It is not too often that one hears of a mixed martial artist taking the ring wearing a hijab. Iran’s 39-year-old Fatemeh Moslemi will do just that when she participates in the Kumite 1 League (K1L), which gets underway at the National Sports Club of India (NSCI) here on Saturday.

Representing Team UAE, Fatemeh will take on Team India’s Priyanka Jeet Joshi.

Fatemeh has had to face socio-cultural barriers to take up MMA as a career. She went against her parents’ wishes to take up a vocation which requires full body contact. She started training at the Hosharafu Federation with the help of her husband, who is also a trainer and her fighting partner. Once Fatemeh was spotted by the MMA talent scouting, there was no looking back.

As her team-mates from UAE took the stage for an introductory session on Thursday afternoon, Fatemeh sat quietly in the middle, observing the proceedings.

Despite her difficulty in understanding English, Fatemeh follows the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) closely, and considers Ronda Rousey as her favourite. As the K1L is set to be unveiled by the boxing legend Mike Tyson, Fatemeh, like all other participants, is excited.

Verbal volley

She witnessed the verbal volley between Team India’s Kantharaj Agasa and Amer Mohamed Elshnshoury, an Egyptian MMA player representing the UAE team. Amer claimed he will knock out Indian Kantharaj quite easily; in response, the Indian made it clear that he was in no mood for ‘loose talk’.

“I don’t brag too much about my game. We shall see how it goes in the ring,” Kantharaj, calm and composed, said. Elshnshoury replied, “I will definitely knock you out and show who’s the boss here.”

Star power

The league is set to be further spiced up by the presence of Mike Tyson. K1L promoter Mohamed Ali Budhwani announced that all the MMA stars will get a chance to spend time with the boxer. “Tyson is very excited to be here in India and he will be interacting with the players and sharing a tip or two with them. It is a great occasion for all of us and we are looking forward to it,” Budhwani said.

Tyson is expected to reach Mumbai in the early hours of Friday and is scheduled to address a media conference later in the day along with Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Saeed Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, the prince of Abu Dhabi.