WWE has tendered a developmental contract to 28-year old Egyptian boxer Mohamed Fahim, making him the first Egyptian signed from the Middle East to the company.
In April 2017, Fahim was one of 34 athletes representing 18 countries to participate in the WWE’s second-ever Dubai tryouts. The tryouts proved to be fruitful for the company, as WWE also signed Shadia Bseiso, the first Arab woman from the Middle East, Nasser Al Ruwayeh, the WWE’s first Kuwaiti, Rinku Singh, who was the subject of the Disney film Million Dollar Arm and Kavita Devi, the first Indian woman to sign with WWE who participated in 2017’s Mae Young Classic.
Fahim has a background in boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA). He is 190cm tall, weighing in at 105kg.
“I’ve been doing boxing since 2006 and my first competition was in 2007,” Fahim tells Al Arabiya. “I had a gold medal in an Egyptian championship for boxing. I did boxing for five to six years and I’ve done MMA and kickboxing. I always got first place in my competitions. I’ve done a couple of competitions in fitness. I’m always competing in different feels. I’ve always done sports—that’s my thing.”
Before trying out for WWE, Fahim worked as a kickboxing instructor at Gezira Sporting Club, the largest multi-sport facility in Cairo, founded in 1882. Fahim heard about the WWE’s Dubai tryouts with a friend, who passed along an email to send materials.
“I sent my CV and my sports achievements and my videos of training and pictures of me boxing and kickboxing, and they sent me back an invitation to do the tryouts in Dubai.”
In Dubai, Fahim was trained and tested over a grueling few days by WWE head coach Matt Bloom, also attended by WWE head scout William Regal.
“When I was in Dubai, most of the coaches were happy with me. They said I’m good, I’m coachable, I’m learning fast. They said ‘we’ll contact you later.’”
Fahim returned to the Gezira Sporting Club, where he trained morning to night to get ready for the possibility.
“After two or three months I had a call from Paul [Levesque, Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, also known as Triple H], who offered me the opportunity to join WWE.”
Fahim was astounded to get the call from Levesque.
“That was the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me,” he says.
‘Facing the pressure’
Fahim, who has lived his whole life in Cairo, grew up a fan of WWE.
“I used to watch Smackdown and all of that stuff. I’m a big fan of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, but the tryouts were my first thing I’ve done with wrestling.”
Fahim is currently in Orlando at the WWE Performance Center, a state of the art facility where the next generation of WWE Superstars is trained, and current Superstars come to train on off days.
“I haven’t started training yet. I’m just watching. I’m waiting for medical clearance before training. It takes some time here. I’m looking forward to starting. The atmosphere and the people there and the coaches—everything’s nice,” says Fahim.
Being the first Egyptian to sign from the Middle East, and the only person of Egyptian descent currently signed to WWE since the release of Mada Abdelhamid in early 2017, is something Fahim takes to heart.
“That’s crazy, man. It put a lot of pressure on me. I have to prove myself over there. I’ve got to be good. I’ve got to do something. That’s good and that’s bad at the same time.”
“You’re representing 85 million people,” I say.
“It’s 100 now,” he deadpans.
“I’ve got to update my stats!” I say.
Representing the Middle East
“A lot of people in the Middle East like this sport—it’s wrestling and entertainment. To be an Egyptian in this I think is something good. It means to be an athlete and an actor at the same time. To interact with the crowd is a bit hard, but it’s really nice. If you can do it, you can do anything. You have to be a good athlete, you’ve got to train hard, you’ve got to act right, and you’ve got to do all the moves. It’s really hard.
“The fights I used to have, you used to go there and fight with someone and someone would win, someone would lose. With an entertainment show, you’ve got to interact with people. You’ve got to do everything right. There’s no place for doing something wrong. If you do something wrong, someone’s going to get hurt. I like the idea, man. It’s hard.”
Fahim plans to incorporate some of his techniques from MMA and boxing as he figures out his in-ring style. He’s also already planning his in-ring aesthetic, which he hopes to be influenced by Egyptian history.
“A lot of people have suggested, what about a Pharoah? I think that’s something new and something nice, you know? My costume will be something like a pharaoh. A king.”
Fahim’s family in Egypt was ecstatic to learn the news.
“They’re so happy for me. They’re so excited to see me on the TV. They say, ‘I want to see you fighting!’ It’s the big time. They’re so excited to see me, but I don’t think I’m going to be there soon. It takes time to learn everything. You have to be professional.”
With a strong background in combat sports, Fahim is hard at work on his promo and camera skills, something he was urged to work on at the Dubai tryouts last April.
“They told me that I have to work on my promos. I have to work in front of the camera. I think that’s my weakness. I’m a bit nervous in front of the camera. I’ve been doing promos, and I’ve been doing much better. But it’s different. With the crowd, and everyone looking at you, it makes you a bit nervous. I’m going to work on this.”
Fahim is currently staying in a hotel in Orlando. He plans to move to an apartment for three months before finding a permanent home in town, the first time he’s lived outside of Egypt. He stresses how long and difficult he expects this road to be, but he faces it with focus and determination. When I ask what motivates him, he has one clear goal in mind.
“I want to make the Egyptian people proud,” says Fahim.