Ahmed “The Wolverine” Mujtaba Set For Historic Bout Against “Super” Sage Northcutt At ONE Fight Night ...

Ahmed “The Wolverine” Mujtaba Set For Historic Bout Against “Super” Sage Northcutt At ONE Fight Night 10 In Denver
Mixed Martial Arts has seen an incomparable rise in global popularity within the last three years. With promotional juggernauts such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and ONE Championship continuing operations early into the pandemic, MMA has become one of the most watched sports in the world. ONE Championship has been the home of martial arts in Asia for the last twelve years while becoming the largest sports media property in Asia, having a television reach of 406 million (the highest of any global MMA promotion) according to a 2022 Nielsen report.

ONE Championship will now be making its historic debut on American soil as they host ONE Fight Night 10 on May 5th at the 1stBank Center in Denver, Colorado. This monumental event will break new ground for martial arts in Asia and has gathered a lot of hype and interest from all over the MMA world.

ONE Fight Night 10 will also be a larger-than-life spectacle for Pakistani Mixed Martial Arts, as Ahmed “The Wolverine '' Mujtaba will be taking on American superstar “Super” Sage Northcutt in a highly anticipated contest. Ahmed Mujtaba will be welcoming the highly touted American fighter back into the cage after four years off. Northcutt’s last fight was a devastating knockout loss in 2019 to Cosmo Alexandre in his ONE Championship debut. The loss saw Northcutt suffer a broken jaw, presumably resulting in the subsequent four years of inactivity. This historic bout was announced by ONE Championship shortly after Ahmed Mujtaba’s submission victory over Brazil’s Abraao Amorim in November of 2022.

With the stakes never being higher for Pakistani MMA, “The Wolverine” carries the hopes and expectations of an entire nation on his shoulders heading into his fight on Friday. While speaking to Ahmed in an interview, I was able to ask him about the significance of the fight and whether he feels any pressure heading into this contest:

“No pressure at all. Of course, it’s a big fight for me but I feel no pressure. I’ll go play my part and I know Allah will play his part as well. The blessings of Allah are most important. Without that, you can’t win or do anything good in this life. I’m confident I’m going to put on a show and let this guy know who we Pakistanis are. Who we Muslims are.”

With his faith firmly guiding him through the rigor of preparing for the biggest fight of his life, Ahmed had this to say about what he hopes to achieve this Friday: “I haven’t delivered my best yet. I have a lot of things to show. I’m just waiting for the right moment, and this is the fight where I have to show who I am.”

With a large majority of media attention diverted towards Sage Northcutt’s return, Ahmed has been positioned as the clear underdog in the eyes of the MMA world heading into this contest. Despite being a 69 to 31 percent underdog on Tapology, the world's most reputed MMA database, Ahmed does not fear the task ahead of him:

“He (Sage Northcutt) is a pure martial artist. I used to watch him when he was in the UFC. He’s a good fighter and all that. During his ONE Championship debut he got knocked out and his jaw got broken. Now he’s coming back after 4 years off. I don’t think he’s the same guy as he was before.”

Having recording a fierce knockout win over India’s Rahul Raju in January 2021, Ahmed feels as if an opportunity may present itself to shock the world by knocking out “Super” Sage Northcutt: “Once something is broken, it’s not the same as before. Maybe if I hit him hard on his jaw, it might break again. You never know.”

I last interviewed Ahmed Mujtaba in 2020. After noticing a considerable difference in his demeanor and appearance, I asked him what the last few years have been like and what changes he has gone through: “The last 2-3 years have been very tough for me. I survived because of my connection with Allah. I focused more on my religion. I’m living alone here (in San Jose, California), I trained thrice a day while fasting during Ramadan. I’ve built a better connection with Allah in these last 2-3 years and I’m starting to know the purpose of my life. Your connection with Allah is very important. It has to be a constant, consistent connection.”

Ahmed currently trains out of KAK’S Fight Club in Rawalpindi and conducts his training camp at the world-renowned American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. This gym is the home of MMA legends such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, Daniel Cormier, Javier Mendez, Cain Velasquez, Islam Makhachev and many more.

Being a source of great inspiration for the burgeoning MMA scene in Pakistan, I asked Ahmed what message he’d like to give to the up and comers of Pakistani MMA: “Success doesn’t come comfortably. You have to work hard for it. You have to grind every day. You have to face so many big challenges: financial issues, health issues, mental issues. This is not a sport, it’s a lifestyle. Morning class (at AKA San Jose) starts at 9am. Everyone is on the mats by 8:40am. It’s the commitment you have to show on the mats. I’ve seen some guys (in Pakistan) that aren’t on time and aren’t showing full commitment to this game. You have to do this with commitment. You have to do this with the proper heart.”

With an entire nation watching him on May 5th, I asked Ahmed what message he’d want to give to Pakistani fight fans ahead of his highly anticipated clash with “Super” Sage Northcutt:

“I’m ready for May 5th. Everything’s going to be good. Work hard, stay positive, think positive, spread love and spread the message of peace. Pray five times a day. Build that connection with Allah. Try to read the Quran with translation. Try to know what the purpose of your life is.”

Rejuvenated by faith and driven by his passion for the sport, Ahmed Mujtaba will be adding another historic notch to his belt regardless of the result. “The Wolverine” is widely considered to be one of the many pioneers in Pakistani MMA and he continues to pave the path for future MMA stars to emerge from Pakistan. This fight, regardless of result, will tremendously aid the growth of one of Pakistan’s most talent-filled sports.

Daniyal Nasir Mirza is a combat sports analyst and show host for On the Mic in Lahore.