Mohammed “Destroyer” Jaraya is a dangerous and exciting young man. What 21-year-old Mohammed doesn’t know is that his name is now being mentioned alongside another Dutch/Moroccan kickboxing legend: Badr Hari. The bad boy of kickboxing, Hari is best known for his highlight reel knockouts, night club brawls and run-ins with the law.
Mohammed Jaraya is following in the footsteps of Badr Hari, whether he knows it or not. In today’s combat sports landscape, a fighter’s actions outside of the ring are as important, if not more important than inside the ring. Although Jaraya’s actions were surely reprehensible last Saturday at Enfusion Live 49 in the Netherlands, he has become a must follow in the rapidly growing kickboxing world.
Jaraya first broke onto the kickboxing world stage last year when he squared off against friend and fellow Moroccan standout Nordin Ben-Moh. The fans at Enfusion Live 37 were in for a treat that night. They witnessed what has been widely voted on by various media outlets as the consensus kickboxing fight of the year, 2016. The first two rounds were packed with furious exchanges that saw both fighters sway momentum back and forth. Nordin Ben-Moh landed the first knockdown in round one. The third round saw three more flash knockdowns. Jaraya sealed the victory with a right cross that turned Nordin Ben-Moh’s lights out. Words cannot completely describe what transpired in the kickboxing ring that night. Fight of the year? Sure. Fight of the decade? Yes. Fight of the century? Maybe.
Fast forward from that epic brawl in 2016. April 29th, Enfusion Live 49 in the Netherlands: Jaraya faces off against Redouan Laarkoubi in what looks to be another fight of the year contender. The kid just doesn’t put on a boring fight, he leaves a piece of his heart and soul in the ring after every fight he takes, win or lose. The fight is too close to call after three rounds. The fighters square off for a fourth and final round. This will determine the winner. Unfortunately for Jaraya, the judges see it in favor of Redouan Laarkoubi. Distraught after the loss, Mohammed leaves the ring and as he is walking past the judging table the unspeakable happens. There are photos of Jaraya striking the judge on the right side of his face which, sent the judge’s glasses flying off his face, from the impact.
Were the “Destroyer’s” actions unforgivable? Absolutely. Should he be punished by the promotion and the athletic commission, Federatie Oosterse Gevechtssporten (FOG)? Yes. Did Mohammed Jaraya’s stock surge as a fighter/personality? Undoubtedly. Kickboxing needs a new lightning rod. Badr Hari is in the twilight of his career. What better person to supplant him as kickboxing’s new bad ass than fellow Moroccan firecracker Mohammed Jaraya?
When you fight for a living, wins and losses almost certainly define your career trajectory. Losing a four round war by close decision is heartbreaking, especially when you thought you did enough. It hurts even more when you know as a fighter your fate is left up to judges, who almost certainly have zero fighting experience of their own. Sadly, the blood, sweat and guts that go into fighting another human being in front of cheering spectators doesn’t get factored in the decision.
If the Kardashians can run social media and Donald Trump can run America, Mohammed Jaraya can rule kickboxing. This young man suffered a moment of weakness, his emotions spilled over from the ring onto the face of a judge. Not the first time this has happened in combat sports and it won’t be the last. Capitalize on this moment and give Jaraya a platform to put kickboxing on the forefront of combat entertainment. It would be for all of the wrong reasons at first but eventually these are the moments that can springboard an amazing sport like kickboxing into the limelight.
10 years from now, Mohammed can be the Conor McGregor of kickboxing. Passion and self belief, if channeled correctly, can propel a young athlete to the top of the sport. Striking that judge may have happened early enough in this young man’s career that he could bounce back. The road ahead of Mohammed Jaraya is bumpy but not unnavigable. Terminate his Enfusion Live contract, fine him and ban him for 5 years in the Netherlands. Glory or Bellator Kickboxing should sign him immediately. Slap a neck tattoo on him and watch the promotional train chug down the tracks.