‘I was born a fighter’ — the making of Saudi’s first MMA female fighter Hattan Alsaif

‘I was born a fighter’ — the making of Saudi’s first MMA female fighter Hattan Alsaif
The 22-year-old Hattan Alsaifi made headlines around the world after she knocked out Egypt’s Nada Faheem. (Instagram: @hattanalsaif24)
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Updated 17 May 2024
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‘I was born a fighter’ — the making of Saudi’s first MMA female fighter Hattan Alsaif

‘I was born a fighter’ — the making of Saudi’s first MMA female fighter Hattan Alsaif
  • The pioneering Riyadh resident knocked out Egypt’s Nada Faheem at the inaugural edition of PFL MENA in Riyadh last week

RIYADH: As her opponent lay defeated on the floor, the Saudi mixed martial arts fighter marked a landmark victory by waving an imaginary sword in the air.

The celebration was appropriate— Hattan Alsaif’s family name translates directly as “the sword.”

Overnight, Saudi had a new sporting superstar.

On May 10, the 22-year-old made headlines around the world after she knocked out Egypt’s Nada Faheem, delivering a head kick in the second round of their bout at the inaugural Professional Fighters League Middle East and North Africa edition in Riyadh.

Her win, she says, was also a message of love and commitment to her friends, family and fans.

“It [the win] was something I was so proud of,” Alsaif told Arab News. “To make them see how far I reached, and I was doing my best to show them that I will never let them down.”

The future of Saudi women in MMA has been brewing for some time. In February, Alsaif made history when she became the first female from the Kingdom to sign a contract with a major MMA promoter – the PFL, now backed by Saudi’s public investment fund.

Her performance at the Green Halls last week has raised her profile beyond her hometown or even the region. Alsaif is now an international contender.

She said representing Saudi Arabia “meant everything” to her: “I do love my country so much, and I wanted to represent my country in the best way I can.”

But behind the win were three months of relentless training — mental and physical — and even cage-like fights in her gym.

Alsaif is a relative newcomer to the sport. When she first began training in 2021, it was never part of the plan to turn professional.

“First five days I began boxing, I jumped in a championship, and I lost the game,” she said.

Alsaif took the loss as a wake-up call to shift her perspective.

“You have to work hard, you have to work more, so you can have what you want. So I got that point on my mind and I worked on it,” she said.

Alsaif’s appetite for risk and adrenaline rushes dates back to her school days when, she recalls, her late parents received numerous complaints about her behavior.

“They (the school) were always calling my parents. ‘Your kid is jumping from the classes and jumping from the roof and jumping everywhere’,” Alsaif said.

“I was (also) in love with hiking and I was so in love with the desert bikes.”

A fighting spirit feels almost inherited, considering the Kingdom’s own rich history.

“I was born in Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia is my country. Saudi Arabia is in my blood,” she told Arab News.

“If I’m a girl from this city (Riyadh), that means I was born a fighter. I’m ready to sacrifice whatever it is for my country and for my people.”  

For Alsaif, sports such as Muay Thai are more than physical battles against an opponent. She feels there is a psychological fight between the inner critic in her mind and the fighter in her heart.

“Your mind will tell you ‘It’s all right. You’re bleeding now. No one will blame you if you quit…just quit’,” she said. “If your mind says that, then your body is going to move as much as your mind told you. If you moved with your heart, courageous heart, then you win it.”

Alsaif’s Islamic faith and spirituality has carried her through life’s hardships, which included losing her parents as a child.

“But I always believe that God is with me, and that I’m never alone,” Alsaif said.

After religion, it’s mixed martial arts that provides solace, resilience and a feeling of belonging for Alsaif.

In the last three years, she has spent months in Muay Thai training camps in Ko Samui and Phuket, relishing even the hardest moments of tears, cuts and bruises.

“It was so amazing visiting Thailand and having a camp (there). That was one of my dreams,” she said.

The sports scene in Saudi Arabia has transformed so rapidly in recent years that a new generation of homegrown stars like Alsaif no longer needs to look beyond their borders or regions for role models.

Her inspiration is Saudi MMA fighter Abdullah Al-Qahtani, with whom she shares a coach.

“I can see how much discipline, motivation he has [...] and how much hard work he does,” she said.

Their coach, Feras Sadaa, is “the best,” she said, adding that she frequently reminds herself she has his complete backing: “I always trust him.”

Alsaif’s routine is simple but rigorously disciplined and follows the vital components of sports development and recovery — train, eat, sleep and repeat.

Alsaif says she is focused on taking any opportunity that arrives in her path and hopes to see more Saudis competing in MMA.

“I know my people and I know that my people are good enough to enter that cage and to show us a good fight,” she said.


Sharjah’s Wyatt wins as Team Abu Dhabi’s Al-Qemzi runs out of luck in Sardinia

Sharjah’s Wyatt wins as Team Abu Dhabi’s Al-Qemzi runs out of luck in Sardinia
Updated 17 June 2024
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Sharjah’s Wyatt wins as Team Abu Dhabi’s Al-Qemzi runs out of luck in Sardinia

Sharjah’s Wyatt wins as Team Abu Dhabi’s Al-Qemzi runs out of luck in Sardinia
  • Veteran Emirati driver underlines threat with sprint race win

SARDINIA: Sharjah Team’s Rusty Wyatt scored a commanding victory in the Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy on Sunday to take the lead in the F1H2O World Championship as Team Abu Dhabi suffered a double setback in Olbia.

Wyatt secured his second powerboat grand prix win of the season in a race littered with early withdrawals, including Emirati driver Thani Al-Qemzi and his Abu Dhabi team-mate Alberto Comparato, as well as Victory Team’s world-title-chasing Erik Stark.

After qualifying second behind Wyatt, Al-Qemzi had raised his hopes by winning the first of the morning sprint races, and he was looking to close the gap on the Canadian before his race was agonisingly cut short by technical problems on the eighth of 40 laps.

By then, Estonia’s Stefan Arand and Comparato had already made early exits, and they were soon followed by Stark, who had arrived on the Mediterranean island as the championship leader.

There were no problems however for Wyatt, the first-round winner in Indonesia, who had the luxury of being able to slow down on the last lap and still win by 12 seconds from Frenchman Peter Morin, with Poland’s Bartek Marszalek taking the third podium spot.

Sweden’s reigning world champion Jonas Andersson made a big move on the day, climbing from 14th at the rolling start to a fifth-place finish behind Norway’s Marit Stromoy.

It was a particularly frustrating day for Al-Qemzi, who had shown in qualifying and sprint race action that he was full of confidence in the new boat he was driving for the first time, and that he remains a genuine threat.

The Emirati driver, who made his F1H2O debut in 2020, had secured 10 championship points when he overcame a big challenge from Morin to win the second of the morning sprint races, which had been postponed 24 hours earlier by high winds.

As a rolling start brought the GP to life, Wyatt manged to hold off Al-Qemzi before the race was brought to a halt seconds later when Estonia’s Stefan Arand barrel-rolled. Finland’s Sami Selio soon joined him on the sidelines.

Wyatt had earlier bagged the 10-point bonus with a start-to-finish victory in the first sprint race, holding Andersson at bay in the early stages before pulling away for a comfortable win.


In hostile Boston, Mavs’ Irving aims to keep focus on NBA Finals challenge

In hostile Boston, Mavs’ Irving aims to keep focus on NBA Finals challenge
Updated 17 June 2024
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In hostile Boston, Mavs’ Irving aims to keep focus on NBA Finals challenge

In hostile Boston, Mavs’ Irving aims to keep focus on NBA Finals challenge
  • Friday night’s victory ended Irving’s own 13-game losing streak against the Celtics
  • Now Irving is more concerned with the task facing the Mavericks as they try to become the first NBA team to erase a 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series

NEW YORK: Resigned to the villain’s role in Boston, Dallas star Kyrie Irving is less concerned with silencing hostile Celtics fans than with quieting self-doubt and leading the Mavs in a must-win NBA Finals Game 5.

“Let’s just call it what it is,” Irving said Sunday as the Mavs prepared to try once again to fend off elimination in the championship series, in which they trail the Celtics 3-1.

“When the fans are cheering ‘Kyrie sucks’ they feel like they have a psychological edge, and that’s fair,’” said Irving, who was hounded by Celtics fans still rankled by his departure in 2019 after two seasons with the team.

Amid the jeers he delivered two sub-par performances in Games 1 and 2, the Mavs eventually falling 0-3 down before a blowout victory in Game 4 to extend the series.

“Of course, if I’m not making shots or turning the ball over, that makes it even more of a pressing issue that they can stay on me for,” Irving said.

“I think in order to silence even the self-doubt, let alone the crowd doubt, but the self-doubt when you make or miss shots, that’s just as important as making sure I’m leading the team the right way and being human through this experience, too, and telling them how I feel.”

Friday night’s victory ended Irving’s own 13-game losing streak against the Celtics.

He’s cognizant of his complicated personal history with the team, which he said stretches back further than his petulant demonstrations when his Brooklyn Nets were swept by the Celtics in the first round in 2022.

He said Sunday it started when he arrived in Boston in 2017, when he failed to engage with the history of the storied franchise or, as he put it “the cult that they have here.

“That’s what they expect you to do as a player,” Irving said. “They expect you to seamlessly buy into the Celtics’ pride, buy into everything Celtics. And if you don’t, then you’ll be outed.

“I’m one of the people that’s on the outs,” he added with a laugh. “I did it to myself.”

Now Irving is more concerned with the task facing the Mavericks as they try to become the first NBA team to erase a 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series.

“Most importantly, (it’s) not making this about me or getting into the energy with anyone else other than my teammates,” Irving said, adding that the Mavs must think “about the goal that we have in front of us as best we can, and try not to get tired of everyone talking about the history that has not been made.”

Irving, who won a title alongside LeBron James in Cleveland in 2016, said he had encouraged his teammates — — many in the Finals for the first time — to embrace and enjoy the moment.

“We got a chance to accomplish one of our goals, which is to make it back to Boston,” Irving said. “We have another goal in front of us, and that’s to make it back to Dallas.”


Ferrari overcome late drama to hang on for second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory

Ferrari overcome late drama to hang on for second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory
Updated 17 June 2024
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Ferrari overcome late drama to hang on for second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory

Ferrari overcome late drama to hang on for second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory
  • Ferrari make it two in a row as they outlast Toyota to win a weather-affected 24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France: Ferrari made it two in a row as they outlasted Toyota to win a weather-affected 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday with the trio of Nicklas Nielsen, Antonio Fuoco and Miguel Molina crossing the line in the No. 50 car 14 seconds ahead of the No. 7 of Nyck de Vries, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez.

The No. 51 Ferrari helmed by Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top three in the latest running of the most iconic sports car race in the world.

Rain and fog brought out the safety car in the early hours of the morning with Ferrari jostling with Toyota and Porsche for top spot. But with dawn breaking, the racing resumed under a green flag with several teams in contention.

With less than six hours remaining the No. 50 Ferrari made their move just before more rain fell with Fuoco moving up the grid. Nielsen then survived more late drama when a flapping door forced the car into an unscheduled pit stop but managed to hang on for victory.

“Nicklas. Antonio. Miguel. You’ll be forever part of the legend now,” the FIA World Endurance Championship said on social media.


DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown

DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown
Updated 17 June 2024
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DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown

DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown
  • The 30-year-old American became the second active player of Saudi-backed LIV Golf to win a major title after Brooks Koepka in the 2023 PGA Championship

PINEHURST, United States: Bryson DeChambeau captured his second US Open title on Sunday, outlasting Rory McIlroy in a dramatic back-nine duel to win by a stroke at Pinehurst.
Overtaken by McIlroy with six holes remaining to play, DeChambeau kept his poise over the dome-shaped greens and sandy waste areas of Pinehurst to rally for the crown.
McIlroy, thwarted in a bid to end a 10-year major win drought, led by two strokes with five holes to play.
But the four-time major winner from Northern Ireland made bogeys on three of the last four holes to help hand the trophy to DeChambeau.
“I still can’t believe it,” said DeChambeau. “It’s unbelievable.”
DeChambeau, who also won the 2020 US Open, fired a one-over-par 71 to finish on six-under-par 274 while McIlroy shot 69 to stand on 275 after 72 holes.
The 30-year-old American became the second active player of Saudi-backed LIV Golf to win a major title after Brooks Koepka in the 2023 PGA Championship.
In a collapse mindful of Greg Norman’s epic 1996 last-round loss to Nick Faldo at the Masters, McIlroy missed par putts from 2.5 feet at the par-3 17th and just inside four feet at the par-4 18th — tension-packed bogeys that left McIlroy one behind.
DeChambeau found dirt and weeds left and a bunker at 18 but blasted his third shot to four feet and sank his pressure-packed putt for the victory.
“I was not great today but I got out of trouble really well and then, man, I can’t believe that up and down the last — that was All-World, probably the best shot of my life.”
Raising his arms in triumph, DeChambeau screamed and jumped for joy, then paid tribute to the late Payne Stewart, the 1999 US Open winner at Pinehurst who died only a few months later.
“That’s Payne right there, baby,” DeChambeau said into a television camera, pointing to a pin of Stewart on his cap.
Americans Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay shared third on 276, two off the pace, with Finau firing a 67. France’s Matthieu Pavon was fifth on 277 after a 71, one stroke ahead of Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who fired a 70 to stand on 278.
DeChambeau answered bogeys at the fourth and 12th holes with birdies at the par-5 10th and par-4 13th to keep the pressure on McIlroy until he cracked.
“I felt like I was hitting the driver pretty well. It just wasn’t starting exactly where I wanted to hit to,” DeChambeau said.
“Ultimately on 13 I knew I had to make birdie there to give myself a chance, because Rory was going on a heater.
“He slipped up a couple on the way coming in and I just kept staying the course, focused on trying to do as many fairways as I could.”
McIlroy settled for his second US Open runner-up effort in a row and his 21st top-10 finish since he last won a major at the 2014 PGA Championship.
DeChambeau and McIlroy shared the lead at seven-under when the drama seemed to turn.
McIlroy sank a five-foot putt at 13 for his fourth birdie in five holes while DeChambeau found sand and weeds off the tee and made bogey at 12, a two-shot swing leaving McIlroy on eight-under and DeChambeau two back.
But DeChambeau birdied 13 from just outside 27 feet and McIlroy went over the green at the par-3 15th and missed a 31-foot par putt, leaving them deadlocked at the top again.
DeChambeau then suffered his first three-putt bogey of the tournament, lipping out a four-foot par putt at the par-3 15th to fall one back, only for McIlroy to botch his short putts at the end.
Pavon failed in his bid to become the second Frenchman to win a major title after Arnaud Massy at the 1907 British Open.
Sweden’s sixth-seeded Ludvig Aberg, who began five back, took a triple bogey at the second to fall back. He fired a 73 to share 12th on 281.
World number one Scottie Scheffler, the huge pre-tournament favorite, fired a two-over 72 to stand on eight-over 288 for what was only his second finish outside the top-10 this year.
“Didn’t play my best. A bit frustrating to end,” he said. “I definitely need to do some things better.”


Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024

Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024
Updated 17 June 2024
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Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024

Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024
GELSENKIRCHEN: Jude Bellingham scored to give England a winning start at the European Championship by beating Serbia 1-0 on Sunday.
The Real Madrid star put England in front with a stooping header in the 13th minute at the Veltins Arena after Bukayo Saka’s cross.
Victory sent England to the top of Group C after Denmark drew 1-1 with Slovenia earlier in the day, with Christian Eriksen scoring three years after suffering a cardiac arrest on the field at the last Euros.
Gareth Southgate’s England was a beaten finalist at the last Euros, losing on penalties to Italy in the final three years ago. It is one of the favorites this time around.
The buildup to the game had been overshadowed by concerns about violence between rival supporters. And some of those fears were realized when police rushed to separate brawling fans in Gelsenkirchen earlier in the day.
Social media footage showed men throwing chairs at each other outside a restaurant festooned with Serbian flags in the city.