Sensei Fidaah Edries’ greatest ambition is to develop female MMA champions on the African continent to empower the next generation.
The Fighterz Inc MMA and Wellness Academy gym owner has dedicated his life to develop better humans in communities around South Africa.
The Cape Town-based combat sport coach was recently selected to join the Mixed Martial Arts South Africa subcommittee to fulfil the role of Western Cape MMA Sports Development Officer.
In his new role, he hopes to spike the popularity of the sport, especially amongst the youth as he believes that Mixed Martial Arts builds both mental and physical strength.
Having cut his teeth in various martial art disciplines over the years, Edries is passionate about passing on his knowledge and skills as he proudly reveals some of the youth who have under his guidance gone on to become personal trainers.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Edries chats about developing the women’s side of the sport in South Africa and highlights of his career to date.
Fidaah, thank you so much for taking time out for gsport! For those who aren’t aware of your work in sport, please elaborate on what it is that you do.
I have a gym called Fighterz Inc MMA and Wellness Academy. We started off helping the youth, doing Martial Arts as an intervention. They started performing well and then requested to be part of the sport professionally…That was a lightbulb moment for me. I started looking for premises, I left my previous job with an NGO and combined my love for sports and human development to structure my gym.
“Our goal is to develop good athletes, good champions and better human beings through Martial Arts.” – Fighterz Inc MMA and Wellness Academy gym owner, Fidaah Edries
So, we focus on youth development through Martial Arts, we are also open to males or females from adults to kids in MMA, self-defence classes and general classes as well, all geared towards bringing out confidence in each person, and health benefits both mental and physical.
Our goal is to develop good athletes, good champions and better human beings through Martial Arts.
Please tell us about your journey in Mixed Martial Arts and where your passion for the sport developed.
My journey into Martial Arts was sparked by my late father – Abdallah Edries. He used to watch boxing on Friday nights at around 10pm when everyone else would be going to sleep and I would be the only child (we are 6 siblings) that would be up watching boxing with him all the time.
So, as a child about 12, 13-years-old, I found it very interesting. I fell in love with combat sports! I asked around to join a gym but back then there weren’t any around Woodstock. But as a child I didn’t make much effort to really find one and there was no Google on our phones (laughs).
At 26, that was when I managed to find a muay thai gym and my passion grew from there, leading me to open my own gym six years ago.
We know that you were recently selected to join the Mixed Martial Arts South Africa subcommittee to fulfil the role of Western Cape MMA Sports Development Officer. What are you expected to do in your new position?
“Just to all get involved, no one has to have contact or fight but learning the skills that I believe is empowering for every person.” – Edries encourages people of all ages to learn the basic skills of Mixed Martial Arts.
This position allows me to develop the sport of MMA in the Western Cape, to grow the awareness of it as well and to enlighten people that it is not cage fighting. Yes, it was first portrayed as cage fighting but now it is a discipline, it is a Martial Art, it’s a sport. From my side, I want to encourage all gyms to register with MMASA to prove that they are legit gyms, to ensure that they are fully affiliated, have qualified coaches training everyone and then motivate our people in the communities to join those gyms in their areas for either self-defence, training, fitness, exercising, confidence-building like I mentioned previously…Just to all get involved, no one has to have contact or fight but learning the skills that I believe is empowering for every person.
We have noticed that you are involved in developing female athletes in the sport. What is the state of the women’s side of MMA in South Africa?
I would say that the pro female MMA is very low in South Africa. There are a handful of females taking part in the sport, so more females need to be encouraged to get involved in the sport and developing towards pro level. Also, I believe that the perception that MMA is a male-only sport needs to be changed because it is for everyone. So, that needs to be spoken of more, so that women know that they are welcome and can do as well as their male counterparts.
I believe that female fighters need to be focussed on, they need to be taken seriously and coaches should have a development plan in place for them to get to the next level. Things like working towards amateur championships and then growing to pro level with enough experience under their belt.
What is currently being done to grow the sport?
We are encouraging MMASA to motivate all gyms to register with the organisation and then of course with that they will then be included in all of our developments. So, we support local promotions nationally to host events, female fighters included. In terms of the MMASA Championships, we have the provincial champs that include Western Cape, Gauteng, Durban (KwaZulu-Natal) coming up in March and the winners from there will fight in the SA National MMA Championships in April.
So, there are opportunities available where fighters have a platform, it is merely up to communities or gyms to include it into their programmes and register with SAMMA. That’s what we need to drive.
Please tell us about the female athletes that you are working with.
Regards to female athletes, I am working with Fouzia Roberts (boxing, kickboxing, muay thai), Mishka Slamang (boxer), Zubeida Hendricks (boxing, kickboxing, muay thai, MMA), Kristen Clarke (muay thai), Sarah Fish (MMA) and Roxanne du Randt (MMA).
Apart from MMA helping the youth to be active, what else does it teach them?
The benefits for the youth is that it firstly teaches them to be off their phones and social media, which has taken over the lives of our young ones. It also teaches them to interact with others, so that’s the social skills aspect of the sport, building relationships, they learn to have discipline as well as time management, they learn to dress a certain way to respect not only themselves but the environment that they are in.
The structure that we have in place teaches them the value of hard work and determination. And, it teaches them to work towards their goals in life.
What projects have you been involved in that you regard as highlights in your career?
Working with the youth, especially the disadvantaged youth and providing them with training to eventually seeing them finding confidence in themselves with the skills that they have acquired. I think that is a highlight.
Another is being head coach to the current EFC Bantamweight World Champion, that was a highlight winning the belt two years ago. Last year, another fighter of mine – Terence Balelo – became the SA Flyweight MMA champion, so that’s another highlight.
Also, one of the youth that I had been working with is now a personal trainer. Based on the skills that he had learned he is actually now a coach as well. That what I established the gym for, to build better humans through Martial Arts.
What advice would you give to youngsters who are looking to get involved in the sport?
Just do it! There’s a lot of hype around MMA and a lot of observers, but I would like to encourage all youth to try it out, train, you don’t have to fight but learn the skills because it is very empowering, learning the discipline in the Martial Art and like I said previously, just being on that progression path builds confidence as you see yourself moving towards your goals.
What is your greatest ambition?
Would be to develop a female UFC champion from Africa. With that being said, she should be a role model to other young ladies, she should be a spokesperson about women empowerment and building women’s confidence overall.
Photo 1 Caption: Fighterz Inc MMA and Wellness Academy gym owner, Fidaah Edries, pictured with his MMA star, Sarah Fish, in training. Photo: Supplied
Photo 2 Caption: Fidaah Edries pictured outside his Fighterz Inc MMA and Wellness Academy gym. Photo: Supplied
Photo 3 Caption: Six years ago, Fidaah Edries open his own gym, Fighterz Inc MMA and Wellness Academy and has improved the lives of many around Cape Town. Photo: Supplied
Photo 4 Caption: Fidaah Edries is passionate about developing female Mixed Martial Arts champions to create role models for other young ladies in communities around South Africa. Photo: Supplied