By Caoilte de Barra
Pakistan’s Eman Khan is set to return to IMMAF competition after debuting earlier this year at the 2021 World Championships. An outing that saw her become the first female athlete to represent the nation in IMMAF.
Unfortunately for Khan, her maiden IMMAF appearance didn’t go to plan, losing to eventual silver medalist Giulliany Perea. It was the first time Khan experienced defeat, an experience she is grateful for as it allowed her to understand areas that needed improvement.
“It was my first loss, and I think I learned quite a bit from that. I feel like I figured out where my weaknesses were. It’s something that we constantly figure out through fighting, training, and everything, but it definitely highlighted that grappling was a big hole in my game.
“I would be lying if I said there was no pressure from friends and family and it wasn’t like,” you have to go there, and you have to win”, because not one single person said that to me, which is really great to have that support. But I did feel that pressure, where I was like, “Oh my God, I’m the first female. I have to do something.”
The sport is still developing in Pakistan, and one of the big issues Khan has been facing is finding opponents and training partners meaning IMMAF competitions have been for progression.”
“One of the biggest problems we have here in Pakistan is that I don’t have fights. I spar with guys, and I would love to have female flyweights who could call over to my gym and train and have that experience, but there just isn’t anyone at that level.”
“So I feel like going to places like IMMAF, that’s literally the only way in the current climate that I can progress, win or lose.”
When the rare opportunity arose for Khan to compete in Pakistan, she was attacked by a dog on weigh-in day, leaving her hospitalised and unable to compete.
“I woke up in the morning. I was like 125 pounds on the dot. I was delighted. And then, I was leaving the house, and the house I was staying at had a German Shepherd.
“This German shepherd was a guard dog. I’ve had dogs my whole life, and when someone says, “Hey, my dog is a guard dog”, I know it means to stay away from this dog. It means do not go close to the dog. Do not approach the dog, and do not throw treats at the dog. I was basically told that the dog was chained up, and it wasn’t chained up, and it just went for my face, and I covered my face to protect it.”
“Unfortunately, that left me out of training for like a couple of months. I’ve only just gotten back into grappling, but I’m going full force ahead. Grappling was the one aspect of my life that I missed the most, so it’s good to get back into that. I feel good overall though.”
After creating history at the last IMMAF event, Khan expressed how happy she is to be one of two female Pakistani athletes competing internationally in MMA and hopes they can be pioneers for the sport in Pakistan.
I really love the fact that there’s one other female fighter, Anita Kareem, she lived in Thailand for about five months this year, and she just won against this Australian girl. She is definitely putting Pakistan’s name on the map in that regard. And there’s me, like us two, who have competed internationally. And you know, I think that’s kind of beautiful. I might win, I might lose, but I really hope to be a catalyst for MMA in Pakistan.