The first private Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) club, that can rival international facilities, has opened in Afghanistan's capital Kabul.
Sputnik Afghanistan talked to Baz Mohammad Mobarez, the chairman of the Mixed Martial Arts Federation of Afghanistan and the owner of the facility, about the emergence of this martial art in the county.
"Mixed Martial Arts appeared in Afghanistan in 2008. At first it was underground, and then after a year we were registered as an official type of sport," he told Sputnik.
The official status gives the budding fighters the chance to take part in Asian cup competitions, he said.
The club is located in the center of Kabul and has around 500 fighters. Training started in 2009. Back in 2012, there were about 50 similar sport sections in Kabul and about 25 – in the country's provinces. Nowadays, there are between two to five similar clubs in every Afghan province, he said.
Baz Mohammad Mobarez also noted that despite being a relatively new type of sport in his country, Afghan MMA fighters have done well in international competitions.
"Dozens of fighters have been fighting in foreign competitions and have returned with very good results. Sir Bahador Zade lives in Holland but fights for Afghanistan and always gets good results. Vali Jan Hutak will soon go to compete in Tajikistan. Mir Agha Mobarez and Azim Badakhshi are also well known to the international public, which always welcomes them warmly," the owner said.
"Everyone thinks that Afghanistan is only about narcotics and terrorists. However sport and MMA are gradually changing these perceptions. The world starts looking differently at Afghanistan," Baz Mohammad Mobarez said.
Sport helps young people to abandon narcotics, has a positive impact on their work, cheers them up, improves their physical condition, their family lives and helps them to re-orient to healthy competition, he concluded.