Mohammad Karaki has won nine fights out of nine in his MMA career, but faces a big step up on Friday. He’s fighting outside of the Middle East for the first time and taking on reigning ONE Championship middleweight king Aung La Nsang in Myanmar.
The 27-year-old won the Phoenix middleweight title in his most recent fight. But La Nsang will have the Burmese fans firmly behind him at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium, a venue where he has yet to taste defeat after six successful outings.
Karaki is unfazed by the potentially intimidating atmosphere and intends to confound the expectations of the crowd.
“I’m used to fighting in a hostile atmosphere. Everyone has always told me that I don’t have a chance and that winning would be difficult, but this gives me an extra push to prove them wrong.”
La Nsang is a veteran of 33 fights. It gives him an advantage in terms of experience, but also means Karaki has hours of fight footage to review. The Lebanese middleweight has been doing his preparation and is already familiar with his ONE: Pursuit of Greatness opponent.
“I’ve watched all of his fights to see how they went. I wanted to make sure I know my opponent as well as possible. I will need to act fast inside the cage based on what’s happening to use my strengths and attack his weaknesses.”
There isn’t currently a significant contingent of Middle Eastern fighters on the ONE Championship roster. Karaki, who hails from Lebanon, is conscious that he will be representing his country as well as the region when he faces La Nsang on Friday.
“It’s a real honor to represent my people, and I hope to win for them. I think that by representing Lebanon all over the world, I’m contributing to my country.”
During a week in which ONE Championship has signed Eddie Alvarez, as well as potentially exchanging Ben Askren for Demetrious Johnson, the Yangon event might have slipped under the radar. But for Karaki, it represents the opportunity of a lifetime and he feels well positioned to dethrone La Nsang.
“I have never been this prepared for a fight. After working with the best mixed martial artists, I’m more than ready.”
He made his debut six years ago and has not fought frequently. 2018 will be only the third calendar year in which Karaki has taken two bouts. But he believes that only means he has more experience than his record suggests and that this will be crucial in pulling off the upset.
“The experience I’ve acquired as a fighter in recent years gives me a big push ahead of the fight. All the competitions I’ve taken part in have helped me gain experience in controlling opponents and overcoming the odds.”
La Nsang was coming off a defeat when he joined ONE Championship. There was nothing to suggest that the Burmese born fighter would go on to dominate the middleweight division and Karaki is entitled to believe he could have a similar impact, he was signed as an undefeated champion after all.
However, he has never faced an opponent of La Nsang’s caliber, and it’s highly unlikely Karaki will have experienced an atmosphere as intimidating as the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon. The odds are stacked against the Lebanese middleweight, but he travels to Burma with both confidence and belief.
“I do not accept losing. I am preparing and have no doubt that I will be ready for a big fight.”