Mo Abdurahman (24-6) entered the world of kickboxing completely by chance, taking a work-experience placement at a gym out of desperation when he was a teenager and then falling in love with the sport.
Now, at just 21 years old, he finds himself signed to the world's premier kickboxing league and about to make his US debut. He faces Chenchen Li of China in a reserve match for the Featherweight Contender Tournament taking place at GLORY 43 NEW YORK on Friday, July 24.
“I was 14 years old and my school was making everybody do two weeks of work experience. I hadn't found anything and so they were telling me they were going to make me work in the canteen with the dinner ladies at the school. Obviously I didn't want that!” he laughs.
“There was a gym round the corner from my house and on the way home from school I went in and spoke to them and they agreed I could do work experience there. That was how I met my coach. He had me open up, clean up and lock up for two weeks and train while I was there. That's how I started.
“I fell in love with the sport and a year later I had my first fight. For some reason I was always fighting adults, right from day one. I was 15 and I fought this guy who was 19 and I stopped him in the second round with a right cross. It's all gone on from there really.”
Despite that early success in the ring, kickboxing nearly lost Abdurahman to other sports. Having played soccer at a high level and cricket as a professional with Hampshire, he came close to playing international cricket for England, losing a spot in the Under 19's team when a routine medical examination found a stress fracture in his right hip.
That diagnosis led to him spending eighteen months on the sidelines. Hampshire Cricket Club still paid him a professional wage but Abdurahman was under orders to do nothing outside of physiotherapy and light training. When his contract expired he moved on and now, just over two years on, has no regrets.
“I'm 100% happy with my new career path. Cricket was a job, this is my passion,” he says.
Throughout his years as a cricketer and soccer play, Abdurahman maintained his kickboxing training and competition schedule, even while suffering with the stress fracture in his hip. A born finisher, he has blasted his way to the top of the featherweight pile in the UK.
“My first title was when I was 16, against a home favorite, I knocked him out in 55 seconds, which was kind of a big surprise for everyone,” he laughs. “That won me the BIKMA (British & International Kickboxing Martial Arts) British title. After that I won the S-1 title, kind of a regional title in my part of the UK.”
Abdurahman's right hand served him well again when he went out to fight for his second BIKMA title against a durable fellow Brit. He says the shot is more about timing and placement than it is about power; either way, it's a highly effective weapon in his arsenal.
“I fought a guy called Damo Weeden. He is better known in MMA, he's fought for organizations like BAMMA. He's a proper little powerhouse, really built guy,” he recalls.
“I was walking out to fight him and I heard somebody in the crowd near the entrance say, 'This guy is going to get himself knocked out!' and in my head I was like 'Thanks mate!' As it turned out, I stopped him in one minute... with a right cross.”
Titles followed from the International Kickboxing Federation (stoppage win) and another from the S-1 organization (unanimous decision) but pride of place in his belt collection thus far goes to an ISKA title won in Denmark.
“I was meant to travel to Spain to fight for a European title but the promoter pulled the fight at the last minute, said he couldn't afford it. I'd already had some back-and-forth with my opponent online and a Danish promoter picked up on it and asked did I want to come to Copenhagen to replace a dropout in a world title fight,” he explains.
“It was short notice but I really wanted that title more than anything in the world. I never thought would get to fight for a world title at such a young age, or win a world title before I was 21. But it was November 5, three weeks away from my birthday, and I won the fight by second round stoppage. So I won a world title at 20. I'm very proud of that.”
All that said, the glitter of every belt he owns pales when compared to the shine of the GLORY World Featherweight Championship.
“GLORY is the premier league in the world for kickboxing, they have the best fighters, the most media, the most frequent shows. Any fighter would snap up the chance to fight in GLORY. If you win the glory title you have earned the right to say you are the best in the world,” says Abdurahman.
“Obviously that's the aim. I am the reserve fight for the Contender Tournament and if someone pulls out am ready to fight in the final, which I reckon will be Giga Chikadze against Matt Embree. I know Matt stopped Chikadze a while back but there is no guarantee of a repeat. \
“I'm ready to face either one if I need to, I've trained super-hard for this. I am giving it one million per cent!”