Brit fight sensation makes most of injury lay-off

EXCLUSIVE: Severe injuries often spell the end of an MMA fighter’s career, but Britain's Khalid Ismail has spent his year on the sidelines giving back to the sport.


To do so is second nature for a man who has spent as much of his career training and educating others on the disciplines of the fighting arts ever since taking up karate at the age of just five.

The addition of Brazillian jiu jitsu and freestyle wrestling to his repertoire led Ismail to try his hand at the growing phenomenon of mixed martial arts to great initial success.

An explosive debut win over Tommy Kelly at UCMMA 16 was followed by an infamous 8-second stoppage of Wayne Brown after Ismail’s low kick broke his opponent’s leg instantly.

The 32-year-old would soon be on the receiving end of a painful break, however, when a serious arm injury forced him to withdraw from an attempt to go 3-0 last October.

“Just before my last fight I tore my bicep,” Ismail told Eurosport.

“It had to be operated on; they had to completely re-attach it.”

The tear was so severe it looks to keep his momentum on ice for a full year, but the Newham-born fighter has his sights set on his return.

“I hope to be back to fight in October,” he said.

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“To return to cage fighting from injury involves a lot of rehab, and it gets a bit tedious after a while.

“You want to try and push hard in your recovery, but then you run the risk of making the injury worse.

“You just have to let your body get back to how it's supposed to be in due course.”

In addition to pursuing a successful competitive career, Ismail devotes a lot of time to combat sports ventures, and admits his work to raise the profile of his various disciplines has helped him through a tough twelve months.

“I was trying to look at the positives,” he explained. “I spent more time down at my gym, I did a talk at Saracens rugby club, and various other things to promote mixed martial arts.

“I just wanted to get the word out there about the positive side of the sport. I ended up making a career out of MMA but there is more to it than just competing.”

Ismail runs two LDG Fitness Centre businesses – based in Chadwell Heath and Romford – fronts regular fitness and fighting online features and frequents youth centres in order to share his passion.

“The discipline and the training involved can reach a much wider audience and many people in the fitness industry have found work from it,” said Ismail, whose disenchantment at the attitude of larger fitness franchises compelled him to enter the industry.

“I have had a lot of females come to my gym and train. Not only that, but most of them want to compete.

“When I trained kick-boxing there was a heavy female presence but they were there almost purely for the fitness side, while in jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts classes I always have the girls coming up to me and saying "I want to compete, how do I start competing?"

“Most of the girls are far from your typical off-the-street girls looking for a direction. We get a lot of accountants and lawyers.”

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He continued: “I'm quite fortunate because I am in the business side of MMA as well as a competitor, so people tend to view me in a different light rather than as just a barbaric fighter.

“I try to use that to my advantage because a lot of potential clients do not yet understand the concept of mixed martial arts and how it can help.

“The advantage MMA brings to self-defence is that it teaches a lot to someone who is on the floor in the guard position. You cannot really box someone if you have been thrown to the floor.

“It's how I got into the sport in the first place. I was attacked by two guys and when one dragged me down onto the floor, I didn't know how to defend myself from that position.”

The biggest obstacle to Ismail’s mission is the lingering perception of mixed martial arts as a sadistic and brutal bloodsport.

Though UFC’s rapid rise as a global entity has aided the domestic scene, critics remain in large numbers and Ismail feels they fail to see the bigger picture.

“Since MMA came about, it has received backlash from day one,” he admitted.

“It has been an uphill struggle to promote the sport in the UK and the benefits it can bring both in and out of the cage.

“There are a lot of professional fighters who know nothing else but to compete; they haven't had any other type of job and competing is their livelihood.

“I just wish that some of the critics could see what I see on a daily basis.

“A lot of people I have trained came to me with no money and thanks to the industry they now have the means to raise their families.

“Even those who do not fight still take a lot away from it to instil in their children, that enthusiasm for sport and fitness and to pursue what they are passionate about.”

With the injured bicep yet to undergo the acid test of a return to action and so much going on for him outside the cage, it would be easy to assume Ismail’s biggest impact will be made after his active career dies down.

But the desire which has driven the Londoner this far remains very much alive, and Ismail is confident of turning his undefeated start to MMA into a dominant streak.

“To be honest, I've never looked that far ahead to the stage where I will no longer be able to actually compete myself,” he said.

“It was unfortunate that I injured my bicep when I did as I felt I was heading into my next fight the fittest I had ever been in my life.

“I have coached since I was 12 years old, and while I have been fighting I have always been teaching as well.

“I find it a stronger motivational tool when I am training for an upcoming fight while coaching, as my class sees this and that passion rubs off.

“I work hard at everything I do, whether it be fighting, teaching or running my two businesses, and I like to show my students that putting that extra bit of effort in will pay off.

“It's good to know that whenever I feel I have to stop competing, I'll feel satisfied that I've done enough – but I don't see that happening any time soon.”

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