by Galen Okazaki
On November 19th, 2011 at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas NV, Rami Ibrahim will be stepping into the ring onto the biggest stage of his life as he takes on the formidable Coke Chunawhat for the WBC Muay Thai US National Lightweight title at Lion Fight Promotions “Battle in the Desert 4”. For Rami it has been challenging journey over time and space to get to this point.
Rami Ibrahim was born in Kuwait in May of 1982, but he is originally of Palestinian descent. At age eight, while he was visiting his older brothers here in the United States in 1990, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq. Stranded here in the United States with his 5 older brothers and his mother, they anxiously awaited their father’s arrival from the now occupied Kuwait. One week later he made his way to America, but the family had lost everything they owned in the process. They now faced rebuilding their lives from scratch in a new country.
Much to their credit, Rami’s parents and older siblings did as much as they could do to shield him from the stresses of rebuilding their lives. He still suffered though. Being a new kid, from a different country who didn’t speak the language was all the reason classmates and neighbors needed to pick on him. Seeing this, Rami’s oldest brother, Rafat, became very concerned and made Rami an offer. He would send Rami to karate classes for six months but if Rami was confronted after that, if he didn’t break the arm of whomever attacked him his brother promised to break Rami’s arm himself.
Rami took his brother’s threat very seriously and applied himself to the karate training. In a short amount of time he found that he liked the training very much. Within the six months of training he came to the gym so often, he was eventually given his own key. As fate (or luck) would have it, shortly after completing his six months of training, Rami was confronted by six neighborhood boys. Within less than a minute he laid out all six of them. As he did this a wave of panic rushed over him and he ran all the way home. As he made his way to the front lawn, Rafat just happened to be standing there. Seeing Rami running and out of breath Rafat asked him if he had gotten beat up again, Rami was happy to report that he indeed used his training to defend himself. Rami kept his arm intact and he was never picked on again.
Rami continued to train karate under Dosinam Greg Purefoy. As he began competing in karate tournaments, Ibrahim struggled with the controlling the force with which he struck opponents (in competition karate, opponents do not strike each other full force). Seeing this, Purefoy recommended that Rami take up Muay Thai, it was a perfect match. Over the next few years, Rami was able to train with Thai legends Coban Lookchaomaesaitong and Vut Kamnark. Together they were laying the seeds for the growth of Muay Thai on the East coast.
Rami went on to have well over 100 amateur Muay Thai fights. In the late 1990’s he took some non-sanctioned full rules matches as well. In 2000, Rami fought a fighter from Sitan gym in New York who was training under Ajarn Aziz Nabih at his Sitan Gym in New York. After Ibrahim defeated Aziz’s fighter, both the fighter and Aziz approached him and asked him if he would be willing to train under Aziz. Rami said yes and he has been training under Aziz ever since.
Of all of the fights that Ibrahim has had, one stands out the most. In 2001 he fought Shennen Maceo for the WKA US Muay Thai Title. The fight went the distance and was called a draw. Ibrahim however thought he clearly won this fight. He got his chance for a rematch in 2003 again for a belt, this time the USKBA World Title. Again Rami thought he won the fight, but ended up losing a decision. Finally in 2008, when Chuck Norris formed his World Combat League, Ibrahim agreed to fight for the New York team when he realized that it would ensure him a rematch with Maceo who was fighting for the New Jersey team. Minutes before the fight he called Aziz (who couldn’t be there) and told him he would call him back within five minutes to let him know how he did. He kept his promise as he called Aziz within minutes to let him know that he had knocked out Maceo with a head kick just minutes into the first round.
This past season has been an active one for Rami. On January 12th while training in Thailand he fought the much larger Thai, Tiger Sua Kaewsamrit to a draw. In March he had a very tough fight with Matt Embree in the highly regarded Canadian based Journey Series 8 man tournament. He ended up losing the fight in a decision while Embree went on to defeat Coke Chunawhat in the next round and eventually win the tourney after defeating Josh Palmer. In July, Ibrahim took on Mark Deluca at the Warriors Cup XII event in New Jersey. In a fight that went the distance, Rami ended up taking the unanimous decision. Then in September, Rami successfully defended his WKA 132lbs North American title for the fourth time with a decision victory against Tristar Gym’s Philippe Allaire Landreville at Take-On Productions “September Showdown”.
Ibrahim has always been very active as a fighter. While his professional record stands at 16-5-2 his amateur record was 116-13-2. That’s over 150 fights for someone who has yet to turn thirty. Part of this heavy activity comes from his proficiency in many different martial arts. Rami is highly skilled in many other martial arts including freestyle Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing, Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wrestling. In addition his World Kickboxing Association (WKA) United States Muay Thai Championship he has won the (USKBA) International Muay Thai Championship, he’s a professional boxer and he was the Philadelphia All-Public Wrestling Champion his senior year in high school. Muay Thai though is his first love.
Not only a fighter, Rami also runs the highly regarded Sitan Gym in Philadelphia which he opened in 2007 and he is a full-time school teacher. A typical day for Rami includes teaching grade school, the normal business of running a large gym plus the teaching many of the classes in his gym (currently four) all before doing his own fight training. Admittedly, this is a far from optimal life for a fighter to have but to Rami Ibrahim, his life is all about giving it back, especially to the kids. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
Muay Thai is experiencing an upsurge in popularity throughout the United States and Ibrahim will tell you that Philadelphia is no different. His classes are fuller and students are starting much younger. Rami is committed to helping the sport grow. He knows firsthand what learning martial arts the right way can do for a youngster growing up in Philadelphia… wonder where those six childhood bullies are today?
Author’s Note: As many of you know I run West Coast Muay Thai in addition to my work here at Muay Thai is Life. Being West coast based I know that while a number of fans out here have heard of Rami Ibrahim, few know much about him. I hope that through your reading of this article those of you on the West coast find him to be the wonderfully intriguing person that I have found him to be. If you watch his fights on Youtube, you’ll find him to be a fierce competitor as well and I am looking forward to seeing him fight for the first time in person at Battle in the Desert 4. He is a great representative for the sport of Muay Thai both in and out of the ring. Let’s show him some West Coast love! —Galen