Australia’s Suman Mokhtarian fights to keep his brother on the right path

Fighters take up the sport of Mixed Martial Arts for many reasons. Some relish the opportunity of testing themselves physically, while others do it because of a nifty paycheck.

But for Australia’s Suman Mokhtarian, his reasons run deeper.

Suman’s parents came from Iran and took refuge in Australia, and it may have been the country where they decided to settle that helped place Suman, and his elder brother Ashkan, on a path for their current MMA careers.

Suman, however, described his early life as ‘broken’. He, along with Ashkan, found themselves homeless at one point, and were forced to bounce from couch to couch for their daily survival.

“Dude, we were down and out. Homeless at one stage,” Suman told Fight Sport Asia. “It was unbelievable.”

Things took a turn for the worst when Ashkan got involved with drugs and alcohol. It served as a wake up call for Suman, who felt he needed to do something to help keep his brother on the right path. Martial arts was the answer, and it was clear his main goal from then on was to detour his brother from doing anything bad.

“Ashkan was into drugs and I figured Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu would be a good way for him to turn his life around,” Suman continued. “We were watching a CFC event at home and saw fighters like Rob Lisita, Brian Ebersole and Hector Lombard plying their trade in Mixed Martial Arts. That’s when I felt MMA could motivate my older brother to do something.”

And, he credits his brother for changing his life around.

In the midst of Ashkan’s ability to overcome those initial troubles, that effectively blazed the trail for Suman to try out the sport as well. And before he knew it, he was hooked.

“I just decided I might try it out and found out that I wasn’t too bad at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu either,” he said. “And then I realized I didn’t mind getting punched in the face (laughs).”

Upward spiral, and the start of Australian Top Team

The Mokhtarians, soon after, founded Australian Top Team together, which today, holds its regard as one of Australia’s finest MMA gyms.

Suman explained that his brother had to make trips to Thailand’s premier MMA stable, Phuket Top Team, to train for his first bunch of fights. The brothers then contemplated that a local MMA facility would do well to serve them good, and with a little financial aid from Ashkan’s wife, Australian Top Team emerged.

Suman's brother Ashkan Mokhtarian, laying some brutal elbows on his opponent.

Suman’s brother Ashkan Mokhtarian, laying some brutal elbows on his opponent.

Suffice to say, since that unyielding threshold of their lives, the brothers now found themselves within a palpable touch of their fervor.

“My brother and I believed we could start something special with the passion we developed for the sport,” Suman said. “I never gave up on our gym even when people said it wouldn’t work. We built it, and now we’re living our dreams.”

Just three weeks after the launch of Australian Top Team, Suman found himself in his first fight. He hasn’t looked back since, and doesn’t plan to. Quite simply, what started out as a business, turned out to be a shared passion between two brothers who were looking to stamp their marks on the combat scene.

To date, with almost two years of combat experience under his belt, Suman is a four-time state Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champ, who holds multiple contests in disciplines such as Muay Thai and Boxing. The Australian is also one to not turn down fighting opportunities as well, with six of his eight fights coming on short notice; three, on the day of the weigh-ins. It’s well worth noting that he has fought as high as 80kg/176-lbs, and as low as 64kg/141-lbs.

His brother, Ashkan, meanwhile, is a 135-lbs fighter with a pro MMA record of 2-0. He went 8-1 as an Amateur, with stoppages in all his victories.

Now, they train with a plethora of fighters under the Australian Top Team banner that have helped them evolve in their fledgling careers as MMA fighters. Along with ONE FC’s Rob Lisita, they’re joined by Nitro MMA 205-lbs champ Sam Kei (4-2), IKBF Commonwealth champ Randall Ray (6-1), Dutch kickboxing champ Joep Beerepoot and a host of upcoming MMA talents. According to Suman, there are about 20-30 fighters at Australian Top Team.

Career path

Although Suman has developed a reputation of saying no to fights that are put in front of him, it’s something that worries him on a personal level. He does feel he’s not training properly for his fights, but believes that’s the basis set for Amateur fighters – where it’s still a trial and error process.

“My lone MMA loss was at 74kg/163-lbs and I got TKO’ed,” Suman added. “I stepped onto the scale at 71kg/156-lbs but my opponent was probably 82kg/180-lbs by fight time from what he told me. So I realized I needed to take the sport more seriously and stick to my weight class, if I wanted to make a real run at this thing.”

“I have a lot of self belief, which is why sometimes, late notice fights don’t worry me. In the end, I know what I’m getting myself into. But yes, I need to start putting myself mentally into a fight camp and prepare because I know in all of my fights thus far, I’m yet to perform to my fullest potential.”

Suman Mokhtarian (left), in his tussle at Rebel FC 1: Into the Lion's Den in December last year.

Suman Mokhtarian (left), in his tussle at Rebel FC 1: Into the Lion’s Den in December last year.

And that was fairly evident in his promotional debut at Rebel FC’s inaugural event in December last year. The Australian took a bout against a local fighter named Mubarak Abdat on two days’ notice, cutting a ridiculous amount of weight to hit the 145-lbs limit. He won the fight, but only just, which perhaps suggests why a professional MMA career won’t be on the horizon anytime soon. Besides, the 21-year-old Australian believes a few goals of his has to be accomplished first.

“Before I turn pro, I need to achieve my purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and also win a few Amateur titles. But most importantly, I need to get a consistent training schedule,” Suman said. “I’m always running around and organizing other peoples’ fight. This year, though, I’m determined to get myself into gear and make the most of what I’ve got.”

Suman’s charismatic personality has always been a topic of conversation as well. He sees himself as an attention seeker, but feels he’s down to earth in character once people get to know who he truly is. He purely reaps the benefits of fighting, stating that he enjoys every single moment of it. He’s here to entertain, and if that puts money in his pocket, even better.

“I don’t get ahead of myself and I don’t say stupid things,” he continued. “I like to be loud and happy because that’s who I truly am. Fighting is something I love and enjoy, and nothing compares to the feeling of a busted face and victory. You know the crowd got what they paid for and that people will be speaking about you in times to come.”

Idols

It doesn’t come off as a surprise that Rob Lisita and brother Ashkan are two fighters that Suman looks up to.

He was jubilant when he heard Rob Lisita was going to be one of his sparring partners ahead of last year’s Rebel FC event. After all, Suman grew up watching Lisita compete in the local circles, and he was a huge admirer of the Australian slugger.

A group picture at Australian Top Team, which includes the Mokhtarian brothers and Rob Lisita.

A group picture at Australian Top Team, which includes the Mokhtarian brothers and Rob Lisita.

“It was surreal for me to train with Rob (Lisita) and be one of his sparring partners ahead of Rebel FC’s inaugural event last year,” Suman continued. “When I received an opportunity to fight on an awesome show with some one I looked up to, it was nuts for me! And now he trains at my gym when he’s at home and I get to spar with him all the time too. I won’t forget being alongside him and him helping me every step through like my weight cut and fight preparation. That guy is truly one of a kind.”

And he reserved a special praise for Ashkan, who he believes is his main inspiration to keep focused on all his life’s targets. It’s a fact that he wouldn’t have taken up martial arts if it weren’t for his brother, and Suman’s certainly looking to emulate him one day.

“He (Ashkan) keeps me on the right path, man. Really if it weren’t for him, I wouldnt be training or doing anything,” Suman said. “He wakes me up and pushes me every day to become better. He’s the most motivated and hard working person I know and it really does inspire me to be like him.”

“He’s the most dedicated and strict athlete you’ll meet. He’s a monster and it’s a credit to his hard work. He’s now married with a child and MMA is what’s kept everything together for him. Who knows where he’d be if it weren’t for the changes he made due to martial arts? My brother is my hero.”

Future

Unlike most fighters who are fighting hard to make it to the world’s famed UFC octagon, Suman’s priorities lie elsewhere.

The 21-year-old wants international recognition, and the right to be called the best fighter in whichever organization he ends up in. In fact, the Australian concedes that the greatest gift he’ll ever receive is when fans show him gratitude for the legacy he leaves in the ring/cage.

“I want to set a good example for everyone around the world that anything’s possible,” he said. “I want to be known for all the right reasons. I want to be successful and not famous, and I want to change lives like I’ve changed my own.”

*Photo credit: Suman Mokhtarian, Rockfingrz, VIILevent

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Thinesh John is a Singapore-based MMA writer. You can check out some of his work over on MMASucka.com. Follow him (@ThineshJohnMMA), and be sure keep up with the latest Asian MMA news from FightSportAsia.com on Twitter (@FightSportAsia) and Facebook

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Categories: Asian MMA, Australia, Featured, Interview, MMA

Author:Thinesh John

20, Asian MMA nerd in Singapore.

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