FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Auburn, Maine (April 25, 2022)
A select few times in New England Fights history, a competitor has stormed the scene and generated an immediate buzz among spectators and potential opponents. Buzz being the operative word, because such a fighter saws through the competition sometimes more quickly than the talent pool can keep up.
Mohammed Al Kinani, who is scheduled to collide with Ross Dannar in a professional lightweight bout at NEF 47: “The Battle of L/A” on Saturday, May 14 at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn, Maine, is one such character.
The mixed martial artist known as Mo dispatched nine of his 10 amateur opponents, six of them by early stoppage. Al Kinani (2-0) has been no less authoritative as a pro, taking out Chris Rooney in 42 seconds at February’s NEF 46: “Decade of Dominance” and backing it up with a win over Roy Garza in Fort Wayne, Indiana on April 15.
His recommendation for the scrap with Dannar, who will make his pro debut after three amateur appearances, is that you don’t blink.
“I know that he’s a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, and I know that he’s a wrestler,” Al Kinani said. “It seems like he’s gonna be shooting for the life of him. He’s gonna be wrestling right off the bat. Once that grappling gets stopped, I don’t think he’ll have an answer.”
Opening bell time for NEF 47: “The Battle of L/A” is 7 p.m.
While on his business trip to the Midwest, Al Kinani fought on a card featuring UFC veteran Will Brooks in the main event. It was an eye-opening brush with the level of the sport he hopes to achieve sooner than later.
“I’ve been having great training camps with the Evolution Athletix coaching staff. I’ve been having fun, man,” Al Kinani said. “We just had a fight last weekend. We got the knockout in the first round. It was a rough fight. I’m already back into it. (Wednesday) was the second day training for this upcoming fight, and I’m feeling good, ready to go. It’s a cool experience to compete and be in the same room with fighters from different countries, from all over the country. I’m just trying to put on a good show.”
The fighter with aspirations to reach worldwide status started his career on the other side of that globe.
Al Kinani, 26, began his combat sports journey as a teenage boxer in his native Baghdad, Iraq.
“I competed for the under-18 back home. Then I came up here and didn’t really start boxing or doing anything,” Al Kinani said. “I trained at Portland Boxing Club once a week throughout high school. It was only in college when I started doing MMA.”
Al Kinani enrolled as a sophomore when he arrived in Maine and graduated from Westbrook High School.
Years later, a chance meeting with Nate Libby, coach at Evolution Athletix, changed the path of his pastimes forever.
“It’s a funny story. Every boxer, you know, the boxing casuals and the BJJ casuals, both of them think they can beat each other up,” Al Kinani said. “I went in with the boxer’s mentality. I thought I could knock anyone out. After training and meeting Nate, he introduced me to grappling, and I would show up every day grappling with him and a few of his training partners, and I would get destroyed. I found out that I was helpless on the ground, and I really wanted to learn that. I’ve been grappling since then, and I fell in love with MMA.”
Like many who have found that connection, Al Kinani found it’s the thrill of the pursuit that keeps him coming back.
“Fighting is amazing, yeah. You get to be free out there in the cage,” he said. “There’s never a mastery of that art. There’s always room to grow, room to get better. That’s what I love about MMA, the chase to get better every day.”
Others in the NEF’s ever-expanding circle have taken notice of Al Kinani’s skill set and cage presence and anointed him as perhaps the next big name to emerge from the promotion.
Al Kinani won’t engage in that sort of self-promotion.
“That’s a hard question to answer about myself, how people view me. I work hard, train hard and get out there in the cage and apply it, do what I need to do,” Al Kinani said.
While his four-year run in the amateur ranks exposed to a healthy cross-section of opponents, both in hometown and hostile environments, Al Kinani was eager to test his mettle as a pro.
Neither he nor the freeform style of competition have disappointed.
“You have more tools in the pro ranks,” he said. “I get to use my elbows. I get to use my knees. I personally like it a lot better. It gives me a chance to use more tools in the fight and my striking game for sure.”
As for his strategy to reach that level of the sport. Al Kinani seeks opponents who will stretch him rather than pad his resume.
“I’m looking to compete at the highest levels. We’ll see where it takes us. I’m trying to take the toughest fights I can find, fights that make sense to me, no (tomato) cans that will look bad on my record. Show up and fight and see where that takes us,” Al Kinani said. “I’m hoping to compete at the highest levels of MMA and hopefully make it to the UFC, Bellator.
“Whatever the opportunity comes, you know? We’ll work hard until then. That’s out there. I’ll make the connections myself. Go out there and perform and anything is possible. No one knows. You’ve got to play it by ear. I’m gonna work hard day in and day out until the chance comes by.”
Al Kinani bestows a hefty portion of the credit for his success and those aspirations upon Libby.
“Nate definitely is one of those people that you meet him and he changes your life,” Al Kinani said. “He’s my coach. He’s my mentor. He’s my manager. He taught me everything I know about MMA. Evolution Athletix, coach CJ Kelly, (Kris) Kramer, Keegan (Hornstra), all my teammates. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without them for sure.”
The hot prospect said his camp is more worried about tightening their fighter’s own repertoire than any scouting report about the man he’ll fight in a few weeks.
“It’s always been that case. It’s about applying your own style into the fight game,” Al Kinani said. “I already know how Ross is gonna be going out this fight, and it will be shut down. We will find an answer. If we need to study video, we’ll study video. A fight is a fight. Every time you go out there it’s 50/50.”
NEF 47: “The Battle of L/A” is the organization’s first appearance in Lewiston-Auburn since June 22, 2019, and its inaugural card on the opposite side of the river. NEF held 25 of its first 30 dockets in Lewiston. The main event is a grudge match between former local stablemates Jesse “The Viking” Erickson and Matt “Ken Doll” Denning. Tickets are on sale now at www.NewEnglandFights.com/Tickets.