Alcohol, drugs, tobacco, you name it.
There are a lot of temptations waiting to steer a young man down the wrong path to start his adult years. But Ali Wasuk wasn’t the least bit interested in venturing down that road.
Now three fights into his professional MMA career, Wasuk, 28, leads a dedicated and disciplined lifestyle, which stemmed largely from a significant choice he made one evening.
“I remember one day I walked into a party, I was around 17 or 18 years old, and I looked around and was like is this where I want to be, or do I want to be a world champion, prove everyone wrong and make it to the top,” said Wasuk in an interview with MMA Empire.
“Ever since then I’ve just been hungrier and hungrier to prove everyone wrong. That’s kind of what shaped this person I am today.”
Wasuk’s upbringing also played a large part in shaping him into the man he is today. While serving in the Afghan National Army, Wasuk’s father passed away in the line of duty before he was born.
Growing up without a father, Wasuk leaned heavily on his mother, brother and uncle for guidance as a youth, which he said is a big reason he has the work ethic he does today.
“I never really had that eye or someone watching me my whole life. My mom was playing the role of both parents, so she worked full-time. I know I get my work ethic from her because she is a hard-working woman,” said Wasuk.
“With my mom always working, I had a lot more free time to get into not the best of situations. I quickly learned I was going the wrong route, and there was definitely times where my brother and my uncle would try and steer me in the right direction. They would never try to solve the problem for me; they would want me to solve it myself and kind of learn something that way.”
The amount of time Wasuk spent with his uncle growing up in Russia is a big part of how he got his start in martial arts.
His uncle, Hakim Nayel, owned a karate gym in Afghanistan before moving to Russia. So, from a young age, Wasuk was already learning the fundamentals of martial arts with small pad sessions at home.
“That kind of got my feet wet a little. After that, I started getting into more grappling and wrestling.
“I’ve been surrounded with martial arts pretty much my whole life. It’s interesting looking back because it’s always been a part of me.”
After making the move to Canada, first Toronto, then Vancouver, Wasuk firmly began is MMA journey in 2008 when he joined Stand Up Muay Thai.
Within six months of training, Wasuk was taking every opportunity available to compete in tournaments and continue growing. But it was his first taste of true competition that truly had him zoned in on his future in the sport.
“At the time, one of my teammates, Omar Stefanini, had his first amateur fight and asked me to corner him.
“Ever since then, I was hooked.”
After a 7-3 amateur career, Wasuk made his professional debut in March of last year. The debut didn’t go as planned, however, as he would go on to drop a split decision to Kirk Tse at BFL 60.
Following the loss, Wasuk made the big decision to stop juggling work and training simultaneously, and being focusing on MMA full-time. Since then, he’s rattled off two straight wins to move to 2-1 as a professional, and will look to make it three in a row when he meets Nick Ghaeni at BFL 65 on Feb. 8.
“I was too distracted. I was trying to do too many different things, and it just wasn’t what I wanted to do.
“I made the transition and haven’t looked back since.”
During his 10-fight amateur career, Wasuk earned the opportunity to do something very few amateurs have the luxury of doing, which is competing on the world stage. He competed at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships where he advanced to the quarterfinals, eventually falling to now two-time IMMAF champion Delyan Georgiev.
Wasuk said having the opportunity to complete in a tournament-style event against the best amateur fighters in the world was an experience that helped prepare him in a big way for his professional career.
“My coach, Kajan Johnson, told me when you do Nationals and Worlds, you will truly understand what it means to be a professional.
“These guys were world class; they were the best of the best. Not getting gold at Worlds changed my work ethic completely.”
As is the case with the majority of young MMA fighters, Wasuk has his sights set on competing at the highest level the sport has to offer.
Whether it be UFC, Bellator, or One FC, he said he just wants to be the top dog.
“I’m all in at this stage. I’m in it to try and make it to the top.
“I’m trying to fight the best of the best. The end goal will always be the UFC, One FC, or one of these big promotions. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.”