“We all have our stories, and how those stories have defined us and created us as fighters” – Hyder Amil
In 2021, Hyder Amil made his Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) debut at LFA 117 on just two-weeks notice, despite a two-year absence from professional competition.
His opponent – Robson Junior – had undergone a full training camp ahead of the matchup; a fact unbeknownst to Hyder at the time, whom believed his Brazilian opponent had also accepted the bout with just two-weeks notice.
Fight-day itself was marred by fatigue, as Hyder – who completed his medicals the week prior to competing – was forced to drive four hours to undertake further medicals.
Yet, despite the barrage of factors that opposed him, an undeterred Hyder displayed a relentless performance that culminated with a second-round TKO victory.
Within less than nine months of that LFA debut, Hyder was 3-0 with the promotion.
It is a fitting metaphor to introduce an extraordinary athlete, one who currently looks towards a pivotal Contender Series 2023 matchup with Emrah Sonmez on August 15th.
After all, behind this undefeated athlete is a journey wrought by adversity.
This is the incredible story of how fighting found Hyder Amil, and how Hyder fought back.
A Child of Cebu
Hyder’s story begins nestled within the Philippine archipelago, on the island of Cebu. Son to a Filipino mother and an Indian-Turkish-English-Romanian father, Hyder grew up speaking English, courtesy of his father’s education in England. Living in a house that had maids and nannies, his residence was a stark contrast to the stilt huts that shared the same dirt road.
As a Muslim amongst a predominantly Catholic demographic, Hyder was often targeted for being different; indeed, his natural skin colour was much fairer than that of his fellow islanders.
“They called me little white boy” Hyder remarks.
At school, children targeted Hyder not only for his appearance, but also for his struggles with speaking the local language. By his own admission, he does not recall having many friends.
Soon, Hyder became a target in the literal sense, when children residing on his street began throwing rocks at him.
Yet, despite being just five-to-six years old at the time, Hyder returned home to disapproval from his father – for running away from the children who attacked him.
“My dad was really hard” Hyder shares. “I had bruises and cuts everywhere. I came home, and my dad was like ‘What happened to you?’. I told him what happened, and he was upset that I ran away. He’s like ‘Never run away again because that makes you a coward, and that’s the worst thing a man can be in this life’“.
Hyder’s father showed his son how to make a fist and punch a nose; Hyder was no longer allowed to back down, nor run away.
“The next day, I go to confront the leader of these kids who’s 12-years-old at the time” Hyder explains. “I’m like five or six years old; the size difference is ridiculous“.
“I went out to the hut to find the leader of these kids, and I couldn’t find him” Hyder continues. “But I did find where he lived. His grandma was there, and she was like ‘What do you want kid?’. I told her that I was there to beat up her grandson“.
“I got teary-eyed, because I never said that to an adult before – that I would beat up their relative, their grandson” Hyder shares. “She started laughing at me. She was like ‘[He’s] way bigger than you. He’s gonna kill you! You should go run along now’“.
“You know what, to my relief, I was glad he wasn’t there” Hyder admits. “But ever since that day, I made it a point to never run away, no matter what the odds are. I knew how big and scary [the leader] was, and I didn’t know what I had to go through. [However] I knew I was never gonna back down. So that kinda set me down that path of never backing down, no matter who you’re gonna have to fight“.
As a consequence of his father’s abusive and controlling behaviour, Hyder accompanied his mother and sisters in leaving Cebu at the age of six.
Together, they relocated to Marin County in California, where Hyder’s grandparents, aunties, and uncles had already settled.
The extended family only shared a single three-bedroom house in the affluent area. At its peak, the residence housed 15 occupants; Hyder, his mother, and his two sisters lived in just a single bedroom.
Adjusting to this new life was difficult for Hyder; a challenge worsened by the absence of a father.
“I didn’t have my dad” Hyder laments. “That hurt a lot. I felt like my dad had abandoned me; didn’t care“.
As the only male present in his immediate family, Hyder felt a duty to become the ‘man-of-the-house’- a belief that only heightened as his extended family eventually began moving out of the overcrowded house.
“There were a few stories growing up that… made me realise that I need to learn some ‘moves’” Hyder admits. “Yeah, I got bullied in school and stuff like that, but that wasn’t the real reason why I wanted to learn martial arts, or learn how to fight. The real reason was I wanted to make sure my sisters and my mom were all okay; that I’m always going to be there for them“.
“So, I went and learnt how to fight” Hyder continues. “I started becoming more boisterous. I had this more ‘macho’ persona, because I wanted to compensate for my dad not being there. Because of having to assimilate to everyone here in school, I always felt like I had to prove myself more to everyone“.
Hyder became the guardian for his family. At school, he stood up for his cousins, themselves the targets of bullying.
“I would have to make an example of the person so bad that they would never mess with any of my relatives again” Hyder admits.
Falling In, and Falling Out
Hyder discovered a passion for American kickboxing after being invited to a gym by friends, who recognised his athletic abilities.
At high school, however, friends encouraged Hyder to pursue American Football.
Initially starting as a running back, Hyder soon realised he had difficulty understanding a sport he didn’t grow up with. As such, he pursued an alternative position – in defence – believing it to be an easier position to understand.
In pursuing a new position, however, Hyder met a friend who introduced him to wrestling.
It was a sport Hyder began winning medals in immediately; shortly after, he also joined a jiu-jitsu gym.
“A year later, I had my first MMA fight” Hyder reveals. “I believe I was 16 or 17 years old“.
The bout was brought to Hyder’s attention on short notice; just two-weeks out. His opponent, however, had a full six-week training camp.
“I fought a grown man” Hyder says. “He was like 21 or 24 at the time, I was like 16-17, and he was chiselled and ripped! We fought full-on MMA rounds, but it was an exhibition match; they didn’t announce who was the winner or loser. We had a really good fight. I slammed him around, I dropped him. I landed way more strikes than him. But he did turn me over at one time and mount me. It was a good fight“.
Events took a turn, however, when Hyder found himself in trouble for fighting in high school. Not only was Hyder expelled, but he was placed in juvenile hall.
“I felt like I really dishonoured my family” Hyder admits.
With members of his family thriving academically, the experience spurred Hyder to focus on education, rather than fighting.
At 18 years old, Hyder quit MMA.
A Fateful Return
Many years later, after being let go from a comfortable hotel job, Hyder required new employment to continue paying rent.
Having made numerous applications on craigslist, Hyder received an opportunity that preceded his eventual – and unexpected – return to MMA, as he was recruited by El Niño Training Center – the gym of UFC veteran Gilbert Melendez.
“I don’t think I would ever have got started back in MMA if I never got fired from that [hotel] job” Hyder admits. “You know, they say one door closes – one door opens“.
“I was 210lbs at the time; I fight [at] 145 [Ibs] now” Hyder reveals. “210 [Ibs] on my frame is really big. So, I lost 40lbs in two months, [and] started training again“.
“I lost my first amateur fight back, but I’m gonna be honest, I don’t know how I lost that fight” Hyder continues. “[However], I did learn a lot from that. In my eyes, I’ve never been beat – but it says I lost that amateur match“.
“A few bumps on the road there, but now, I’m still undefeated [professionally], and I’m too far in to turn back I would say!” Hyder says. “So, let’s see where this road goes. Now I’m on the Contender Series, [albeit] a little bit older than I wanted to be, but you know what, I think better late than never“.
Hyder’s venture into MMA was never motivated by success, fortune, nor fame; rather, his venture was motivated by wanting to protect his family from the world he knew.
Whilst Hyder walked away from MMA – and fate brought him back – the inspiration, the motivation, and the reason for everything he does will never change.
For Hyder Amil, it always has been – and always will be – for family.
“Whatever is mine, is theirs; whatever is theirs, is theirs. That’s how much I care about them“.
Hyder Amil (7-0) competes August 15th 2023 on Dana White’s Contender Series, against Emrah Sonmez (14-4).
The author wishes to extend his utmost gratitude to Hyder Amil for his time, and making this article possible.
Image sourced from Alex Behunin on Twitter (@AlexBehunin); image originally from Hyder Amil’s Instagram (@hurricane_415).