Arm-ageddon: The Sharjah accountant taking UAE arm wrestling forward

Mazahir Saidu will be competing in the inaugural Pro Panja League in India later this month

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Arm wrestling is one of the most uncomplicated and easily gauged tests of strength. Theoretically, any two people can do it anywhere.

Once you put it in a competition format, the playing field is far and wide. So to be any good, you have to be better than almost everyone else.

Mazahir Saidu is definitely good. In fact, he is one of the best in the business.

The Sharjah-based arm wrestler is one of the leading 100kg+ arm wrestlers in the UAE and has been crowned champion in his division in India.

The Keralite, 29, has won various amateur and professional competitions in the UAE and overseas. In May this year, he won bronze at the Asian Armwrestling Championship, held in Ajman.

And after almost 10 years in the sport, which included significant breaks for his higher education studies, Mazahir has now reached the stage where he is ready to take the next step – the inaugural Pro Panja League arm wrestling competition in India at the end of the month.

The life of any professional athlete is intense. Mazahir has an intense one, too. And he manages it while working as a chartered accountant at Shurooq - Sharjah Investment and Development Authority.

An accountant and a professional arm wrestler? It is a unique journey that started a decade ago in India.

“I did not know this was a professional sport until I went to India for higher studies in 2012,” Mazahir tells The National.

“I went to a gym in Kochi and there I met Rahul Panicker [a well-known arm wrestler in India] in 2014. He got me into arm wrestling, and I realised my potential. After seven months, I won a national event in India.”

He came back to the UAE in 2016 and won a championship under the auspices of the Emirates Body Building Federation.

Mazahir took a break from 2016 to 2019 to complete his accountancy studies while also working as a consultant in Saudi Arabia.

He later joined Shurooq and has since gone to great lengths to maintain his levels in arm wrestling, while working as deputy manager, finance.

“Balancing work and professional sports is very difficult. It is all about passion. I work from 8-5 but since I am in finance, I routinely work past 6pm. Then I go home, have a pre-workout meal and begin training from 8.30pm until midnight. This routine never stops.”

It is a routine that has helped Mazahir make a name for himself in the UAE, that has hosted many top arm wrestling tournaments, including King of the Table in June.

“King of the Table and East v West are big tournaments in the sport. But the level of exposure and publicity Pro Panja is giving is at another level,” Mazahir, who is coached by European champion Maksym Polishchuk, said.

“This is going to be one of the biggest events the sport has seen. Being shown on Sony Sports is going to be a game changer. A lot of international players have been contacting us to be a part of the league.”

The Pro Panja League is the brainchild of Bollywood actors Parvin Dabas and Preeti Jhangiani. The league was formed in 2020 and has held various ranking tournaments and exhibition events in the build-up to the inaugural league season this year.

A total of 180 players have ben shortlisted into six teams for the league that will take place in New Delhi.

Mazahir made the cut after becoming the 100kg+ national champion during a ranking tournament in Gwalior in July last year.

How champions are made

Diet
7am - Protein shake with oats and fruits
10am - 5-6 egg whites
1pm - White rice or chapati (Indian bread) with chicken
4pm - Dry fruits
7.30pm - Pre workout meal – grilled fish or chicken with veggies and fruits
8.30pm to midnight workout
12.30am – Protein shake
Total intake: 4000-4500 calories
Saidu’s weight: 110 kg
Stats: Biceps 19 inches. Forearms 18 inches

The hope is that since arm wrestling is a sport that can be understood and enjoyed by people from all walks of life, there should be significant interest. Just like it was for the traditional Indian sport of kabaddi which has become one of the fastest growing professional sports in the country following the rise of Pro Kabaddi League.

“In the arm wrestling community, I am already well known. But the sport has not reached the general public like other mainstream sports. But with Sony Sports, we are hoping common people will understand and accept it,” Mazahir says.

“In a few weeks, we will be on air and people will see us and hopefully love this sport. It’s something a common person can follow and it is very entertaining.”

The Pro Panja League will be held from July 28 to August 13. 'Panja' translates to arm wrestling in Hindi.

Updated: July 21, 2023, 3:25 AM
How champions are made

Diet
7am - Protein shake with oats and fruits
10am - 5-6 egg whites
1pm - White rice or chapati (Indian bread) with chicken
4pm - Dry fruits
7.30pm - Pre workout meal – grilled fish or chicken with veggies and fruits
8.30pm to midnight workout
12.30am – Protein shake
Total intake: 4000-4500 calories
Saidu’s weight: 110 kg
Stats: Biceps 19 inches. Forearms 18 inches