Dubai based champion fighter Tam Khan talks about life after MMA and how his new health app My Celeb PT has helped maintain thousands of users’ physical and mental fitness during the pandemic
I was born and raised in Essex, which wasn’t very multicultural at the time. Over the years, the area changed and became more diverse and there were more Jamaican and Zimbabwe-speaking people.
Essex is a very white, predominantly English Anglo-Saxon community of people, where we have a few mosques and there are a few halal butchers and halal shops around. You would see women wearing shalwar kameez and saris, you would also see men wearing traditional clothes; I really enjoyed growing up there.
I never had a problem with race and I avoided trouble usually but if there was a problem on the local council estate, people would say, “call Tam or his brother and go and fix this situation.” And that’s what we did – we would go to help the community. It helped that I knew everyone and everyone knew my parents and my family: it was a very close-knit community. So that was the kind of upbringing I had and I miss it; everyone knew each other’s name.
So how did it all begin?
So my dad was a doctor and my mum stayed at home to bring up the family. They always emphasised the importance of education; they said “look – do what you like, but please study!”. I was a bit of a Jack the Lad and sporty and If I saw a guy drive a nice car or wear nice chains or if I saw guys with the latest sneakers, I wanted to be like that.
While I was studying business management, I was a fine amateur and taking part in competitions. It was just as MMA was becoming big in the UK. I’d fight on shows which were in school halls. I always tried to keep my studying going and was working part-time, my selection of jobs included sales to retail management. In fact I even worked at Carphone Warehouse and became an area manager because my sales were so good!
What kind of support did you get from your friends and family when entering the MMA world?
I sometimes wouldn’t tell my family that I was competing in a fight. My mom would say, “look just be careful”. She’d think it was practice. I wouldn’t tell her it was an actual fight because she would panic. She would say, “do it for self-defence, self-confidence and to be strong but there is no need to fight”, and my dad hated it. I would just tell him “yeah, I’m just going to go train”. I used to come back with bruises on my face and I’d just say, ”yeah it was just training.” But then they started finding out that I was doing more then “just training” they would freak out a bit. The local community would talk; my family would see a poster of me or someone would say something to them like, “your son’s fighting this weekend”. Mum would be like, “Oh is he?”
What was your next move after MMA fighting?
So I obviously reached a very high level in MMA and after that I went to Dubai on holiday and I just fell in love with the place; it was multicultural, the weather was obviously amazing, the lifestyle was easy, people were walking around in flip-flops and shorts. I had a fight coming up so naturally I needed to train for it and when I tried to find a gym to train in, I couldn’t find one. Dubai in the early 2000s was seen as this magical and I couldn’t find one gym, which taught MMA, so I thought, that’s strange for a new place, which is supposed to be booming.
So I decided to set something up for MMA in Dubai. As I told a friend at the time, “my mind’s made up and I’m packing my bags.” And I’ve never looked back.
What motivated you to do it by yourself?
I was at that age, in my early 20’s and I thought, I’m not married like many 20 year olds were back then, my mum was pressuring me at that point as well. I thought I’m lucky I haven’t got much responsibilities yet.
At the beginning it was hard but once the name got around and a few articles appeared in the media, word began to spread. The business side of my life took me away from MMA, it just got so busy with setting up facilities and other projects. I still crave my MMA life, but to train to that potential is very hard full-time.
Read the full feature