Ahmed “The Wolverine” Mujtaba is on the verge of becoming Pakistan’s next national hero.
Following his successful ONE Championship debut last November, the unbeaten featherweight returns to the cage on 10 February to square off against the hometown favorite Keanu Subba at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS in Kuala Lumpur.
Though Mujtaba is taking another battle in enemy territory, this is an opportunity for him to extend his undefeated streak, and elevate his profile as a cultural leader.
“There are a couple of guys who can be hailed as heroes for their efforts, but they are relatively unnoticed,” the 23-year-old begins. “I, on the other hand, would leave no stone unturned in my mission to spread more and more awareness about the sport of MMA in Pakistan, and the Pakistani MMA scene globally. Hero or not, that is up to the fans and the viewers to decide. I will simply fulfill my responsibility as a son of Pakistan.”
Growing up as the child of a teacher in Quetta, Pakistan, Mujtaba was an athletic kid who had ambitions of becoming a doctor. This doctor-to-be was also picked on by local bullies, so he defended himself and often got into trouble.
However, in his late teens, he learned how to fight on a more enlightening level. He stepped inside Islamabad’s Fight Fortress MMA in 2012, his first exposure ever to martial arts, and immediately wanted to study every discipline he could. The spirited teenager admits he started with the aim to compete, and was evidently very serious about it.
“I had my first amateur fight within the first three weeks of my training. I literally had to beg Coach Ehtisham [Karim] and Coach [Ali] Sultan, as they would not allow me,” he recalls. “Long story short, I won via knockout in four seconds. That was a major confidence booster. My work ethic and my dedication towards MMA was the main motivation behind pursuing a career in MMA.”
Away fell those career ambitions of being a doctor. Mujtaba was driven to succeed in all areas of the combat sports arena. “The Wolverine” made his professional MMA debut in 2013, and racked up five consecutive victories, even claiming the UGB MMA Featherweight Title in early 2016. He also finished all of those fights, winning four by submission and the other by TKO.
In addition to his burgeoning mixed martial arts career, he competed in grappling tournaments and won four medals — a gold, a silver and a pair of bronze — in the 2014 and 2015 Pakistani Grappling Championships.
Despite these crowning achievements, the monetary compensation was practically non-existent. The fight scene in Pakistan was still in the developmental stage, and there was very little money to go around, if there was any at all.
“There was no money, not a single penny in most of the pro events. Out of all of my fights in Pakistan, I only got paid once. Same case with every other fighter in the country,” Mujtaba explains. “We struggled to get to training, and then we struggled to finance our trips to compete in events where we were not paid. It is so heartening to see things change now. But back then, it was just us and our coaches, struggling with every paisa.”
In autumn 2016, that struggle ended. Mujtaba signed with ONE Championship, and made his debut last November when he stepped inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium to battle hometown favorite, then-unbeaten prospect Benedict Ang, at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR.
Although the bout was part of a stacked card, it was one of the more exciting bouts of the evening. While there were several back-and-forth exchanges, The Wolverine convincingly outgrappled, outstruck, and outpointed the Singaporean to a well-deserved unanimous decision victory. Needless to say, it has been the highlight of his young career.
“That fight was probably the most important one of my life, because I was not only representing my country, but I wanted to show and prove the level we are at in the Fight Fortress,” he states. “I knew my teammates had all gathered at the gym to watch the fight, and I was their flag bearer on one of the world’s biggest platforms, so I had to be in my best mental shape. I cannot explain the feeling after victory in words, so I will leave it at that.”
However, after getting the win, Mujtaba did not have any time to celebrate. Actually, he rushed back to Quetta, hit the books, and completed his most recent exams at the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (otherwise known as BUITEMS), where he studies Computer Science.
Now with his exams out of the way, the 6-0 Pakistani is focused on his upcoming featherweight tilt with Subba at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS. Subba, who holds a 4-2 record, is a former MIMMA Featherweight Champion who splits his training between Bali MMA and Monarchy MMA.
The 22-year-old Kuala Lumpur native is a crisp striker with an always evolving wrestling and ground game. Most recently he defeated Mujtaba’s fellow countryman, Waqar Umar, last September at ONE: UNBREAKABLE WARRIORS.
Mujtaba, however, is not too concerned about his Malaysian rival’s accomplishments nor his fighting style, simply saying: “whatever he does, we will try and shut it down by doing the same.”
The young Pakistani has quite the confidence in himself, as well as a strong self-belief. The kid, who once dreamt of being a doctor, is now a Computer Sciences major who always stood up to bullies, and fearlessly defeats enemies who stand across the cage from him.
More importantly, he is helping to build a movement in his home nation and spread the martial arts lifestyle to his compatriots. After all, the martial arts has empowered him in ways he could never have imagined.
“Martial arts has given me literally everything — the name, the recognition, the money, the physique, the fitness, the discipline and the skills. What more could I ask for?” says Mujtaba. “And it has been simple, in terms that I have to train, and train hard and smart. I will continue to train till the day I die.
“I am not a cage fighter, I am a martial artist.”