Overcoming war and heartbreak — The true story of the Sudan team competing for MMA glory at the African Games
Overcoming war and heartbreak — The true story of the Sudan team competing for MMA glory at the African Gamesa month ago
By James Sweetnam

Born into a politically volatile and often war-torn Sudan, surrounded by violence, two noble athletes have risen from the depths of tragedy to represent their beloved country in MMA at the African Games 2023, as the sport makes its debut on the continental Olympic platform under GAMMA.

A civil war between two rival factions of the military government of Sudan, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) under Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) (known and commonly referred to as the Janjaweed, the militia) under Hemedti, began during Ramadan on April 15, 2023. By December 29, over 8 million were internally displaced, with millions more fleeing the country for safety and seeking refuge elsewhere.

Tragically, nearly a year on, the harrowing violence has resulted in an untold tragedy of global significance, yet the world isn’t paying attention. The lives of the Sudanese have been absolutely devastated beyond repair. There is no longer an airport in Khartoum as it was destroyed. There are no schools, no hospitals, no markets, no banks, no media - nothing.

The city of Khartoum, Omdurman, which was home to 20 million, has been left as a pile of rubble – food is scarce, and every hour is a fight for the survival of its people with thousands of lives lost because of a war the two rival armies decided to inflict on its people. There is death, loss and devastation everywhere. Sudanese Civilians, men, women and children have been killed in a war that they wanted no part of, with rape, torture, and home invasions all commonplace.

The devastating circumstances are nothing short of horrifying, with bantamweight, Mojahed Mohamedelhassan (Merghani Ahmed) and lightweight, Mossab Elfadil Abdelgadir (Mohamedali), feeling the full force of the horrific scenes that have swept the African nation, fleeing their country with the clothes on their back and very little else,
desperate to escape war and find safety for their families over the borders in surrounding countries.

However, despite their undeniably difficult situation, the two fighters have shown remarkable heart and determination, exhibiting incredible bravery to never give up on their dreams despite dealing with the heartbreak of watching their beloved country go through a reality that most couldn’t fathom.

With the situation in Sudan sadly a long way from any foreseeable resolution, the two warriors have settled in Qatar, where they have dedicated their lives to becoming athletes capable of uniting a nation.

Under the mentorship and guidance of Faisal Abubaker, the President of the Sudan Federation of Muay Thai and MMA, and his wife Caitalin Abubaker, the young competitors have a pair of coaches who care for them in a way that most never could.
Not only are they bonded by their love for the sport, but by a shared experience in war, giving them a connection that no amount of money could possibly ever buy.

Abubaker explained: “As we Sudanese know, the past months of war in Sudan have been horrific for us all to deal with. We are all struggling with the realities of war! I have lost four family members, and my family is fighting to survive each day until I can get them out to me and my wife in Qatar. It’s an immense pressure that even I, who can handle a lot of struggles, has found hard!

“But the Sudan Federation of Muay Thai is stronger and more determined than ever to keep striving forward for Sudan Muay Thai and to continue to develop, grow and create opportunities for young Sudanese fighters to represent their country on the world stage.

“After a very hard year for all our team, our fighters, trainers, coaches and everyone’s families in Sudan, the Sudan Federation of Muay Thai is now permanently based in Qatar and we are working hard to create an active year ahead for our fighters who are now scattered to safer places! We will hope that we can continue in this sport and have the opportunity to compete at international tournaments in 2024! We are united in our trauma and hope for the future through our sport, and need to work together to train fiercely to represent our war-torn country and home! We have to stand up and show the world that we Sudanese are stronger, we are resilient and have
heart and courage that few understand! We will come back to competition stronger and better than ever! We will work with our athletes from where they are now living and training, as they are very scattered from fleeing war to various countries like Egypt, Qatar and UAE.”

An emotional official statement from the Sudan Federation added: “Our strong and courageous fighters are in Akkra, Ghana, ready to compete at the GAMMA Africa Championships and represent themselves, their families, and the federation, but first and foremost, to represent their devastated and war-torn country and homeland of
Sudan.

“Our boys, their families, and millions upon millions of Sudanese people have been through it all this past year of war, with infinite numbers of lost and destroyed lives. The courage these boys have and the sacrifices they’ve made are beyond comprehension. They have lost everything. The fact that they still continue to train with everything they have, which is nothing but heart and soul, constantly brings me to tears. Through fighting in the ring, they show the world that Sudan and its people are stronger than any militia and war that has devastated their lives.”

Embodying courage, resilience, and an inspiring ability to continue to strive towards their goals no matter the size of the hurdles placed in front of them, the two martial artists have proved themselves as not only incredible competitors but men the next generation of Sudanese fighters can look at as a beacon of hope to show them that anything is possible.

Abubaker concluded: “Please take time to understand that Sudan Federation of Muay Thai and MMA is not funded by any government or department. We can only strive forward for our team and federation members through fundraising and financial sponsorship. My wife Caitalin and I can only afford to fund so much ourselves when we are trying to look after our own families in Sudan – and get them out!

“This limits the opportunities that we can provide for our team. If you would like to contribute and sponsor our federation’s journey to provide for our fighters in any way, to help them with the opportunity to compete in their sport in regional and international tournaments – to ensure they have a future in the sport, it would be gratefully received and humbly appreciated – Please contact Caitalin Abubaker on WhatsApp +974 33680155 to discuss further how you may be able to help and contribute to the year ahead for our team and federation.”