Asia's Rising MMA Star


IT may not be as popular as football or badminton, but MMA or Mixed Martial Arts is slowly gaining popularity in the country.

With the recent event called Mayhem: Hell In a Cage held in Sunway Pyramid, Selangor, last month, many may have an idea of what the sport -- which involves a combination of two or more styles of martial arts -- is all about.

Those who love fight sports would have followed the professional fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC on magazines, the Internet and television.

Not many, however, know that Malaysia has its own MMA star.

And this star recently secured a three-year exclusive fight contract with Asia's premier MMA organisation, One Fighting Championship, after beating South Korean MMA veteran fighter, Seok Mo Kim, at the Dare Fighting Championship in Bangkok, Thailand, last month.

But what is amazing about Malaysia's first professional MMA fighter -- Adam Shahir Kayoom -- is that he was born with attention deficit disorder.

The 34-year-old always had problems paying attention when he was young but found love in martial arts and channelled his energy into it.

"I started with Judo when I was 5, then Taekwondo at 7. Since then, I have been hooked on martial arts," he said.

Being of Malay-Australian parentage, Adam spent most of his growing up years in Australia.
Adam in a BJJ match in Bangkok
Having found a sense of purpose with martial arts, he diligently pursued the sport and was introduced to Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) when he was 18.

"BJJ is an effective way of fighting. While most of the martial arts involve pounding your opponent, in BJJ, you dominate them through submission.
 
"I was small then, and seeing those guys dominating the bigger guys through submission was something worth learning," he recalled.

It did not take long for Adam to dominate the sport and win one championship after another in Australia.

In 1999, he set off to Brazil to learn more about the art.

"That is the best way to learn the art -- go to the source and understand the culture from where it originates."

He spent one year learning under the best BJJ fighters in Brazil and earned his black belt as well as several championship titles in his class during his stay there.

But all those accolades came with a price.

"All these achievements were my own. I had no sponsorship. It was a tough decision to leave my designing job and not to further my studies.

"I know that a good education is something you can always fall back on but my heart wasn't in it.

"It was more for guts, blood and bruises, I think," he said.

After BJJ, Adam decided to try Muay Thai in Thailand, but was turned down by most gyms there as, at 24, he was considered too old to train for the sport.

But being the fighter he is, Adam proved them wrong.

Five years ago, he made it to the top 10 ranking in the 2006 World Muay Thai Fighters list at Rajadamnern Stadium in Thailand.

In the same year, he was crowned champion in both the World Muay Thai Middle Weight Championships in Thailand and the Muay Khmer Middle Weight Championships in Cambodia.

Being a complete fighter in both ground and standing arts, Adam decided to climb one more step and began fighting in MMA championships.

He returned to Australia in 2003 and won the first place in the MMA Xtreme Fighting Championships middleweight fight, under 84kg, as well as first place in the Australian amateur Shooto Championships, under 83 kg.

"Fight sport gives you the window of opportunity to look into yourself, which team sports doesn't. Because when you lose a fight, the only person to blame is yourself.

"And you will want to do better the next time you fight," said Adam who runs an MMA gym in Bangkok.

On Sept 24, Adam took part in the MMA Dare Fighting Championship in Bangkok facing South Korea's veteran Kim.

"I was mentally prepared for this fight as I had trained hard and sacrificed a lot of time."

His efforts paid off when he won by a rear naked choke, tapping Kim out of the fight.

Adam's rise to MMA glory has not been without pain. He has suffered broken legs and arms, a dislocated shoulder, neck injury, chipped teeth and many more along the way.

But that has only spurred him to go the whole nine yards as the one lesson he has learnt from it, above all, is humility and respect.

"All you need is a positive attitude. Yes, there are always ups and downs in life. But martial arts is about learning humility and respect. Don't put anyone above you or below you. It also builds bonds of lasting friendship."

Check out some of Adam Kayoom's fights below:



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