ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Kurdish Kickboxing and Muay Thai champion says he wants to one day develop projects in the Kurdistan Region to give aspiring fighters in the region a chance to realize their dreams.
Born and raised in the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani Province, 26-year-old Ali Qaradaghy has had a passion for the combat sport since a young age, beginning his professional Kickboxing career in 2005.
“When I was 11-years-old, I played all sports,” Qaradaghy tells Kurdistan 24. “At the time, I loved martial arts, but there was no opportunity to pursue the sport as there were no martial arts schools or gyms in my city.”
In 2005, at the age of 13, the Kurdish athlete began training at a local gym in his hometown of Darbandikhan where he would eventually go on to win the Kurdistan Kickboxing championship in 2009.
Two years later, in 2011, he represented the Iraqi national team where he placed first in the country for four years in a row.
In April 2014, Qaradaghy went to Moscow to begin wrestling, but it was not until he traveled to Thailand in July of that same year where his journey to becoming a Muay Thai champion began.
Kickboxing and Muay Thai are very similar combat sports, but there are some differences.
Kickboxing utilizes what is called a four-point striking system which is restricted to punches and kicks. Muay Thai, on the other hand, utilizes an eight-point striking system (punches, kicks, knees, and elbows).
“I started wrestling while in Moscow, and one day while at a library to check out some books I discovered one on Muay Thai. The book introduced me to Muay Thai champions who are famous in Thailand and around the world.”
It was after this discovery that the Kurdish athlete decided he would travel to Thailand and pursue Muay Thai.
“When I went to Thailand in July 2014, I started training at Superpro Samui. There, I met many world champions from Thailand and even some from the book I read such as Changpuek Kiatsongrit, Sakmongkol Sithchuchok, and many others. Changpuek Kiatsongrit would eventually become my coach for one year.”
That same year, Qaradaghy became a world champion, winning the World Open Muay Thai WBC Championship in the middleweight division by way of knockout.
He expressed to Kurdistan 24 his dream of starting projects to develop the combat sport in the Kurdistan Region with support from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
“I’m planning at the moment. I will try my best to bring some projects to Kurdistan if the Kurdish government supports me. This way all young Kurds can achieve their dreams, and it would also be a great achievement for Kurdistan.”
The 26-year-old says he is proud of his nationality and regularly drapes himself in the Kurdistan flag at his fights.
“I am Kurdish. My mother tongue is Kurdish. I am so proud of my nation of Kurdistan. I always represent Kurdistan when I fight. I take pride in representing the Kurdistan flag on behalf of all Kurdish people.”
Qaradaghy admits he experienced many challenges on his path toward realizing his dreams and becoming a champion but says it all boils down to two things: hard work and dedication.
“I say to all young Kurds who love my sport, never stop believing in yourself. This sport takes patience and dedication. It takes time, and step by step if you learn from your mistakes you will be successful. Nothing is impossible just believe in yourself.”