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Julian Turner
Thursday, Jul 31, 2014

Sports

Mixed martial arts: Religion toughens resolve

The Straits Times | Julian Turner | Thursday, Jul 31, 2014

Syafiq "The Slasher" Abdul Samad (right) working on his punches with coach Arvind Lalwani on Elgin Bridge close to their Juggernaut Fight Club gym on Boat Quay on 26 July 2014. He is gunning for his first MMA fight win on home soil, after losing last December following victories in the Philippines and Thailand.

Like many followers struggling with issues in their lives, Syafiq Abdul Samad turned to his faith to deal with the pain of defeat following a bad loss last December.

The mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, and devout Muslim, said his religion had given him the strength to continue after being blitzed on what was supposed to be his coronation night at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

The 21-year-old Republic Polytechnic student returns to action on Friday evening at a Rebel Fighting Championship (RFC) show at Suntec City for the first time since that shocking evening.

"I needed a break after being beaten, I needed time away from training because I was mentally tired with it all," said Syafiq, who was knocked out cold by South Korea's Hwang Gyo Pyung after just 42 seconds of their lightweight contest on RFC's inaugural bill last December.

"I started to go to the mosque a lot more and I became more religious. It helped me spiritually and it allowed me to move on.

"I accept the defeat and my opponent was better, but I learnt a lot from that loss." The Juggernaut Fight Club member explained how he had tailored his training regimen around Ramadan, leaving his most punishing work for the evenings after breaking fast.

He said that strict observation had also boosted his confidence ahead of this week's lightweight contest against American Kenny Thompson on a 10-fight bill named Battle Royale.

"We had to change the routine around a little bit but observing the fast was the most important thing and that has given me more power in my mind," said Syafiq, who goes by the ring name of The Slasher after surviving a machete attack in Bedok six years ago.

Juggernaut head coach Arvind Lalwani even travelled away from the gym's Boat Quay base to oversee fitness sessions at public housing void decks to make sure his fighter is in the best possible shape for this comeback contest.

He is, understandably, predicting a victory in three days' time and insisted that Syafiq's career was not seriously derailed by last year's setback.

"It was a tough fight to take and he lost it and that's the game we are in," said the 34-year-old, who will also be in the corner for American Will Chope, who fights Mauricio dos Santos Jr on the same show as Syafiq.

"But it wasn't the kind of defeat where he was completely outclassed or took a prolonged beating. We've worked on a few things and I hope he gets the chance to show what he can do this time."

Syafiq, however, admitted that he expects to feel a few nerves before walking from his dressing room to the cage on Friday.

"I will get a few jitters in my stomach but then I will get into a rhythm and get on with the fight," said the former national boxer.

"I know I can beat this guy. I am looking for redemption."

jturner@sph.com.sg

This article was published on July 29 in The Straits Times.

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