I recently sat down with BJJ brown belt Samir Mrabet who is a professional MMA fighter for ONE Championship and owner of Monarchy MMA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Mrabet owns a 4-0 professional MMA and is coming off a second round arm triangle submission victory over Sami Amin at ONE Championship 37 held in Kuala Lumpur. In addition to being fighting, the Boston born and Belgium raised Mrabet has worked a fashion model and traveled the world modeling and training in martial arts. His parents’ diverse backgrounds were very influential in shaping his work ethic and perspective on life and culture. His maternal grandfather couldn’t read or write, but worked long hours on the construction crews that built the highways in France while raising a family in the Paris ghettos. His father’s side consisted of doctors, scientists, and academics. We share the common bond of both training under Renzo Gracie black belt Shawn Williams, although he trained under Williams in 2008 while I have trained with him since 2012.
How did you first start training in martial arts? I always liked cartoons like Dragon Ball Z and I like to see evolution of each of the characters. I did judo, but inconsistently. I wanted to get into striking so I got into boxing which I did consistently. I went to the same gym where Jean-Claude VanDamme got started. I eventually switched to a gym in Brussels that was more hard core and I enjoyed. Most of the boxers were North African like me. I got beat up for first week because they wanted to test me mentally. From there it went well.
How does a guy who comes from a family of doctors and scientists become a fighter? My whole family is made up of doctors. My grandfather had a medical degree in France, one of first three Algerians to do so. My uncle is a neuroscientist. My father is a Harvard graduate, who does research and teaches at university. My cousins are surgeons. I studied economics. I was lucky that mixed martial arts became big. I was a model for 7 years. I was traveling the world and training wherever I was going. I would spend two to three months at every gym so I developed a style where my defense became very good. I didn’t know what the other guy would do so I developed a style that was defense orientated.
How did you wind up in Malaysia? There was a financial crisis in 2008 in United States so I took a scholarship to study in Germany. After university, I accepted a position as a commercial officer at the Chamber of Commerce in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for exchanges between Malaysia and Southeast Asia. I would still compete in BJJ in gi and nogi competitions. I won the Pan Asians in the as a blue belt. There is a martial arts scene with Muay Thai in Kuala Lumpur and then one ONE FC started and it helped to promote my two gyms.
How did you started Monarchy MMA? There were no BJJ gyms in Kuala Lumpur so I started teaching BJJ at a Muay Thai gym. There was a unit in a kindergartnern building where I put down mats and there were no bags, no pads and as students came in and the school grew, I would add bags. One student saw potential because of the quality of classes and we had fighters getting signed by ONE FC. He suggested I grow gym to larger space and agreed to help finance it.
How do you market a MMA gym in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia? Word of mouth is the best form of promotion. Our members our the best marketing and salespeople. I keep a close look to see why students are or aren’t satisified and ask why if they aren’t satisfied. Satisfied customers tell their friends about our gym.
How do you balance being a coach, fighter, and gym owner? It’s a lot. Some people don’t have much empathy and don’t understand how hard it is. It is very challenging. The trick is to be very present and in the moment. Be very grateful for everything you have. Even if there is a problem, I am still grateful to have the problem because a few years ago I had nothing.
I left Malaysia and then came back with only $2,000 in my pocket. My first business, an export business didn’t work. I rented a room that was very humid and ghetto and went from being lucky once, to twice, and went with the opportunity. Sometimes you can’t think, you just have to go for it. Rich Franklin said you have three choices; a good decision, a bad decision, and the worst choice is indecision. I always made option one or two. I try to surround myself with good people, when you are only around good people you can only do good. I am surrounded by good people including my team of coaches, training partners and students at my gym.
There is two things i always say : “alone we go fast, together we go far.” And “real entrepreneurs jump from a cliff and make a plane on the way down.”
Samir’s recent victory over Sami Amin
Samir vs former UFC and Bellator fighter Roger Huerta in BJJ Match in Thailand
This guy is a pansy who stalked his girlfriend non stop while he was in America trying to fit in at team quest. I’m glad she said no to his proposal. What a psycho. I’m glad his girl left him for that big black guy.