Concordia student pursues career in mixed martial arts

Ahimon is currently focusing on kickboxing, which he said can be exhausting. Photos by Elisa Barbier.

Exercise science student Sean Michael Ahimon is training hard for a career in the UFC

Sean Michael Ahimon, a mixed martial arts fighter and Concordia University student, has been practicing one specific philosophy for most of his life.

“When you go [into the fighting ring], there is no blaming anyone else. If you mess up, it’s on you,” Ahimon said.

Ahimon, 18, started martial arts at the age of nine when his mom suggested he get into it because he was being bullied at school. Early on, he met Derek Watson—his instructor—who gave him a strong passion for martial arts. However, Ahimon said his instructor left only six months after he arrived, as Watson was unhappy with his superior’s choices when it came to running the school.

It was only during a taekwondo demonstration by Watson at Ahimon’s middle school that the two had the chance to meet again. Right after, Ahimon signed up at Watson’s school, Strive Martial Arts. This was a turning point for Ahimon and his art. He furthered his training and earned his black belt. He had his first competition during his first year of high school.

“It was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know what to expect. I remember watching a bunch of videos of taekwondo Olympians and trying to copy what they do,” Ahimon said. “When the fight started, I just went blank. I just remember spinning, spinning, spinning.”

On that day, Ahimon would dodge every kick and countered with roundhouse kicks—a semicircular kick that strikes the opponent with the front of the leg. Yet, as he executed a tornado kick—a roundhouse kick with a body rotation—he mistakenly landed on his kicking foot, performing a 540 tornado kick that directly hit his opponent. The kick got him the attention of 10 different martial arts schools, since it is rarely used for purposes other than displaying one’s abilities outside of fights.

From then on, Ahimon started taking taekwondo seriously. He started wrestling with his high school team and started kickboxing during his sophomore year. By the end of high school, Ahimon was the fifth-ranked wrestler in his home state of Maryland. During that time, he also fought three kickboxing fights and 70 taekwondo fights.

As he continued to participate in multiple competitions for different martial arts, Ahimon said he learned how to deal with the tension from competing. Nevertheless, Ahimon said he still feels nervous sometimes, but he thinks it’s a good thing—it creates an out-of-body experience that makes the fight more memorable, he said.

In terms of his fighting ability, reaching a higher level pushed him to be more conscious of his moves, since opponents at higher levels are better at countering. He said fighting is more of a strategy game for him now.

In April, Ahimon competed at the German Grand Prix in Hamburg with the US national taekwondo team. It was his first national tournament and the team lost by three points to Germany. After the competition, Ahimon said he wanted to move from competing in taekwondo to kickboxing, as he was tired of it.

When it comes to practice, Ahimon described it as fun, although the intensity has continued to increase.

“[There is] lots of kicking and I get tired fast,” Ahimon said. “But when you are tired, you still have to kick.”

Nowadays, Ahimon trains three hours a day, five days a week at Tristar gym, which is the same gym UFC fighter George St-Pierre trained at. When he trains, Ahimon switches between pad work, sweep drills, weight-lifting and cardio. Sometimes, he even gets to spar with other MMA fighters.

Ahimon does cardio in addition to his other exercises.

When reflecting on what made him want to pursue his dream of becoming a professional MMA fighter, Ahimon said it was all because of a fight he saw on TV.

“I always threw [dreams] out there when I was a little kid,” Ahimon said. “One day in seventh grade, I was thinking of extreme things I wanted to be, and I turned on the TV and UFC was the first thing that came on.”

The fight was between Chad Mendes and Rani Yahya. According to Ahimon, if it wasn’t for that fight, he probably wouldn’t be pursuing a career in MMA, and would never have gotten so invested in combat sports.

Ahimon is currently studying exercise science at Concordia, but his main goal is to switch into the journalism program. Writing articles in high school gave him the passion to want to pursue journalism.

“I like writing articles, specifically about sports and music. I like to break those things down,” Ahimon said.

Ahimon has been trying to adjust to life in Montreal, all while finding a healthy balance between his new training regimen, his schoolwork and his social life. He said it’s hard to find a happy medium. However, living in residence has allowed him to cut down transportation time and meet with friends easily. When it comes to school, he said his mindset is, if he completes his assignments properly and quickly, he will be able to compete more.

While talking about the difference between team sports and an individual sport like mixed martial arts, Ahimon said the feeling you get from both are different, as individual sports allow you to truly feel and see your strength. This is something he feels team sports lacks.

“When you play a team sport, you will never ever ever understand what it is to win a fight,” Ahimon said. In his opinion, in combat sports, “it is all your hard work that determines the outcome of the fight.” Ahimon added, with a team, on the other hand, one’s ability may be less decisive in competition.  “When you win, you physically controlled your own destiny, not your team,” he said.

Ahimon’s next fight is Dec. 3, although his opponent and the location of the fight are still unknown.


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