By Sarwat Nasir
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Females in the UAE are increasingly taking part in wrestling as a way to develop not only their confidence but fitness regimes.
Young women in the UAE are fighting stereotypes by taking up a sport that used to be male dominated — Wrestling.
The Dubai Pro Wrestling Academy made headlines across the world when they hosted the first-ever Arab female wrestler, Gheeda Chamasaddine — who was known by her stage name Joelle Hunter. Now, more and more girls in the UAE are going for the game.
British-Syrian student in Dubai, Alia Bilanli, 15, is a trainee at the Dubai Pro Wrestling Academy. She’s currently training to become a pro-wrestler.
“The females across the UAE and in the western countries are taking part in wrestling; it’s not just a male sport anymore,” Bilanli said.
“I’m still in training. I’m learning the basics right now and still working with my trainer. I expect to have my first match in a couple of months.”
Bilanli said what inspired her to take up the sport was watching retired wrestler on WWE — April Jeanette Mendez — who went by AJ Lee as her stage name.
Another female to join the academy is 26-year-old Malaysian expat Alydia Abdul Wahab. She said she’s “in love” with the ring and the adrenaline that comes along with it.
“I was introduced to the wrestling world through a friend of mine and I remember clearly it was WrestleMania 31. It was like love at first sight. From there, I began watching old promos and matches and it really captivated me. My friend at that time knew about my sudden fancy for the sport and he then introduced me to Malaysia Pro Wrestling (MyPW). I went for the tryouts and here I am today,” Wahab said.
“I joined MyPw in October 2015. Initially, I just wanted to experience it. After appearing in several matches in Malaysia and Singapore, the passion grew and I wanted to keep going. The support from the backroom staff and the fans really motivated me to stay on and improve my abilities both in and outside the ring.”
Currently, Wahab works full time as cabin crew for a major airline in the UAE, though she wants to pursue wrestling as a career.
She said she does not want to regret not giving wrestling a greater push, so she can make it as her full-time profession.
“There are more men in the roster but wrestling is a global language like music. You might not understand the language or conversations, but this is what many wrestlers do: they literally put their body on the line in the name of sports entertainment. I am proud to be named Malaysia’s first women pro-wrestler. Yes, there is a little pressure with it, but I have girls — as young as 5 years old — looking up to me as a role model and that takes a huge weight off my shoulders,” she said.
“I would encourage women to join wrestling as this could help develop not only their confidence but can be a great fitness regime as well.”