The return of a warrior in the brutal yet exhilarating world of Mixed Martial Arts is a joy to behold, many obstacles sometimes have to be broken before a return to the violent festivities can resume.
With the return of ONE Championship Friday Fights on March 10th, Furqan Cheema will also make his emotional return to the sport, as well as an organisation he holds in high regard.
I caught up with Furqan as he prepares for his collision with Salamat Orozakulov at ONE Friday Fights 8.
Furqan ‘The Lion’ Cheema (3-1-0) is a Pakistani professional Mixed Martial Artist currently competing in the Welterweight division, representing AVT Leeds. Furqan has competed for Combat Challenge, Risk Fight League, Full Contact Contender and makes his return to ONE Championship on March 10th.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today Furqan and also to congratulate you on your upcoming inclusion to the ONE Friday Fight Night 8 card.
“Thank you Aaron, I appreciate it. And I’d just like to thank you for just allowing me to speak with you about this, I really appreciate it.”
Anytime my friend.
I trust preparations have been going well for your highly anticipated return to action?
“Yeah, definitely. I’ve just moved gyms, I’ve actually gone back to Asylum Vale Tudo which is under Danny Mitchell and also Jay Furness. I was actually with them in my amateur days, so it’s good to be back with these guys. Preparation-wise it’s been fantastic, I’ve been learning so much within the gym. Working with the team, learning new things, it’s been great.”
That’s great to hear man, AVT Leeds have been doing some great things of late. I always held them in high regard, definitely a phenomenal band of warriors in many aspects of the fight game.
“Yeah definitely, they’re one of the best gyms in the UK scene, it’s good to be part of the team again.”
Many fighters such as yourself, have graced many platforms throughout their careers, but to be part of ONE Championship again must be an absolute honour?
“Absolutely, I’m so grateful for it. I’m so thankful to be on that big platform, it’s such a big organisation to be on. Not many people get this opportunity and I feel so lucky for it.”
Absolutely, it must be such a confidence boost for yourself also.
“Yeah 100 percent, for them to give me another opportunity is just fantastic. As you know, I previously took a short notice fight for them. For them to bring me back on the platform after the 2 year period of Covid is brilliant. I’m really looking forward to it.”
A phenomenal organisation, no doubt. It is very late for us in the UK, but well worth the dark rings around the eyes the next day hahaha.
“Hahaha yeah, definitely. It’s a great show to be part of, I just love the whole concept of ONE Championship, it’s a very respectful show. The whole demeanour of the organisation, it’s all about creating good role models. It’s more about being a Mixed Martial Artist above all else, and representing Mixed Martial Arts in a positive manner, I love what Chatri has created.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Due to those restrictions during the pandemic, you have been unable to fulfil your venture with Singaporean promotion. In addition to this, encountered 2 bout cancellations, an unfortunate aspect to the fight game but one as a fighter you know comes with the territory.
Understandable, but this must have been a frustrating time for yourself?
“Yeah, it definitely was, it’s been a tough 2 years. I don’t really like mentioning these things, but it was just one of those situations where I was told I’d be getting a fight and then I wasn’t. I was at high peak, where I was training really hard and preparing, and questioning my previous manager regarding bouts. To be told that hopefully it’ll go ahead, I was hearing that for months and sometimes l, that mentally drains you. It was very difficult through that period. In regards to the cancellation again, I don’t really like mentioning it a lot but I’ve mentioned it recently, my daughter wasn’t very well. For many months we were going through that, and a few weeks before the weigh-ins, we received a letter from the hospital confirming an appointment for the day of the weigh-ins. So that fight was cancelled, I sent all the paperwork to my manager, the show I was supposed to appear on respectfully accepted my withdrawal. On a positive note, I got great results for my daughter. Knowing she’s all clear and everything is all good puts me in a better mindset. Thankfully, a couple of months ago I got the call from ONE saying I’ll be back on the card, sometimes things happen for a reason. Even though I’ve been through some difficult times, everything seems to be on the right track. Again, my daughter being better and myself being in a better place mentally, I’m in a positive mindset now and looking forward to things ahead.”
I’m glad everything has worked out for you mate, they’re the types of things that the fans don’t see, what happens outside of the cage.
With a date now set in stone, no doubt the fans in Thailand will see a completely different version of you, with many improvements to your skill-set?
“Yeah, definitely. I’ve worked really hard, I’ve changed a lot of things within myself including training. I feel like I’m the best I’ve ever been right now, from what I was 2 years ago, I’ve seen massive improvements. I feel like I’m in the right place mentally, physically and skill wise, I’ve definitely improved.”
I’m looking forward to witnessing all the improvements man.
“Luckily enough it’ll be on in the afternoon in the UK this time.”
“It’ll be on at about half 12/1 o’clock, it’ll be quite good for the UK fans hahaha.”
This skill-set will be put to the test when you take on Salamat Orozakulov upon your return, and will prove quite the test in the land of smiles.
What do you make of Salamat in the build-up to your collision on March 10th?
“He’s a good fighter, I know he’s won by a few submissions. I feel like he’s got a good boxing game, he’s got a good style to him and long ranged. He’s a good fighter, I think it’s a good match-up between us. It’s an interesting fight, I usually fight at Welterweight in the UK, but this will be the Middleweight division at 83.9kg. That’s something different for myself, I’m interested to see how it goes. I feel pretty strong at this weight category but again, we’ll see on the night.”
More power to throw your skill-set on the night, also being comfortable at this weight category like you said you are, always a plus.
“Yeah, absolutely. I’ve always competed at Welterweight throughout my career, I’ve never been at any other weight so this is gonna be quite interesting for me. I was offered 2 other opponents before Salamat, but they unfortunately fell through. They were gonna be at Welterweight, so Salamat and I will be at Middleweight, which is Welterweight in the ONE Championship weight division.”
Definitely gonna be a banger man, always great to see organisations put the fighter 1st and make sure an opponent is found after unfortunate cancellations.
“Yeah, 100 percent.”
Chatri Sityodtong has always been a pioneer of combat sports, piecing together a prolific card to give fight fans a night of pure unadulterated organised violence they will not soon forget, March 10th will be no exception.
Other than your inclusion on the night, are there any confirmed fighter’s or bouts that you are looking forward to witnessing?
“To be honest with you, I don’t know the bout card at the moment. But overall, like I said before, everytime ONE Championship always provides a good card with great fights. It’s just really exciting to be a part of one of their cards.”
Absolutely, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the announcements.
It’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today Furqan, I wish you all the best for the remainder of your camp and I look forward to catching you out there mate.
“Thank you Aaron. Again, I’m really thankful for you giving me the opportunity to talk about things. It is quite stressful approaching the fight, I’m just grateful to be getting notification from the UK MMA media, it really means a lot.”
My pleasure Furqan, it’s been amazing to get to chat with you before this amazing opportunity.
Last but not least, do you have a message for the fans that will be in attendance and anybody you’d like to give a shout-out to?
“I hope I can put on a good and exciting fight for the fans, victory is key, and that’s what I’m going for. I’d like to give a big shout-out to my sponsors, their support really means a lot to me. Big shout-out to Dense, who has stuck by me for the past 2 years, even though I’ve not been competing. New sponsors have come on board lahary gear, Sweetspot, Exclusive Interiors, Bed deals, IFG, Sweatbox, and EFWU who have been sponsoring me for the past 2 years, bug shout-out to them all. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Baki-doh gym, they’re a gym that represents my district in Pakistan, my homeland. These guys are providing me with my fight gear, I really appreciate them for all their support, I’m really proud to be able to represent them. And a big thank you to all the coaches and teammates that have been helping me at AVT Leeds. And a big huge shout-out to my manager Carl, I’m really grateful that he’ll be with me and supporting me out there.”
We are now just days away from another night of pure unadulterated organised violence brought to you by ONE Championship, make sure to tune in for the return of Furqan Cheema and many more explosive athletes.