This weeks featured fighters of the week are Abanoub and FouFou Fares, collectively known as Team Fares Brothers and training out of SBG Cork City under Head Coach and IMMAA Treasurer Liam-Og Griffin, these brothers have both represented Team Ireland at the IMMAF MMA championships and have big plans in place for their future.
Abanoub, the eldest of the Fares brothers, was introduced to MMA at age 11 when he took up training as a way to manage his weight and for self defence purposes. Struggling with controlling his temper, he had gained a reputation for having a short fuse and was prone to violent outbursts which often resulted in negative outcomes such as being suspended from school, earning him his fight name of Abanoub ‘Anger Management’ Fares. He attended his first MMA class at K2C (now SBG Cork City) alongside his friend who soon gave up training but Abanoub continued to show up, having built close friendships with his training partners. 3 months into his MMA training he fought at the MMA leagues in Neptune Stadium in Cork in a no-headshots, junior rules bout which he won via decision and went on to win his second fight a couple of months later at the Cork MMA Expo. Following these two victories Abanoub recalls “Having my hand raised at those fights was such a rush, it made me think a lot more about pursuing fighting as a career. I decided then to really knuckle down and take my training more seriously. I made and stuck to a vigorous training routine that included muay thai, jiu jitsu, wrestling, MMA and strength and conditioning classes and devoted myself entirely to my training.” Abanoub also competed in both B and C class Muay Thai fights as well as K1 bouts at every opportunity, adding strong and powerful striking abilities to his arsenal.
At age 12 FouFou’s athletic focus was set on running, a sport which he had always enjoyed and excelled at but with a small and skinny body type he was on the lookout for a sport that would help him become physically stronger. As a naturally shy boy he was understandably nervous to try out MMA at the start but with big brother Abanoub by his side he agreed to try out the training. Surprised to find that he loved the training FouFou especially excelled in the striking classes and began focusing his attention on becoming more proficient in Muay Thai, going on to build a record of 11 wins and 4 losses in Thai boxing fights while still keeping up his MMA and grappling training. Fully committed to improving their MMA abilities the brothers would attend multiple classes per day at SBG Cork, stay behind after class to drill techniques and invested in their own pads and training equipment for home use. Their intense devotion to the sport even led to gym owners Liam-Og and Marlene Griffin imposing a ban on them attending the gym during school hours as they tried to play truant from school in order to fit more training time into their day.
In 2019 Head Coach Liam-Og Griffin recommended that both brothers attend the national squad sessions for the Irish International team. After impressing the coaches with their technical and precise abilities they were accepted onto the Irish team. As he had turned 18 years old Abanoub qualified for the IMMAF Junior European Championships in Rome in June where he faced a ferocious opponent in Team U.K.’s undefeated, and now turned professional Mohammed Mokaev. This fight came very close to happening ahead of schedule as, true to his reputation Abanoubs temper came out in full force moments before the fighters were due to walk out to the cage, as the two fighters engaged in a stare-down backstage which quickly escalated to the point where their coaches were forced to intervene. After dealing with the initial disappointment of a first round defeat Abanoub refocused his attention to supporting his teammates in their efforts. Reflecting on his experience at the IMMAF championships he stated “Seeing the high level of fighters out there at amateur level was a big wake up call. Often in Ireland fights can get off to slow start with fighters using the first round to feel eachother out and check their reactions, there’s none of that at IMMAF. It’s fast paced and intense from the get-go but it was a great learning experience and taught me what I need to work on in my own abilities. My favourite part of the trip was the relationships I built with the other Team Ireland fighters. Everyone really embraced supporting the team as a whole, regardless of what gym you come from, whether that meant celebrating each other’s successes or drowning our sorrows together. Pa Lehane and I even stayed an extra few days after the tournament to do some sight-seeing around Rome so I was very grateful to have the opportunity to do that.”
At age 15 FouFou was not yet old enough to compete at the same IMMAF Championships as his brother but instead competed at the first ever IMMAF Cadet World Championships for fighters ages 12-17 in Rome in August 2019. Keen to support and corner his younger brother Abanoub saved up to accompany FouFou to the tournament. FouFou fought three times within the tournament and unfortunately was unsuccessful in each bout but chose to focus on what he could learn from the experience rather than dwell on the negatives. He claimed “After I lost my second fight I was offered a third but with no chance to medal regardless of the outcome I had two choices – either wallow in self pity or pick myself up and go out there in full force with nothing to lose. It didn’t go my way but at least I got to fight one more time and gain that bit more experience.” Speaking of his IMMAF experience FouFou stated “It was my first time travelling for a fight and it was at such a big Arena it gave me a glimpse into what the future can hold for me if I commit myself to my training and really put the work in. The atmosphere there is incredible and it’s interesting to see the different fighting styles of each country.”
Each brother has faced different obstacles throughout their MMA journeys. FouFou soon learnt that he could not continue to commit to so many training sessions and had a tough decision to make, stating “I decided to quit the athletics club where I trained in running. It was a tough call to make but I knew I needed to commit myself fully to MMA if I really wanted to make it to the top, but I continued to run for my school team as it helped my cardio for training without taking up too much time and even though it’s not my main focus anymore I’m still winning gold medals when I compete in races, so I know I’ve made the right choice. The biggest way MMA has benefited my life is it has given me so much confidence. I used to be such a shy and awkward kid whereas now I have the confidence to do all the things that used to terrify me.” While Abanoub struggled with his anger management issues and controlling his temper throughout his teens he felt that his training was a huge factor in overcoming these issues stating “MMA gave me an outlet for my pent up aggression. I was able to let it all out in a safe, controlled environment and always felt better for it. Nowadays I’m much more in control of my actions and emotions and am a lot calmer because I was able to find what I’m passionate about and channel all of my energy into my training.”
While the global Covid-19 pandemic may have put a halt to the training routines of many fighters around the world, this formidable duo had no intentions of allowing their fitness levels to reduce, revealing that their daily routine involved a 2 hour cycle to the beach where they would do an hour of grappling followed by a 1km open water swim before cycling home and finishing off their workout with padwork and striking rounds. In June 2020 the pair set out to complete a challenge tougher than any they had tried before. Starting the challenge from their home in Blackpool in Cork with FouFou running and Abanoub cycling beside him they embarked on a 100km non-stop journey which ended in Limerick and is documented on their youtube channel.
On top of their already busy schedule, the entrepreneurial pair have already set up their own business ‘Team Fares Brothers Promotions’ which provides a range of different nutrition and training packages individually tailored to suit both athletes and the general public and sells branded merchandise including t-shirts, hoodies, phone cases and keychains. They also have their own youtube channel which features home workout videos, training footage and clips documenting their MMA journeys. Discussing their plans to grow the business in the future they stated that they hope to develop it into a successful performance institute with franchises based in countries all over the world.
When asked who inspires and motivates them Abanoub answered “I wouldn’t say there’s any fighters I aspire to be like because I don’t want to be like any other fighter out there, I want to create my own original legacy. But I am a big fan of Cody Garbrandt, I like that he’s a bit of a mad man too. He’s always well dressed in the latest swag and doesn’t give a sh*t or take sh*t from anyone.” While FouFou said “I like Max Holloways style, he’s more reserved when it comes to press conferences and likes to let his fighting do the talking for him so I really admire that about him.” Moving on from speaking about famous fighters the brothers were quick to mention all of the ongoing support they receive from the SBG Cork owners Liam-Og and Marlene Griffin with FouFou stating “They have always been there for us through thick and thin from day one. They help us in every way imaginable and support us in everything we do. I don’t think they’ll ever understand how grateful we are for everything they do for us.” Abanoub added “They’ve put up with a lot of our sh*t over the years and still stuck by our sides no matter what. Liam is a lot more than just our coach, he teaches us so much more than just MMA. When we decided to set up a youtube channel he taught us how to make and edit the videos and even lets us use his equipment for filming. He’s always on hand for help, support and advice in absolutely anything, we couldn’t wish for a better or more dedicated and passionate coach. And Mar’s patience knows no bounds. She’s our number one supporter and is always waiting at the cage door after a fight with a big hug and to tell us how proud she is no matter what the outcome is. She has such a relaxing and calming presence and is one of the only people who can calm me down when my temper gets out of control. We’d be lost without her”
Speaking of their greatest achievement within MMA both brothers felt honoured to represent Ireland internationally. Abanoub stated “It felt like our way of giving back to the country that allowed our family to settle here and build a safe and comfortable life.” FouFou added “While I’m very proud to represent Ireland in MMA, it’s such a shame that the sport hasn’t received formal recognition and funding yet so it makes it very difficult for athletes to compete internationally as they need to pay their own travel costs and expenses. I think once MMA receives the support of the government it will open up new opportunities for fighters and we will see huge improvements from our fighters.”
The Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association would like to extend our gratitude to the Fares brothers for the dedication and commitment they have shown in their experiences representing Team Ireland and we look forward to watching their fighting careers develop and progress in the future.