They say you can learn a lot more from how an athlete reacts in defeat than you ever will in victory.
Proving that point is Pakistan’s Ahmed “The Wolverine” Mujtaba (8-1), who is determined to make sure his recent setback inside the ONE Championship cage is a catalyst for future success.
The last time Mujtaba was seen in action, he was submitted by Malaysian star Keanu Subba in the opening round of their featherweight matchup at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS in February.
After heading into the bout on the back of six successive victories, it was a major bump in an otherwise smooth road towards championship contention for the 24-year-old.
While some young athletes would struggle to cope with the sting of a maiden loss on such a big stage, Mujtaba has taken a philosophical, mature approach to defeat, and vows to come back a better martial artist as a result.
“Loss is sweet,” he said. “It is sometimes better to feel that. You come to know that you have to work harder and harder.
“I have learned many things, and now I have more dedication and hunger for this sport.”
Mujtaba’s martial arts career is still very much in its infancy. He made his professional debut only four and a half years ago, as a young prospect in a Pakistani scene that was still finding its feet. As such, money was hard to come by, and the rewards for success were few.
“For a moment, it was sad,” he recalls. “But I was doing this for the growth of martial arts in Pakistan.
“My goal was to compete in ONE Championship, so I did not pay much attention to money. My milestone was ONE Championship, not money.”
“The Wolverine” achieved that aim in short order, making his ONE Championship debut in just his sixth pro bout, defeating Evolve MMA product Benedict Ang via unanimous decision at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in November 2016.
“It was always my dream to compete in ONE Championship,” he said.
“When I was walking out to the cage, I was so happy and excited that my dream had come true. And with the win, I earned respect for my people and my country.”
His pride in his country and his desire to see martial arts grow in Pakistan is clear to see. While some compete for titles, glory, or financial reward, Mujtaba’s aim is one that’s far greater than himself.
To that end, he’s looking to help usher in the next generation of Pakistani martial arts stars through his gym, as well as acting as a national standard-bearer for the sport back home.
“Martial arts’ growth in Pakistan is still increasing gradually,” he explained.
“After my debut win in ONE Championship, everyone came to know who ‘The Wolverine’ is and what type of sport this was. We had a lot of students enrolled in the gym.
“Apart from this, per year we have three to four martial arts events with athletes from all across Pakistan who come and showcase their skills. There are some really good athletes who are working hard.”
There’s no better endorsement for a sport than a national superstar achieving success on the global stage, and Mujtaba’s latest opportunity to showcase his skills comes at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT on 24 November, when he takes on China’s Li Kai Wen (6-3) at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The Quetta native says he holds all the aces when you stack up the relative skillsets of both men. And he says that, despite his defeat last time out, he’ll jump back into the ONE Championship cage with no fear, and deliver a performance to remember.