By Sonia Ahmed | 1 April 2018
Bashir Somchai Ahmad introduced MMA to Pakistan in 2009. Today, a small but actively growing MMA school strives to make the people better and community whole.
Bashir Ahmad uses the sport to empower young slum dwellers, mostly young men, to find purpose and direction. Additionally, his woman classes are giving strength and independence to the female population that often has few outlets or resources. His Shaheen free gym is giving a lease to their dreams, evoking hope, and creating opportunities.
Who is MMA's Godfather?
Dubbed Pakistan's MMA Godfather, 36-years old Pakistani-American Bashir Ahmad was the first to globally represent the country in 2013, where he defeated Thailand's Shannon Wiratchai in international competition. Ahmad plowed forward, bagging three wins at ONE Championship and a gold medal in Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Bangkok.
Bashir Somchai Ahmad
The 2013 victory in ONE Championship, Asia's largest MMA event, proved to be a turning point for both MMA in Pakistan and Bashir Ahmad himself. Pakistan emerged as a strong contender on the global MMA scene, and Somchai won recognition as an accomplished professional fighter.
Amidst all the fame and success, Ahmad felt something missing. He felt a pulsing desire to bring a change in the lives of uneducated kids and hopeless youth of the country. He wanted to give a chance to the children that removed them from a legacy of terror groups and suicide runs.
Drive and Passion Gave Birth to Shaheen in 2015
Ahmad’s dream project, Shaheen is a community center located in the slums of Charrar Pind, an impoverished village inside DHA, Lahore.
"This is where we hope to inspire and motivate kids and teens to be the best version of themselves as role models and leaders, hoping to use the power of martial arts to change the lives of the poor and disadvantaged kids of Charrar Pind."
Shaheen is the second MMA gym in Pakistan. In 2010, Synergy gym became the first recognized MMA Academy in Pakistan, also founded by Bashir Ahmad. Home to all MMA-related ventures, Synergy’s success provided the essential footing for Ahmad, one step closer to his mission, the Shaheen.
Synergy brings together practitioners from all over the country and regularly organizes fights under the umbrella of Shaheen Smokers. These fights provide amateur fighters and players from other schools opportunities to polish their skills in a professional environment.
Shaheen is an extension of Synergy for primary education and MMA training of underprivileged children in a healthy environment. They learn self-defense and fitness training in the fully-equipped gym. Ahmad promotes his philosophy of Peace Through Sports by educating everyone who walks into Shaheen academy. The main focus is building character and invoking self-worth so the children can aim higher in their lives and work hard to achieve it. Bashir Ahmad believes the fastest way to change our world is to educate children and lift families out of poverty and ignorance.
"The biggest security threat to the country is not our neighbors, but illiteracy and lack of education."
For Ahmad, his key achievement is neither the fame nor the mounting success of MMA in Pakistan. His crowning glory is the elevation in life his endeavors make in the lives of the young slum dwellers.
Creating Awareness and Broad Support
Ahmad recently started volunteering at The Mercy Center, an NGO working for the Bangkok slums for the last 45 years! “I'll be taking the lessons I learn and the experiences I have at The Human Development Foundation and applying them to Shaheen.”
Shaheen is run entirely on contributions from MMA fans and people inspired by the mission. You can help Shaheen kids through Bashir Somchai’s Gofundme.
Ahmad holds fundraising events to support #TeamShaheen which he believes is the “... … purest expression of what got me to move to Pakistan. These kids are going to be role models; they are going to set the standard for others in their neighborhood for what it means to be a good citizen of Pakistan and the world.”
Ahmad recently announced running a marathon for Shaheen #runforshaheen and called for partners who feel this is a cause they can associate their brand with.
Ahmad seeks balance in all the facets of his life. Although his social campaigns, training, coaching, friends, and family demand his time and attention, Ahmad loves to spend time with nature, actively participate in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) endeavors, loves to tend to his garden, and is an avid reader.
It was his reading habit that helped him see the bigger picture and changed him dramatically.
None could have imagined that a US Army Medic veteran would become an MMA revolutionist in Pakistan. Reading the biography of Malcolm X changed the course of his life.
Bashir Ahmad's journey is amazingly inspiring. Born in Faisalabad, Ahmad moved to Virginia with his family when only three. Serving in the US Army from 2002 to 2004 was his chosen career.
Realizing His Calling
The moment of epiphany during his deployment in Afghanistan came when he realized his future didn’t belong in the Forces. Ahmad finished his tour with the US Army in 2006 and began studying the art of fighting seriously. "I thought of it as fighting the system through combat sports."
His passion took him to Thailand for MMA training. In 2009, he finally bade farewell to the United States of America and returned to his birth-country Pakistan in hopes of bringing about a sporting revolution. In his own words: "It was in my DNA, deep inside my soul. I wasn't interested in ‘fighting,' in fact, it was the philosophical and personal development of martial arts that hooked me."
Ahmad considers himself a martial artist instead of a fighter, and that’s what he aspires for his fellow MMA fighters in Pakistan as well. "Don't look at the glory of being a champion. Make martial arts your lifestyle, and you will be a champion in all areas of your life."
Ahmad’s struggle and hard work were recognized when he was inducted in the Hall of Fame during the World Martial Arts Summit and Festival of 2018. Ahmad was honored alongside Carlson Gracie, the icon of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Ahmad considers it a moment of great honor for me.
The Future is Bright
In 2018, Bashir Somchai Ahmad achieved another milestone as a martial artist when he was appointed as Senior Manager of Industry Partnerships in ONE Championship. Being both an athlete in ONE and a member of the management, Ahmad takes pride in this transition and aims to promote the spirit and values of the organization.
Bashir has fought six times under the banner of Asia’s most prominent MMA organization, and the new role is not going to stop him fighting like an athlete. "I am not retiring and I won't for a while."
In fact, he recently declared his intention of coming back to the ring, although where and when has not been disclosed yet. If your travels you can find Bashir at Synergy Fitness and MMA located at: 163 H Block Market Sector H Dha Phase 1, Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. It share the building with Apollo Sports and is on the second floor.