Egypt’s Ahmed Samir won the bronze medal in Men’s Sanda 90+ division at the 2023 16th World Wushu Championships, becoming the only male athlete from Africa to medal at the event. Even more remarkably, living in New York City, he joined the Egyptian team only two months before the WWC, heroically stepping in to fight on very short notice when other fighters were denied visas. The win mirrored his victory from ten years earlier, when he also won a bronze sanda medal at the World Wushu Championships in 2013. In tandem with his sanda career, as he developed as a multi-talented martial arts athlete, Samir also became an Egyptian boxing champion in his division, and was chosen as a member of the Egyptian Olympic Boxing team. He has as well been a champion MMA fighter, and has recently begun to do marathons. As Samir continues to train and compete in sanda and boxing, he is now also a successful model in NYC, and continues to inspire his 189K followers on Instagram.

Sanda Beginnings in Egypt

Samir, 39 years old, hails originally from Alexandria, Egypt. He recalls, “I was 12 years old when I first discovered sanda, I started training with my cousin, Amr Ashour, who was the champion of my city. I loved every moment of training with him, it was so much fun, and let me release all my energy built up from the stress of my life at home and at school. I was in love with the sport of sanda.”

Samir started fighting in sanda at an early age, and his fighting career would take on a unique trajectory. “My first sanda competition was crazy,” he recalls. “I started training with Rabi Gamil, a former sanda world champion in 48kg. I was required to lose so much weight but I had no knowledge of how to safely lose a large amount in a short time, as I was so young. The process up until the fight was harder than the fight itself, but I worked hard and came in first place. When I went home and told everyone, nobody believed me! After beginning to train for sanda, I also started pursuing my interest in boxing, and became number one in Egypt for my division. They then chose me to fight for the Egyptian Boxing Olympic team in 2001. Over the years as a boxer, I continued fighting in sanda, winning nationals junior and senior all by knockouts.”

First World Championships Medal

Samir fought in his first World Wushu Championships in 2013, in Malaysia. “The experience was great,” he says. “But I took a bronze medal, because after fracturing my face during the fight I was not able to continue competing in the finals.” Adding to the pressure in Malaysia, Samir had to mostly train for the WWC from New York City, where he had moved to six years earlier. “I went from New York back to Egypt three months before the tournament,” he recalls. “I tried to do my best while training, even though the last sanda tournament I had competed in was in 2005. The training was hard in the beginning but over time I got back to where I was. I learned from the experience that it doesn’t matter who you fight, you must mentally be focused during every second.”

Despite challenges, Samir found the 13th WWC experience a positive one. “The traveling and training in the 2013 tournament was great,” he recalls. “We were always sharing ideas and techniques, and the trainer of the senior team, Hussen Abdelmwagod, taught me a lot in a short amount of time. He was one of my favorite trainers I have ever worked with. Plus my team was extremely supportive, all being world champions and having earned many medals.”

Stepping in to Save the Day

Fast forward to 2023. Samir was still living in New York, with a successful career in modeling as a day job, and a continuing boxing and MMA career. Some wushu teams experienced visa issues for the 16th World Wushu Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, including the Egyptian team. When the Egyptian Wushu Federation found out many of their athletes could not receive visas in time for the event, they immediately called Samir in New York, and asked if he would fight in the 16th WWC. “I was notified 2 months before the fight and accepted,” he says. “During my training, I got injured 2 weeks before the tournament and did not think I would be able to fight. Somehow, after talking to my team and trainer, I started feeling better day after day and made it to the tournament in Texas.”

Samir would wind up fighting opponent Nursultan Tursynkulov from Kazakstan to get to the medal podium. “Nursultan is a really strong fighter but technique wise, I am much better,” Samir remarks. “Unfortunately with the injury and short preparation time, I was not able to fight to my full ability. My team was still very happy that I was able to fight at the last minute and it meant a lot for me on behalf of Egypt. I want to make my friends, family, and country proud.”

A decade after he first stepped up on the medal podium in Malaysia, Samir’s training experience for the WWC was also different. “The 2023 tournament happened for me in a short amount of time and I was not able to train with the Egyptian team,” he says. “I felt very far away, training alone in New York. I had to leave my job and family in order to train and travel for the fight but I am glad I was a part of this world championship and got a bronze medal. With the support of my trainer, Mouhgob, and my teammates I was able to achieve this.”

Sanda, Boxing, MMA and Modeling

Reflecting on his sanda experiences, Samir observes, “The heavyweight class is a big crowd favorite in any competition because it is fun to watch huge guys fighting each other. You still need to have skill in order to fight and cannot just rely on your build. I was smaller than most of the guys but my skill and hard work paid off. I am friends with a lot of international sanda athletes and with my opponents. When we aren’t competing we are friends but it makes the fight harder. I would rather be fighting a stranger. But the best part is meeting people from all over the world from different cultures and religions. You learn all different techniques and advice. It’s a memorable and wonderful experience getting 2 medals in the world championships 10 years apart. Imagine if I had more time to train, I would have become a legend in sanda.”

Regardless, Samir’s parallel career in boxing has been deeply impressive. “I was a part of the Olympic team,” he says, “and I have fought 295 amateur fights, 195 fights internationally, I was the best fighter in Africa 2007 in the African Games, I ranked number 3 in the world as an amateur fighter, I had 16 professional fights, and fought for a NABA golden heavyweight title. There is a big difference between boxing and sanda, as they require two different trainings. The basics may be the same but not the overall sport. As for my MMA career – I won a Ring of Combat belt in 2017 at 185 pounds.”

Samir has lived in New York for 17 years, settled there with his family, and continues to train in his portfolio of combat sports. “I train in New York where I have a team that I work with in sanda, boxing, and kickboxing. My coach is Michael Olajide Jr. who is a former world champion in boxing and my friend, Tamer, is a former world champion in sanda who works with me; and for conditioning, I train with Karim Hawash, a wrestling world champion and Ronaldo Arana.” He adds, smiling, “The biggest challenge for me is training consistently on top of my work and my beautiful four kids that keep me busy.”

Samir may be the only sanda champion medalist who is also a highly successful fashion model, a career which happened organically through a friend in the business. “I moved to New York in 2007,” Samir explains, “after having a really hard time in Egypt due to politics and corruption in the boxing world. I decided to become a professional in the United States. It has been a great journey and I’m glad I am here. My modeling career started when I went to one of my good friend’s fashion events. He was the owner of The Confessional Showroom. He set me up with a modeling agency and my career grew from there by signing with Soul Artist Management.” For fun, Samir adds, “I love being in nature, traveling, and watching movies.”

Looking Ahead with a Golden Dream

While Samir is kept busy with training, work and family, he is happy with the twist of fate that brought his sanda career full circle in Fort Worth for not only a second bronze medal, but also to reconnect with the Egyptian Sanda Team. He looks back on the years since he first began competing in sanda in Egypt and his first world championships event in 2013. “There’s been a big change and development in the sport of sanda,” he notes. “Now Egypt is competing with the best in the world and we now have a couple of world champions. In the future, I think Egyptian fighters will be able to compete against China if they keep going in this direction.” As far as MMA goes, Samir believes that sanda skills will dramatically improve any fighter, and says, “I also think sanda is the best foundation for MMA fighters. It was really hard for MMA fighters to spar/train with me. I was much better than them in my reaction, speed, and technique.”

Looking back on his sanda career, Samir reflects, “Sanda impacted my life, as the sport for me was therapy, helping to heal myself from my hard childhood. I felt appreciated by everyone around me and it made me so happy to see people proud of me. I want to compete in the next Sanda World Cup in Australia. I did a lot but I want to finish my career with a gold medal in the competition. I am so excited for this event, I am going to train hard and get a gold medal. With more time to prepare, I am aiming to knock out the three guys and win.”

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