By Erik Uebelacker
Jordan brought a modest four-athlete team to the Youth Worlds this year. It’s not a nation particularly known for it is MMA, but team chaperone Abu Househ says that it’s about time to change that.
“We have the technique and everything, but we lack the experience,” said Househ. “Other guys, they have experience; in their countries, they have this competition a lot.”
All four of the team’s fighters train at Team Kayyali, started by the father of IMMAF veteran Hazem Kayyali. Hazem’s younger brother, Zaki, competed in Abu Dhabi at Youth Worlds this week.
Househ says that the Kayyali brothers are inspirations and mentors to the other young fighters at the gym and around the country. Among them Househ’s son, Omar, a young mixed martial artist that competed on Wednesday in the Youth C 44 kg division.
“Omar was getting bullied in his school,” Househ said. “We took him to the gym, Team Kayyali, to start [training]. He even started watching Hazem fight; he became his role model. Now, Omar is the popular guy in the school.”
After just a year and a half of training, Omar got to represent his team in Abu Dhabi for the 2022 Youth World Championships.
“My friends, cousins, grandma and grandpa, everyone at home is watching me fight,” Omar said. “It’s a really good experience, here.”
Zaki Kayyali competed on Friday in the Youth A featherweight division, where he won his three group stage fights before getting submitted in his first elimination bout. Despite falling short of reaching a medal this year, Kayyali understands the significance of competing on this global stage for Jordan.
“That’s what matters at the end of the day, that I made my family, team, and country proud,” he said.
Househ hopes that the continued growth of Jordan’s amateur team in IMMAF will lead to a broader acceptance of the sport in the country.
“Support will come sooner or later; Jordan is a small country,” he said. “It’s not supportive, especially for this kind of sport. These guys are building this culture.