x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Undaunted Alan Omer has been there, done that

The German is armed with a natural ability to fight and has also developed the mental fortitude since having to flee his native Iraq more than two decades ago, writes Ali Khaled.

Alan Omer, centre right, has been involved in two or three sessions a day of boxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu while preparing for the Abu Dhabi fight. Photo courtesy of Tim Leidecker / Control Master Management
Alan Omer, centre right, has been involved in two or three sessions a day of boxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu while preparing for the Abu Dhabi fight. Photo courtesy of Tim Leidecker / Control Master Management

“I’m well prepared and I can’t wait to show my skills to the UFC fans in Abu Dhabi and around the world.”

Alan Omer does not lack confidence and little wonder.

When he steps into the cage at UFC Fight Night on Friday in Abu Dhabi, the German fighter of Iraqi origin will be facing one of the less daunting challenges he has had to overcome in his life.

“My father was a paramedic at the border during the Iran-Iraq war,” said Omer, who was born in Erbil in 1988. “He quickly realised that this war was hopeless, so his entire unit dissolved.

“Saddam Hussein wasn’t too happy with that and sentenced all of them to death via a war-crimes tribunal.

“We fled to Yemen and eventually settled down in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1992.”

Today, the 25 year old still lives in south Germany, near the borders of France and Switzerland.

“I was introduced to mixed martial arts [MMA] at the age of 17 by accident after a friend took me to the gym, but I didn’t really get into it until my first fight,” he said.

“After feeling that adrenalin rush and the excitement, I was hooked.

“Right from the beginning I developed good all-round skills for a young fighter. There were different stages of my career where I focused on certain areas like Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling or boxing, but now I would say I am a complete fighter.”

MMA champions Badr Hari, Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva and Genki Sudo have all inspired him, as has the boxer “Prince” Naseem Hamed, as much for his skills as his ability to entertain.

At first, his family were not convinced that fighting was the way forward for Omer, preferring him to pursue a more “honourable” profession.

“My father is a doctor, my uncle is a director at a major TV channel and my cousins all finished their degrees and now work for big oil companies,” he said.

“But like all good parents, mine eventually realised that if they want to see me happy, they will have to allow me to pursue a career in mixed martial arts.”

An agreement was struck. Omer would complete his university degree and, in return, his family would support his dream of becoming a professional fighter.

He did not let them down; both targets were met.

“I like to box. I have good fundamentals and hand speed. I like to work from the clinch – watch out for my knees,” he said.

“On the ground, I have a very good guard and I’m very flexible. While I used to wrestle every weekend in the Landesliga Baden-Wurttemberg, so I got the wrestling fundamentals down as well. I know how to throw and not get thrown. Keep the fight in my comfort zone.”

The highlight of Omer’s career has so far been winning the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts featherweight championship in February 2010, defeating experienced Scotsman Paul Reed by submission.

The past two years have been plagued by injuries, but having recently overcome his long-time top-ranked German nemesis, Dennis Tomzek, in just 63 seconds he believes he is ready to take on any opponent.

“If you want to beat me, you will have to overpower me and beat me down,” Omer said. “I’ve been beaten a few times due to scattiness on my part or controversial judging, but I’ve never been defeated. You’ll have to take my heart if you plan on defeating me.”

Omer’s preparation for his UFC debut in Abu Dhabi has been intense. Two or three sessions a day of boxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu, backed up by a strength and conditioning programme.

“I’ve been working with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts, first-division wrestlers and Olympic boxers, and I’ve also gotten the help of fellow German UFC fighter Peter Sobotta,” he said.

“We’ve just completed a very hard and physical sparring camp with many great fighters from Germany, Austria, Poland and Sweden last week. I can tell you the shark tanks they put me through have been hellish.”

As you would expect for someone who has overcome major odds in his life, Omer has nothing but respect for his opponent at du Arena.

“Jim Alers is a good fighter who has been patiently waiting for his opportunity to fight in the UFC. His main strength is jiu-jitsu, he’s also a good wrestler,” Omer said.

“He’s physically strong and he comes to fight, which should make for a good scrap. Nonetheless, I plan on winning the fight.”

In every sense, Omer has been fighting all his life for a chance to prove himself.

“I’ve been training for the last eight years for this very moment,” he said.

“All the pieces of the puzzle are falling into their place right now and I’m ready to show the world what Alan Omer is all about.”

akhaled@thenational.ae

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