Born and raised in Baton Rouge Louisiana, Abdulkareem moved to Jordan in 2009 with his family as he was entering high school. They lived there for 8 years, during which Abdulkareem finished high school and graduated from college as well.
After this, Abdulkareem moved to Irving with the help of his brother-in-law, Shaykh Omar Suleiman. Shaykh Omar helped Abdulkareem to get set up and adjust back to life in America.
Abdulkareem didn’t know anyone here, but with Shaykh Omar’s help he was able to use his experience and expertise as one of the top MMA fighters in the Middle East to start coaching Muslims in Irving in MMA and self-defence classes. He has his own program at his gym, as well as classes in the area at places like Valley Ranch Masjid, Islamic schools, and more.
“I believe it’s very important for Muslims to learn self-defence, especially the youth,” he says.
One of the reasons Abdulkareem started coaching self-defence and MMA in Irving is his niece. “She had an issue with bullying at school,” he explains. “Once I started to teach her, her siblings and cousins also wanted to learn and soon I just decided to open it up to everyone.”
Abdulkareem does all this while building his professional fighting career. He is currently 10-2 in the Brave Combat Federation, the largest MMA league in the Middle East.
“It took a lot of hard work to get to my position,” he says. “When I was 16, I was training every single day. In the span of a year and a half, I went from fighting as an amateur youth to fighting as a professional adult. When I was 17, I was fighting grown men 9-11 years older than me.”
“In my college years in Jordan, I used to spend my whole salary from my job to pay for my taxi going and coming back to the gym. To be able to afford my own punching bag, I didn’t go to the gym for a whole month. After I got that, I trained every day, 3 times a day. My gloves were so old that my fingers would be popping out. These early memories help me to stay humble.”
Abdulkareem has some advice for anyone seeking success. “If you want to be successful, achieve success for yourself, not for others. I have a lot of people that support and cheer for me, and also people who try to take me down, but I don’t let any of that bother me. I do this because I want to do it and I really have a lot of joy doing it.”
I always tell people do what makes you happy, I know a lot of people that are working jobs that pay them but they hate it, and also some that are not making that much money but they really enjoy what they’re doing.
My advice to the youth is to find whatever it is you like and follow it. I did all that hard work and pursued my career while still going to University and getting my degree. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a professional athlete, but I didn’t let that stop me from getting my education.”
Many people struggle with finding what they want to do. Abdulkareem speaks from personal experience: “You may not always know what you want to do exactly, and neither did I. All I knew was that I wanted to be a professional athlete. I tried so many different sports, and even when I got into fighting I didn’t start with MMA. First I got into kickboxing, then Muay Thai, and then I found exactly what I loved.
I would say find a direction that you like most, and then shoot in that direction. That will lead you into many categories, then you shoot again and again. Try different things and see what you like and don’t like.
Anything you pick is not going to be easy, but the difference is when it gets tough, you will be able to enjoy it if it’s truly something you love. I realized that fighting was for me when I was training hard and fighting and I saw others were struggling but I was having the time of my life.
I believe everyone has something they are inclined to, but you have to fight through laziness and excuses and pursue your passions.”
While Abdulkareem is achieving success and gaining popularity, he has a message for those who see the glamour of influencer life on social media.
“Don’t trust everything you see on Instagram. There are a lot of famous influencers that I know personally that are not living the life that they show on social media. A lot of people are jealous and wish to be like them, but trust me what you see is not true. If it is, then they are usually not happy. It’s just all a big scam.”
“It’s very important to me to be a good role model,” says Abdulkareem. “I’m sure you’ve seen the influence Muslim fighters like Khabib have on people and how it can bring positive change. I always try to use my platform to teach people about Islam, make sujood and dua on camera, and spread motivation and love.
When I meet other professional Muslim fighters, it’s always a feeling of mutual respect, even if we don’t speak the same language. We know the hard work and dedication it takes to get to this level and the discipline you need to be a good role model and Muslim.”