Features

Ibrahim El Bouni Pursues A Martial Arts Dream For His Injured Brother

July 07, 2018

Ibrahim “Mr. Cool” El Bouni has a style in the ring that reflects his energetic personality.

The 25-year-old kickboxer is playful and entertaining, no matter how high the stakes are. On Saturday, 7 July, he hopes his talents will help to win him a legion of new fans in ONE Super Series.

He will meet Australia’s Andre “The Giant” Meunier in a kickboxing bout at ONE: BATTLE FOR THE HEAVENS inside China’s Guangzhou Tianhe Gymnasium.

Before he steps into the ONE Championship ring for the first time, learn everything you need to know about the exciting Moroccan.

It Is Always Playtime

El Bouni was born and raised in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, where his adolescence was filled with adventure. The youngster often played outside with his friends and always had a smile on his face.

“My childhood was very relaxed,” says El Bouni, who has Moroccan roots.

“I was a kid who was always playing and joking. I was outside the house most of the time – always out late.”

El Bouni may have been a popular character in social circles, but his preference to joke around was counterproductive to success at school.

“I did not do well in the lessons,” he admits. “I did not want to learn that stuff, and did not take it seriously. I just liked to joke and play, and this got me into some trouble.”

However, his laid-back parents accepted their son’s nature, and his lack of success did not cause further trouble at home. Instead, they supported him in whatever endeavors he wished to pursue.

Living with three brothers, there was always roughhousing between the siblings, which made a natural bridge to martial arts.

Following In His Brother’s Footsteps

At the age of 11, El Bouni’s older brother, Abdel Hadi, took him to join Gym Haarlem, so he could have an outlet for his excess energy.

The facility’s trainer was a neighbor who had already extended his hand to the elder brother. In turn, he saw kickboxing as an ideal way for the young “Mr. Cool” to keep himself occupied. It was the perfect thing for him to devote his time to.

“My brother suggested I go along, and since then, it has been training, training, training,” El Bouni says.

“I saw it like a PlayStation game. I did not take it seriously. I thought: ‘If you spar with me, I am going to play and joke with you. I will make you dizzy.’ That is what I liked.”

After being introduced to kickboxing by his brother, “Mr. Cool” was asked to fill his elder sibling’s shoes in competition. Abdel Hadi had suffered a serious knee injury, which meant he would never be able to compete again.

It was up to young Ibrahim to try and honor his mentor by realizing his dream for him.

El Bouni’s parents fully supported him in every part of the process – from training to nutrition. He took the challenge without fear, determined to make his family proud.

“My brother told me to go do it, because he could not. He was the better one, but I got the experience. He got injured before he got the chance, so I do it for him and my family,” El Bouni explains.

“My trainer got me my first match in 2010. I was 17 or 18. He said I was not ready, but he wanted to see what I could do.

“That motivated me. I had the first one, and it was a draw. After that, I knew I wanted kickboxing to be my career. I kept training, and kept winning.”

A Sobering Punishment

The Moroccan athlete’s unique style has certainly helped him earn fans. He is a relaxed, yet hugely entertaining kickboxer with a big bag of tricks to draw techniques from.

In the early days, however, his laid-back attitude almost stopped his martial arts journey before it had even properly started.

“I was always training at the gym, but also playing,” he recalls. “I was playing too much and making jokes in the gym lessons. My brother made me take a one-year break because of that.”

The aim was to make El Bouni realize how valuable his time was. Sure enough, he was keen to return almost immediately, but as much as he pleaded, his older sibling would not give in.

“I missed the first month, and then asked him again. He would say, ‘Monday, we can go,’ but every week he said that, and it took a year before he finally let me go back.”

Finally, he was allowed to go back to Gym Haarlem. “Mr. Cool” saw the growth of the facility in the time he was away, as well as the strides his teammates had made, and knew he could not afford to lose that kind of time again.

Determined not to miss out on any more opportunities, he restarted his training with renewed focus.

Finding The Right Balance

Ever since returning to the gym and doing everything his coach asked of him, El Bouni has reaped the rewards. He was a dominant force in his amateur career, and after turning professional at 20, he continued to rack up victories.

“Mr. Cool” holds a 36-6-1 professional record, and picked up the A1WCC Kickboxing World Championship after defeating three opponents in an eight-man tournament.

He also put together a remarkable run of stoppage victories that marked himself as one of the most dangerous men in the martial arts world.

“I won 10 bouts in a row, all by knockout in the first round,” he says. “I am proud of that.”

Now, El Bouni brings his world-class talent to ONE Super Series.

The Moroccan makes his debut against Meunier at ONE: BATTLE FOR THE HEAVENS, in a catch weight kickboxing bout to be contested at 105 kilograms.

Meunier is a four-time Kickboxing World Champion who sports a 42-7 professional record, and is known for his aggression and massive power.

However, “Mr. Cool” is filled with confidence, with an eye on both the ONE Super Series Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight World Titles. Taking down “The Giant” in highlight-reel fashion is the first step to accomplishing his ambitious goals.

“When I step into the ring, do not look at your phone or anything,” he implores. “You have to focus on me, or you will miss something. I will give the ONE Championship fans something special.”

Guangzhou | 7 July | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super Apphttp://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast