Has anyone ever heard of a better nickname for a boxer than "The Albanian Bear"? Anyone? Didn't think so. Now meet the 13-year-old who earned that moniker one momentous bout at a time.
As noted by Off the Bench and MMATKO, among other sources, Staten Island middle schooler Reshat Mati is a three-martial arts and boxing wunderkind. He's so advanced in all of the disciplines in which he trains that he is practically unbeatable. He's a United States Silver Gloves national champion boxer, and he may be even better in muay thai, kickboxing and wrestling.
All those victories and an Albanian heritage combine to form the basis for that unique nickname, one which Mati hopes will become much more pervasive in the years ahead.
So far, the youngster seems to be right on track. An amateur in all discplines, he is an undefeated boxer, an undefeated muay thai fighter and an undefeated MMA competitor.
Of course, muay thai, kickboxing, wrestling and boxing make up the basis of MMA competition. There's no coincidence that Mati trains in those specific discplines: Despite being just 13 years old, he already dreams of a future competing on the UFC circuit.
That MMA dream doesn't keep him from simultaneously dreaming of a future in professional boxing, too. To chase both of those pursuits, Mati trains in multiple gyms in multiple boroughs -- boxing in Brooklyn and kickboxing in Staten Island -- five days per week. On the weekend he often travels out of state to compete in MMA bouts, since the sport has been banned in the state of New York.
"He likes MMA the most, because it's a combination of all sports," Adrian Mati, Reshat's father, told THNKR in a video interview. "Four years in a row he's a world kickboxing champion. He's a North American official grapplers champion. He's a jui jitsu champion."
Despite all those titles, the younger Mati still has some of the same gameday jitters that other less heralded athletes suffer from. In particular, Mati still gets nervous about failing in front of his father, who has trained him since before he even started school.
"I want to prove to my father that I'm good enough to box," Reshat Mati told THNKR.
As one might imagine, there is legitimate reason for concern about any prognosis for Mati's longterm health, given the amount of shots to the head he takes in the course of boxing matches and MMA bouts. The middle schooler's suggestion that he can avoid shots to the head by keeping his hands raised is both a bit naive and disconcerting that any adult would support that line of thought.
For his part, Mati's father insists that the family understands the risk the young fighter takes each time he walks into a ring to compete in "a hard sport."
"It is a hard sport," Adrian Mati told THNKR. "If I see that my son's getting hit hard or losing a fight badly, I'm stopping the fight."
So far that hasn't been an issue, simply because Mati hasn't even lost yet. When he eventually does, the questions will start coming quicker. Of course, given how tough it has been to take the prodigy down so far, it may be some time yet before that bridge is crossed.
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