Ahead of the 2022 Asian Championships, the Jordan team would have been considered underdogs heading into the tournament. Most teams had a panel of coaches and a large group of athletes. However, the Jordan team consisted of just Hazem, Zaki and their mother, Angelica.
In the end, Hazem took silver in the senior middleweight division, while Zaki won bronze in the junior lightweight division. An incredible result for both after coming up against some of the best amateur athletes in the World.
Post-tournament, Hazem spoke highly of the trip, highlighting the hospitality they received in Tajikistan.
“It was life-changing. You get to see different cultures, who are from the whole other side of the World. The way we were treated in Tajikistan by both the IMMAF staff and the people of Tajikistan was so welcoming. From the first day we reached Tajikistan, we felt at home. We were super comfortable, and it definitely affected our performance in many ways.”
Hazem and Zaki are used to being in a small team and helping each other at events. Their brotherly bond is strong, and Hazem noted the importance of having Zaki with him and how beneficial it was for them both.
“Of course, it helps to have each other. Anybody can talk about fighting, but only a fighter knows what a fighter feels. Only somebody that is stepping into the cage in the next couple of days knows how another person that is stepping into the cage feels. So when I know how he feels, and even if we have a little, you know, touch between us and things get heated, we know how to de-escalate the situation. Why? Because we know we are both on the edge of our seats right now. The testosterone is high. So, it is great to have each other. We know how to deal with each other.”
Speaking about his opening win of the competition, Zaki added: “He kept pushing me, and the whole time I was listening to him in the corner. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been able to pull through and get my hand raised in the end.”
This was Zaki’s first time competing in the junior ranks after previously in the Youth World Championships on two occasions. He believes the step up in competition was evident but did not feel out of place.
“It was a huge step up. And the preparation was different because, in the youth championships, there are no head strikes, so we didn’t really work on striking. It was all wrestling, grappling, jiu-jitsu, and all that. So for this camp, I had to work on my striking too, and get some combos in. And I think I showed a lot of them in the first fight. It was against a tough guy from Kazakhstan who was expected to get gold. No one believed that I could beat him except for my brother.
“What I got out of this tournament is that I belong fighting in the cage with the best of the best. I showed that I can compete and even win at the highest level. And I saw a couple of mistakes I made that we can work on. And I have always proven that every time I lose to a simple mistake, I always fix it.”
Both of them have noticed the level of competition going up at IMMAF tournaments and enjoy the opportunity to test themselves against the best in the World as they continue their journey. Hazem explained:
“Every time we step into the IMMAF platform, they [the competition] get better. At the end of the day, we’re just two small-town boys from a small country that has never heard of MMA. To be doing what we’re doing, we are out of the norm. It’s not something common. So, we’re learning as this process goes. We learn even more when we go and see these big teams coming in with forty athletes, thirty athletes, and five or six coaches. And we’re just like a couple of students. The level gets better and better, but we get better too. So, that’s the best part.”
With the Asian Championships behind them, the next focus is on the World Championships. In the meantime, they will be balancing training, studies and work while also planning to travel to countries like Thailand and Georgia to train.