream. I think that the world’s strongest athletes compete in ONE Championship events.
SB: I did not believe it when it was first announced, but I was overwhelmed with joy and happiness because I had worked very hard to come and compete hoping that I would get a breakthrough. I have limited financial support and that sometimes mean a lack of food and other basics, but I still managed to come and compete and earn this amazing opportunity. I thank God and I want to thank GAMMA from the bottom of my heart for giving me this opportunity.
Sandra Succar (SS): This is the ticket to fame for me. I have been working so hard for the past years on my skills, dedicating my life for MMA without expecting anything, but dreaming that one day I will make it to the big stage. It was so rewarding to see my dream come true. I am so excited to show the world my skills and even more motivated to train harder and achieve more. No Lebanese female has ever made it this far in MMA and its motivated a lot of female fighters to train and dream big. It also increased Lebanon’s MMA ranking which is challenging coaches to work harder with their athletes and grow the sport even more.
GAMMA: Do you have a favourite ONE Championship athlete?
SS: Yes, my favourite female athletes are Angela Lee and Stamp Fairtex. My favourite male athlete is Christian lee.
SB: My favourite athlete is Rodtang Jitmuangon. His personality and style is just amazing. His Striking is very dangerous and effective and I hope I will have the chance to meet him in person.
AS: I follow Alaverdi Ramazanov, and one day I would like to train with Rodtang Jitmuagnon. Mighty Mouse is unquestionably a phenomenal athlete.
GAMMA: Lumpinee stadium is considered the temple of Muay Thai and an integral part of Thai fighting heritage. During your stay in Pattaya did you have the opportunity to experience any of the Thai fighting culture? If yes, can you tell us about it?
SB: Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to experience the Thai fighting culture in Pattaya, but I did have the opportunity to fight in the Lumpinee stadium. I am looking forward to experiencing the culture in the coming future as it will surely add value to my career.
AS: I can’t say a lot about the culture, but the one thing I can say is that Thai people are very kind and friendly, and I had a great time in Pattaya.
SS: The Thailand experience was a beautiful dream on earth. I had the chance to train with Thai coaches and they added a lot to my technique. The heart and generosity of Thai people is truly amazing. Beating a professional athlete and securing the ONE contract gave me lots of hope in life when I needed it the most.
GAMMA: MMA is a challenging sport and you must keep learning and developing your skills to compete at the highest levels. Which aspect of the sport do you think you have to improve on the most as you compete at the elite level?
SB: I would say if I improved my striking skills and feel more confident like I feel when grappling then for sure I will be unstoppable.
AS: If we are talking about MMA, then grappling skills is the area where I probably have the most things to improve.
SS: Competing in MMA demands IQ more than anything. Therefore, I believe wrestling is the most important aspect because it is the transition between standing and ground that defines how a contest would start and end. My goal is to keep improving my wrestling.
GAMMA: What are your next goals as an athlete?
SB: My next goal is to improve my striking and be able to use my natural ability efficiently so that I can have a long-lasting career as part of a top organisation.
FA: I would eventually like to compete in ONE Championship under Muay Thai or K-1 rules, but I will be prepared to compete against anyone under any rules.
AS: My main goal is to climb as high as possible in the rankings and stay free of injury.
SS: Before, I had only my coach beside me, and we won the world championships. Today I have a nation cheering my name. They deserve to see a true champion, a living example to follow. I am motivated to train for MMA more than ever. I will make it to the top in this ONE Lumpinee series.
GAMMA: What is your biggest dream in the sport?
SB: I would like that Indian athletes compete at the highest level globally, making our nation number one for combat sports.
AS: My biggest dream is to do everything to make my mother happy and proud of me.
GAMMA: Where do you see yourself in five years?
FA: I don’t like to predict my career, but I think that I will be a top athlete with the ONE Championship promotion in five years.
SB: Becoming the World Champion and bringing the championship belt to my beautiful and diverse home nation of India.
AS: I’d like to become the first dual ONE Champion in Muay Thai and MMA.
Stay tuned via www.gamma-sport.org and our social media channels to find out when these four athletes will make their ONE Lumpinee debuts in 2023.