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Interview with Fighting Alliance CEO Zubair Asghar

Fighting Alliance 7: Legends comes to St John, New Brunswick, Canada on 25th August 2018 and top of the bill as the Main event is a Professional rule bout featuring Canada’s own Matt Dimarcantonio Vs British fighter Dan Gibbon. Fighting Alliance is run by Zubair Asghar who in my eyes is a man on a mission to give it all he has to try making his brand grow on an International scale. I caught up with the CEO of FA Mr Asghar who kindly gave up some of his time to answer some questions we had for him.

MMA UK: Hi Zubair, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and where you come from?

I was born and bred in the UK and moved to Pakistan when I was about 14 years old. There I completed my schooling and came back to the UK to study Civil Engineering and graduated in 2011. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, this seemed to be a bad time to graduate in this particular field as extremely few companies were hiring within this profession. Having not found a job in the desired industry, I moved back to Pakistan to help my parents with the current business, a family restaurant.

MMA UK: Your Promotion Fighting Alliance…how and what was the vision behind this venture?

Fighting Alliance has its roots in Pakistan when fighters and coaches wanted to start a promotion by fighters, for fighters. Originally named PAK MMA Fighting Alliance, they had their first promotion in February 2013. They conducted a second in 2014 almost a year later exactly. After that, the promotion went dormant.

As I had started promoting around that time, the fighting community saw it fit to give me the reigns of the promotion. This is when I dropped the name PAK MMA to give it a more international flavor – Fighting Alliance. The vision is to stay true to its roots – to be a platform where fighters get a chance to show their skills, improve their shortcomings and shine globally.

MMA UK: You are now on your 7th show which will be taking place in Saint John, New Brunswick in Canada on August the 25th 2018. The previous 6 shows have all taken place in Pakistan. Why Canada now? and will the promotion be returning back to Pakistan at any point? Is there any plans to take Fighting Alliance to another country maybe?

The unfortunate scenario in Pakistan is that there was a dearth of sponsors. Even though we had been promised deals by international companies from Pakistan’s national headquarters, all were unfulfilled. In order for the promotion to grow, I felt that Canada would be a fertile and unique approach to prove that the Fighting Alliance banner can be taken across the globe, and can be the platform for fighters of all backgrounds. Perhaps when Fighting Alliance becomes a standard international promotion, it would grab the attention of local companies and I could bring it back to Pakistan again.

I would like to eventually do at least one event in the UK, maybe more. After all, I have spent a lot of my life there and would love to see my promotion take roots there. But that would be after the roots take hold in Canada.

MMA UK: What is the MMA scene like out in both Pakistan the part of Canada you are making your debut promotion in?

Before I came to Pakistan, FA was the only promotion in the country. There were one or two smaller promotions but nothing on the level that FA managed to reach. Due to lack of commitment from local industries, the MMA sport within Pakistan remained to whenever FA had shows, and whatever training there was in gyms. There was certainly an eagerness and hunger for the sport to grow, though. Also, there is no doubting the talent that exists here; many fighters have gone on from FA to fight for bigger International promotions abroad, including ONE Championship and Brave Combat Federation. Recently Brave CF has announced that they will be hosting a show in Pakistan in October of this year (2018); perhaps this may show the country the potential of the sport and industries will wake up to the marketing opportunity where another foreign promotion is visiting its shores.

Canada itself is interesting, especially where I am based. There are events and promotions but nothing that I feel has really helped fulfill the capacity and potential of the sport. There is no doubt talent and a fan base here; The UFC is holding a fight night on October 27th in the next city over from where I am.

MMA UK: What kinds of challenges have you faced as a Promoter looking to grow your business model?

Ah well, there is a long and sad answer to this question! But I think it should be given, too see what I, my family, and Fighting Alliance have come up against, and still managed to earn respect across 3 continents.

In Pakistan, there were those problems you would face in any developing country. Almost every logistical requirement and issue was done by myself, as no one quite understood – outside staffing the event day and the fight card – how to put on a show.

Permits to have shows were not readily available unless you had deep pockets, visas were next to never offered to foreign fighters, ticket sales could not be sold as the tax would be 40% and would also be handled by another department who’s intricate and particular dealings we did not have the capacity to deal with.

As mentioned before, sponsorship offers were promised by large corporations, but all promises fell through. Even a national TV station dropped the deal to live broadcast our sport one week before the actual event.

Pakistan is a country where who you know, and how much you can increase budgets to get things done; nothing else matters. For this reason, it was too hard for it to even really start growing its potential.

Canada is a country where, hopefully, it will not be as hard to get sponsors on board, and with that slowly but surely FA will make the strong foundation it deserves.

MMA UK: Does Zubair ‘Big Z Bear’ Asghar have a background in MMA or Martial Arts in general?

I had attained a black belt in Bando Karate when I was 17 years old. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to compete. My teacher was of the opinion that the nature of sports in Pakistan was too corrupt to even attempt entering competitions. Not only were organizers pocketing government funds, but fight fixing was commonplace. Hence, my teacher did not wish I become a part of the debacle.

Having lost the chance to compete myself, I eventually become a promoter instead, so that I could provide a chance for fighters to compete and attain an international standard of fighting.

MMA UK: What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the world of MMA / Combat Sports Promotions?

If you chose to be a promoter you are on the first steps in looking to become an entrepreneur, with no guarantees in return and even if you’re willing to risk your stability and even respect, that’s still pretty scary. No matter where you are in the world, organizing anything on such a magnitude requires focus, the strength of character and fortitude of willpower. Each place comes with its own set of challenges that has to be overcome. Even if you have deep pockets, you may think can buy your way into making some things happen. However, you will face problems where the buck can’t go to fix it.

It’s a little hard for me to say this next bit because I’m not quite yet where I want FA to be. However, quite simply put, be honest with yourself and persevere. At the risk of sounding like a cliché – if in a mere 4-5 months, FA has a whole province of Canada turning their heads and talking about it, then anything is possible.

MMA UK: Is there anyone you would like to thank or give a shout out to?

Yes, I would like to thank Allah for giving me the capacity and the tools to get me to where I am. My parents for instilling into me work ethic, honesty, and integrity. All the Sponsors of FA no matter how big or small who are helping make a difference and finally the fight teams and fighters of Pakistan who have respect and love for me, and all the fighters who have made and will make FA what it is.

So here it is, what started off as a struggle in what has been described as a third world country to looking to make waves in Canada and hopefully to other destinations. It’s always great to see Promotors who are going out of their way to make a difference in this sport of MMA whether this is providing a platform for upcoming fighters or entertainment for paying fans with the risk of potentially very little back in return in terms of financial gain. Personally having fought myself on Fighting Alliance twice previously over in Pakistan, I can honestly say that in terms of production and some great matchmaking, Fighting Alliance is definitely a promotion to keep your eye on.

Here are some of the matchups that have so far been confirmed:

Main Event

Pro 145lbs MMA bout: Matt DiMarcantonio, 10-8-0, Para Bellum MMA (Canada) Vs Dan Gibbon, 9-10-0, Gorilla Team (UK)

Co-Main Event

Pro 135lbs MMA bout: Vladimir Kazbekov, 4-2-0, Para Bellum MMA Vs Tyler Wilson, 4-1-0, Hayabusa Academy

Pro 145lbs bout: Serihy Sidey, 1-0-0 Para Bellum MMA Vs PJ Ste-Marie, 1-2-0, N1

Pro 155lbs bout: Brad Sullivan, Pro debut, Fitplus Vs Marc Herbert, 1-0-0, Spitfire

Amateur Bouts

Am Catchweight 160lbs bout: Jacob Palmer, 3-1-0, The Wicked Edge MMA Vs Mike Somerville, 1-1-0, MXT

Am 145lbs bout: Luc St. Croix, Am debut, Fitplus Vs Brad Barricks, Am debut, Parra Bellum MMA

Am 170lbs bout: Tyler Algee, Am debut, Fitplus Vs Scott Mackinnon, Am debut, Victory

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