For the past three years that I have been back in Pakistan, there is one period each year that I dread but am equally fascinated with. This period is hell on earth, also known as the Pakistani summer. With temperatures reaching past 50 centigrade (122 F), doing anything, let alone training in a sport like MMA, becomes very difficult.
Compounding this misery is the fact that Pakistan has been going through a major power crisis for the past few years. This means that when the temperature in your home (or gym) is way over 35 C (almost 100 F), there is no electricity to turn on the air conditioner (AC) or even a fan. For those who can afford it, the first line of defense is the uninterrupted power source (UPS). It’s essentially a car battery hooked up to a device called a UPS, which turns on when the power goes out. This will, depending on the size of your UPS, power some lights and a fan or two. However, keep in mind that at these temperatures, a fan is simply re-circulating hot air. In order to actually get some relief from the heat you need an AC, and to run it when there is no electricity requires a significantly powerful generator, which only those at the very top of Pakistan’s extremely skewed society can afford.
To get an idea of what it is like training at the gym during peak summer heat, I suggest those of you living in the west go to a sauna and set the temperature to around 110 F. Increase the humidity substantially and shadowbox hard for about 5 minutes; let me know how that feels. Throw in a conditioning circuit or MMA sparring, and we’re talking about a new level of exhaustion experienced only by those who are lost in the desert and scrambling to find a way out, with panic kicking in and a racing heartbeat. People training in these conditions experience a new level of discomfort.
Moving on to the other things you may not have thought about as you sit at home or work, reading this article in a climate controlled setting. When the temperature soars and the power keeps going out, (up to and over 12 hours a day), food rots in the fridge, water never cools down and after training you come home to be greeted by a shower of hot water.
I am fortunate enough to live a decent lifestyle, where I have a UPS and a fridge. I often think to myself about the poor people of this country, the masses who make up around 80% of our nation. The ones who live in neighborhoods that get even less electricity, who can’t afford back up power and sure don’t have fridges to keep their food cold or even fresh.
The point of this article is not to paint a bleak picture of Pakistan, although it is necessary to highlight the hardships. The point is to let the world know that we are a hardy people; our nation, for all its faults, is made up of the some of the most enduring people on earth. That the MMA world needs to be on the look out – champions are being bred here. Champions who don’t give a s&%# about your hi-tech, air conditioned gyms, about the cold Gatorade you pull out of the fridge after training because you’re a little warm. The sport is in its infancy here, and there are many obstacles and hurdles to come. But what will arise from the conditions that must be endured to be a champion will be unrivaled in the MMA world. As long as things continue the way they are going, and as long as I am here on this earth, Pakistan will be a force to reckon with in the MMA world.