He’s an Egyptian, a chef, a model, a political science graduate, and one of the most determined fighters since Muhammed Ali.
When you grow up, son, God willing, you will be a doctor or an engineer is a very common expression that most young Egyptians are used to hearing from their parents. As if there isn’t anything else in the world that could possibly make you a worthy child! But as usual, you rebel (if you can even call it that) and pursue whatever career path you have your heart set on, telling yourself that if you fail, you would have failed doing the one thing you love. One such rebel is American-born Egyptian Omar Youssef Soltan who is making a career out of professionally kicking ass (I mean Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)) despite having studied Political Science and working as a chef.
“I started wrestling when I moved back to the States in high school,” Soltan begins, “I fell in love with combat sports and decided to dedicate my time to Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing.” It’s been four years since Soltan dedicated his existence to MMA and is now paving the way to playing professionally. “I treat my amateur career as a pro career. I easily train four hours a day,” he says. “If I didn’t have a full time job, I would be sleeping in the gym. Everyone who knows me knows where to find me!” Soltan's demeanour is reminiscent of Mohammad Ali's, where determination, passion, and an utter rejection of failure dictate each and every day of his life. “I’m going to be a world champion one day,” Soltan asserts. “That’s where I see myself in this industry. I just work hard and leave the rest to God to take care of my path. Whatever is written, I’ll be more than happy with it. But, I’m not expecting anything less.”As we all wallow away in our sorrows and count mustering the willpower to get up from the couch as a victory, Soltan finishes work everyday and fits in an intense training session to keep him in shape and to prepare for the next fight. “I was once 246lbs, so food is life,” he shares. “[MMA] is a great workout, it keeps you in shape all year round… I take my anger out on the pads and bags. My gym is my sanctuary.” On June the 9th, Soltan is fighting to take the title in full rules Muay Thai in Madison Square, New York - one of the nation’s most prominent arenas. “You win, you rise in the rankings, and you aim for the title. I will turn Madison Square into el talta shemal,” Soltan says confidently. “And from there I’ll just keep winning until we get the gold. I’m a pharaoh and, us pharaohs, we really like our gold.”If you’re curious as to whatever happened to the Egyptian parent mindset of succeeding in a total of three professions, well, it’s still there. While Soltan’s father has been incredibly supportive and believed in his son’s talent, his mother quite typically has concerns about his well-being. “Of course being a mother - not only a mother, but an Egyptian mother - makes everything really dramatic,” Soltan says. And quite evidently, she does not fully grasp the idea of her son’s physical ability. “With all this training, I still can’t dodge her shebsheb skills,” he confesses humorously. “I can dodge punches and kicks, but not that secret weapon!” The determination for Soltan doesn’t stop at earning belts and medals when competing in championships. It doesn’t stop at crowd cheering and celebratory parties, either. Ultimately, our MMA cognoscenti has his heart set on establishing a Martial Arts school in Egypt to scout young talents and sponsor those who aren’t capable to live their dream. “We know how the situation can be back home… Young ones can use their anger on something else, instead of getting caught up in the streets and its problems,” Soltan says passionately. “I treat my life like a fight. Life throws curve balls at you and obstacles. You have to learn to overcome and keep pushing towards your dreams. These obstacles are like my opponent, I won’t show weakness or defeat. You can’t panic and give up. Just can’t put yourself in the bag and expect to let it all go. Confidence is the key, if one lacks that than you already lost half the battle…Vision too, to me that’s the most important thing. Envision yourself in the greatest form and it will all fall into place in due time,” Soltan concludes. Follow Omar Soltan's journey on Instagram.