Egyptian champion challenges hometown hero in Yangon

He came from a tough upbringing, but somehow found a way to persevere and make a name for himself in a most unlikely trade. Despite a monumental task ahead of him, wherein he goes into enemy territory and battles in front of his opponent’s hometown crowd, Alexandria, Egypt’s Mohamed “Felix” Ali is a success story, win or lose.

Ali (10-7) will take on “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang (16-9) in a main event bout at ONE: UNION OF WARRIORS which takes place Friday, March 18 at the Thuwanna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar. Ali, a combat Sanda specialist and Egyptian Wushu champion will face the toughest task of his career, in Asia’s largest mixed martial arts promotion.

“I started martial arts when I was 12 years old, after I saw Bruce Lee’s films where he practices Kung Fu and Sanda,” said the 34-year old Ali, himself an MMA veteran in his native Egypt.

“I saw MMA as the most comprehensive martial art, one that suits my fighting style,” he added.

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Against Aung, Ali is facing a hometown hero who had obtained asylum in the United States some 13 years ago. Aung will make his much awaited return to Myanmar at “Union of Warriors” and it is expected to be as epic as it is emotional.

Ali however, hopes to spoil the party.

“I will do my absolute best in the cage on fight night, and I hope to get the victory. I know it won’t be easy, but I’m well prepared and ready for my first win in ONE Championship,” said Ali.

Ali debuted for the promotion in 2014, lasting three rounds with world-class wrestler Jake Butler, before getting stopped. It was a bittersweet moment for Ali, who had battled poverty and a tough upbringing to compete at the world stage and provide a better life for his family.

“Fighting in ONE Championship is a great opportunity for me and I dream of one day becoming champion, but my story has just begun,” said Ali. “Yes I lost against Jake Butler in my ONE debut, but after losing, I trained very hard to win the next time around.”

When Ali steps into battle against Aung next Friday, it will mark his second time inside the ONE Cage, and one that he plans to make the most out of.

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Ali grew up in a poor family with three brothers and two sisters. His father worked as a driver and his mother was a homemaker. They struggled to make ends meet.

Due to their economic situation, Ali was forced to start working as a 13-year old boy. He got a job as a metal worker, training martial arts on the side after duties. He joined a gym and worked with a coach he could trust, and now, he carries the flag of Egypt with him wherever he goes.

To see how far he has come is something that always brings Ali to near tears.

“I live for this,” said Ali. “I can’t stop fighting because this is my life. I’ve worked hard to be where I am today, and no obstacle will stop me from reaching my dreams.”

Ali will have his hands full against Aung, who is certainly no pushover. But win, lose or draw, Ali knows exactly what to be thankful for, and he won’t waste any minute of his life knowing otherwise. – By Carlos Cinco

Follow this writer on Twitter: @CarlosCincoFCB

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