Coach Fidaah Edries opens up about his journey in MMA and its role in uplifting the community.
COMPILED BY JADE CARA│CAPE TOWN
In the August of 2019, a small gym from Cape Town took the EFC by storm as it saw one of its fighters clench the Bantamweight World Mma Title at the EFC Worldwide Professional Mma tournament. At present, the gym is currently home to the Flyweight MMASA champion for the second consecutive year. Stepping outside of the ring, behind all these sensational feats, we find the man responsible for orchestrating it all, Sensei Fidaah Edries, head coach and founder of the Fighterz Inc. MMA and Wellness Academy.
Fidaah grew up in Woodstock and spent much of his early years assisting his late father, Abdullah Edries, who was actively involved in his community and helping the less fortunate. This peaked Fidaah’s interest in humanitarian work, and motivated him to obtain his Honours in Psychology. As a qualified therapist, Fidaah was particularly interested in youth development, to which he has dedicated the past 15 years of his life.
“Our goal is to develop better human beings”
Whilst working at an NGO – the Mustadafin Foundation in 2014 as the Youth and Mental Health Manager, Fidaah was called to take on the role of teacher when asked to relay his knowledge of kickboxing to the children at the centre. This incident led to the inception of Fighterz Inc. as Fidaah realised that MMA could be instrumental to empowerment of troubled youths.
Fidaah was first introduced to boxing at the age of 10 and fondly recollects on moments spent with his father watching boxing matches together. Growing up, Fidaah had always had an affinity with sport, making him an adaptable athlete. In order to broaden his Martial arts repertoire, Fidaah trained at four different gyms attempting to master the respective disciplines.
He would eventually integrate the skills he acquired to carefully craft his own unique style at Fighterz Inc.
In order to develop the most dynamic fighters, Coach Fidaah continuously adds to his knowledge of the sport and currently receives wrestling and jiu-jitsu lessons from coaches Hayden Abrahams, Erfaan Jacobs and Professor Mogamad Salie respectively.
Much like the start-ups of Apple, Disney and Amazon, Fighter Inc.’s first classes were held in Fidaah’s garage. “When I started out, we didn’t have much and many of the student’s I trained could not afford to purchase their own equipment,” Fidaah explains. In order to overcome this issue, Fidaah hosted a fundraising bootcamp. The event was a huge success with over 80 individuals attending. Of these, four youngsters requested to enter a tournament and, with minimal but effective training, all four of the youngsters successfully won their matches. This provided Fidaah with the momentum needed to take on coaching full time and cemented confidence in his ability to produce champions.
“Respect. Discipline. Commitment.”
The foundation on which Fidaah’s dojo was built consists of 3 pillars; respect (for oneself and others), discipline (the willpower to persevere) and commitment (understanding that success is a continuous process that happens every day). These three words form the gym’s motto and fighters are required to repeat them after each class, thus reinforcing the gym’s core principles.
The prevalence of crime in the Cape Flats is something the city has become notorious for, it therefore comes as no surprise that Cape Town was ranked as the 8th most violent city in the world (Business Insider, 2020). This is the reality facing many South African’s, with cities such as Johannesburg, Durban and Nelson Mandela Bay not lagging far behind.
Some may question whether MMA is an appropriate means of uplifting the community given South Africa’s violent context. Would we not be aggravating an already volatile situation by teaching the youth to fight? To this Coach Fidaah responded with an emphatic no, further stating that, “There is a misconception that MMA promotes violence giving it a rather unfair reputation – the time spent inside the ring, where the actual fighting takes place, is miniscule when compared to the months of mental and physical training leading up to the fight.”
In a literal sense, MMA teaches you get up when you’ve been knocked down better than any other sport. The reality is that life is inherently filled with trials and hardships, to which there is often no ‘easy’ way out. However, obstacles are opportunities to build character through hard work. At Fidaah’s dojo, he hopes to equip his pupils with the skills and attitude necessary to overcome these hardships.
MMA also teaches the youth about the value of teamwork; members help one another train and share in each other’s victories and defeats. The scope of this training extends far beyond the physical gym as attendees are forced to think beyond themselves at an individual level, by considering the impact of their actions and how they can help others. Fidaah describes his approach to coaching as ‘holistic training’, with the end goal of developing better human beings.
While the gym has certainly churned out its fair share of champions, it isn’t all tournaments and belts at Fighterz Inc. The gym hosts a variety of programs ranging from its anti-bullying campaign for kids to the self-defence classes for women. As of 2014, Interpol has dubbed South Africa the ‘Rape Capital of the World’. It is unfortunate that MMA is now being taken up as a precautionary measure in response to this crisis. “We want people to learn martial arts, but it is disheartening that it is under these circumstances,” Fidaah explains. Nevertheless, Fighterz Inc. is proud to play its role in empowering women against the scourge of sexual assault and gender-based violence that plagues our country. Women’s self-defence classes are hosted by up-and-coming MMA athlete, Sarah Fish, every Friday.
Fighterz Inc. is currently home to the two time Flyweight SA Champion, Terence Balelo, who attributes much of his success to Coach Fidaah’s teachings saying, “He’s called ‘Mastermind’ for a reason.” Fidaah states that his vision for the future is shared with UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, which is to bring the UFC to Africa.
Coach Fidaah Edries
2nd Dan Blackbelt in Kickboxing
Kru in Muay thai
Pro striking coach
Performance Coach Therapist