By Suhas BhatFollow @@suhasrbhat
The Lahori only recently got involved in the sport and was actually living in the United States for the majority of the past three decades before moving to Pakistan. Having enrolled in George Mason University, Bashir looked set to become yet another 30-year-old sub-continental expatriate chasing the American dream thousands of miles from home.
A visit back to Pakistan for a relative’s wedding in 2009 changed all that.
“I just didn’t feel like returning to the States,” he confessed to FOX Sports. “It came to a point when I realised that I’m serious about fighting. I had already made a big decision by relocating to Pakistan and it was time to take the next step and open a proper training facility.”
It wasn't an easy ride, though, and he had to resort for help from the unlikeliest of places.
"I moved into what was then my grandmother's driver's place!"
Bashir laughed at my startled look before adding, "Well, to be honest, she actually fired him but I kept in touch and because we got along really well, we started living together."
"It was just me and him in this apartment that just had a heavy bag in the living room and one of the bedrooms was covered in mats that we had made. We slept on the mats and that was it; that was our life.
"We were there for about six months and people began to start coming to our ‘gym'."
Now, Bashir is fully focused on developing an active MMA scene in Pakistan.
"I would say that it's only been six months or so since when MMA has been officially established as a sport in Pakistan," he said in a distinct American accent that belies the passion he feels towards his country and towards fostering the sport here.
"We now have a number of gyms and teams, two promotions and people who are getting into the sport in terms of wanting to sponsor it.
"People who have never done MMA are also beginning to consider it so it's slowly coming into the mainstream.
"I'm definitely looking to inspire other Pakistanis to get into the sport as well. I think I've already done that and I'm here simply to win a fight and make them proud.
"I've embraced having to serve as a role model to a lot of these guys and they just regularly call me "Bashir bhai" [big brother Bashir] in the local tongue."
MMA has kicked off in the United States, Japan and Southeast Asia, but the sport has yet to gain a firm foothold in the Indian sub-continent.
Bashir revealed his own struggles in kickstarting an MMA culture and believes that the slow speed of development is due to a combination of social and psychological factors.
“I wasn’t a guy with a plan, I wasn’t thinking about getting investors to put in the capital. I just wanted to go there and see if I could do it, you know.
“I guess other people just lacked the same motivation in Pakistan and that’s why MMA’s taken so long to get there.
“I mean I get emails pretty regularly from overseas Pakistanis in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada who write things like “Hey, I was thinking about doing the same thing!”
“I think people were just afraid to put in the commitment for something like MMA.
“Also, in Pakistani culture, it’s important to consider what your family says you should do and whether something is the right thing to do and this can make people in the sub-continent hesitant about taking that first step and maybe possibly failing and hearing the dreaded, “I told you so” comments.
“I wasn’t bothered as much by the pressure as I’ve always been the black sheep in my family so it wasn’t anything new for me to be doing something different.”
The April 5 ONE FC Kings & Champions fight with Shannon “One Shin” Wiratchai will be Bashir’s first official outing in an MMA cage, although he has trained in Brazilian Jujitsu in Thailand and achieved a semi-pro submission win over compatriot Ehtisham Karim last year.
The PakMMA founder anticipates that his obscure reputation could actually make it difficult for Thai wrestler Wiratchai to formulate an effective plan for the upcoming contest.
“The fact that I’m new to the pro-circuit could be an advantage. I know how I need to train to face him but I really don’t know what he expects from me.
“I don’t know how much research he’s done but there’s a good chance that I’m a big question mark in his mind.
“He’ll be wondering about my striking, my ground game and wrestling style and that could play to my advantage.
“I’ve seen Shannon’s fights with Dare and the match he had against Mitch Chilson in ONE FC last year as well.
“He’s been getting better and he’s very relaxed when he gets into the ring. But I’m confident that I have the tools that I need to beat him.”