Biaggio Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson, shares ‘unbelievable’ Umrah experience

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Being able to perform the Umrah pilgrimage was an “unbelievable” experience that he will never forget, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Biaggio Walsh, the grandson of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, told Al Arabiya English.

During a quick press tour in the Middle East in April, the 25-year-old was able to stop over in Mecca where he completed the Islamic ritual for the first time with the Vice President of the Professional Fighters League Loren Mack.

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Connecting with God

Umrah is the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca that can take place anytime of the year, unlike the much larger Hajj ritual which happens once a year.

On the drive to Mecca, Walsh’s driver connected him to another man who would serve as their guide throughout the pilgrimage.

The man, who barely spoke English, would recite prayers out loud in Arabic and Walsh and Mack would then repeat what he said as they circumambulated around the Kaaba.

“We had somebody there, he didn’t really speak English. But he told us to recite everything he was saying. I tried my best, I can’t really speak Arabic, but we were reciting everything he was saying,” he said.

“We were guided in an amazing way. People were chiming in on our recitations. It was an experience that I’ll never forget, and I wish that my family could have been able to experience it.”

Bettering his faith

Walsh had in March told Al Arabiya English that he was on a new journey of bettering his faith and even participated during Ramadan – fasting from sunrise to sunset – this year.

The Umrah was another opportunity for him to enhance his relationship with God and connect with Islam, he said in the interview on Friday.

“That’s what we do in this life. We want to strive to be more God-conscious, make the right decisions, and be a better person.”
Muslim role models

The athlete said he hoped that not shying away from talking about his spirituality and embracing Islam would help change people’s perceptions on Muslims as well.

There are many great fighters, including his grandfather Muhammad Ali, who were very proud to be Muslim and set a great example for what it means to be a Muslim, Walsh explained.

“That’s my goal. A great fighter who did a great job was Khabib Nurmagomedov. He was an excellent role model for Muslims and young athletes, not just Muslims, and I think that he gives a great light to Islam. My grandfather did the same thing,” Walsh said.

“In following these type of people’s examples, we could definitely change people’s perceptions about the religion, especially if they are brainwashed by media.”

Visiting Saudi Arabia

His April visit was his second trip to the Kingdom. In February, the young athlete made his professional debut in MMA in Riyadh as part of the exciting PFL Champions vs Bellator Champions fight card held at the Kingdom Arena.

Walsh said he has enjoyed learning more about Saudi Arabia’s rich history, getting to try delicious local food, and meeting new people.

“I [had] already met a lot of Middle Eastern people, and they are all very hospitable and very nice. That was not a surprise to me, but you know, when we compare it to what I’m used to in the States, there is no comparison,” he said with a laugh.

Read more:

‘Ramadan makes me feel stronger’: MMA fighter Biaggio Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson

Biaggio Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson ‘grateful, excited’ to fight in Saudi Arabia

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