By Caoilte de Barra
One of the breakout stars from the 2022 European Championships, Patrick Habirora, is continuing his fine form at the 2022 World Championships. Competing in the welterweight division, the Belgian standout opened his account with yet another finish.
He followed up the spectacular performance with a decision win to secure a spot in the quarter-finals. The bout did not go entirely his way, and he faced some adversity. However, Habirora was strategic in his approach in order to get the win today.
“Two, three times he fell down, but he stood up directly. I ran to finish, but as my coach said: ‘to get better you have to experience some stuff like that’. Sometimes you’re gonna hit someone, and he goes down but stands up quickly. And those guys from the east are tough and older than me, so it’s okay. We managed to be more strategic today and did it well.”
Many people would consider Habirora a knockout artist following his performances at the European Championship, but he was happy to show the different aspects of his game today against Uzbekistan’s Musokhon Ziyadinov.
“I’m happy to show it, even if it’s a message for the wrestlers. Even they got one takedown. If you don’t do anything with that, we are going to just finish the round and stand up again. So, you know, I’m comfortable on the ground. I’m comfortable with my back on the ground too. And when we stand up again, I’m gonna be right there in front of you and try to take your head off.”
Before his breakout moment in Italy, Habirora had not experienced much media attention. This has changed significantly in recent months, and it’s something that does not phase him much. His goal is to focus on hard work and winning, not to get caught up in the hype and attention, a mindset that comes from his upbringing.
“It’s from where I’m from. I’m from a tough area. I didn’t grow up in a rich area where everything comes easy. So I used to travel three hours a day just to train. I’m used to that. I’m used to that travel alone, taking my backpack and going all over the world, fighting everyone ever since I was seventeen.”
The hard-hitting welterweight has been a big fan of manga ever since he was a kid. His favourite show, One Piece, inspired his nickname, and his favourite character is someone who resonates with him.
“It’s from my nickname, Mugiwara, since I’m a kid, like ten years old. I grew up watching, watching all the mangas. I didn’t look at cartoons, but I was really inspired by Luffy from One Piece. He’s a young guy coming at everyone and doesn’t care about anything. He doesn’t care about who’s in front of him. Even if you are older, bigger, or in your place or not, I’m gonna be the king of pirates. And he said: ‘achieve and prove it’. You know, but first, he put in the work. People think it’s easy for me. People from IMMAF know I’m not talented. The first two times I came here, I lost every fight. I lost twice in the first round. It takes a lot for someone to lose and come back again, lose again. I came back here, and now I’m in this thing, but I earned it. It’s not granted.”