“Giving up is never an option. If you stay persistent and never take NO for an answer, eventually the universe has no choice but to give you the glory days... That’s not something that is only applied in sports but also in life.”
– Yousif Ibrahim
Yousif Ibrahim has spent 19 years of his life dedicated to kickboxing. A former champion of two weight classes – featherweight and lightweight – in the ISKA circuit, Yousif’s success was built from the ground up. Through hard work and determination he became ranked number one in the United Kingdom.
Originally from Kurdistan, Yousif and his family immigrated to Sheffield 17 years ago. The youngest of three boys, his two older brothers, who practiced Kung Fu, influenced him to get into martial arts. Yousif’s dad was a big Muhammad Ali fan and so was Yousif, but after watching K1 kickboxing on TV, he immediately became hooked on kickboxing.
When Yousif first arrived in the UK, he was shy due to his lack of English skills. While he wasn’t the most imposing fighter in the ring, he used this as fuel early on in his career. At age 13, Yousif, who was naturally competitive, leveled up to spar older lads including his brother, Safa. He was always on his little brother’s case despite the fact that the young Yousif trained diligently 7 days a week. The tough fights with Safa and others pushed him for what was next to come.
“When I first started to compete, I never said ‘no’ to any fights. I always trusted my coach and took fights on very short notice. Sometimes, I would accept a fight the day before and go in there and give it my all and most times come out on top” said Yousif. The dedication and sacrifice paid off when he won two British titles as a junior amateur.
Despite tasting success early on, he never allowed his ego to get in the way of his progress. Coming from Kurdistan, Yousif wasn’t phased by setbacks. He always took any losses as an opportunity for growth. Through these circumstances, Yousif says that he learned more from his losses than his victories as it allowed him to go back to the drawing board and reassess his strategy.
“Life is not always fun and games and taking L’s and learning that it is not the end of it all and bouncing back just allows you to be a calmer and collected person who is able to deal with adversity and pressure much better.”
Things basically never go the way they are planned, but he knew what he needed to do to make his dreams come true.
“Despite any obstacles, you must keep pushing forward. Along the way your plans might change, it might take longer than expected, it might even be harder than you thought, but you must not give up on your goal – whatever it takes to get there, you must be willing to do.”
In the last 2 years, after he hung up his gloves, Yousif is on a mission to coach and pass all his wisdom that made him a top professional to a new breed of fighters. His most important message to his boys is to always have fun. Enjoy the process and the fights. Once you stop feeling enjoyment then it becomes a job. Now let that sink in...