From Islamabad to professional baseball to… the UFC?

Syed Ali Hashaum’s story of living in Pakistan, playing professional baseball and his dream of being a UFC Champion

Syed Ali Hashuam has never seen limits. He has never believed in impossibilities.

But he does believe in dreams. His is to be the first Pakistani UFC Champion. In order to do so, he knows there are no days off and that there is always someone out there working hard.

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Born in Islamabad, Pakistan, Hashuam saw his father work tirelessly for a petroleum company to provide for the rest of the family. There were early mornings and late nights. When he was just nine, Hashaum’s father was relocated to Yorkshire, England.

“That was a pretty crazy move and also abrupt. I just remember being told we are leaving Pakistan to go to Europe. I was excited, but I also was sad leaving all my friends that I made. It’s tough to move when you’re that young.”

Hashaum was always surrounded by sports. Leaving Pakistan meant leaving the first sport he ever loved, field hockey.

“I came from a solid area, solid family. Started playing field hockey at a young age and my uncle was an Olympic champion in 1984 and won bronze in 1992, so he taught me field hockey. I grew up with that and then we moved to England, that’s when I flipped the switch to mixed martial arts.”

Mixed martial arts is an extreme combat sport. Fighters use techniques from wrestling and boxing, while also using martial arts proficiency, such as kickboxing, judo and karate.

“I started martial arts when I was nine in England, started with Tae Kwon Do and moved up in that. When I got to America I started Krav Maga, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, all that stuff. It was intense.”

Right before starting high school, Hashaum came to America for the first time. With family in Connecticut, his parents bought a house in Naugatuck.

Different country. Different environment. Same grind.

“At age 16 I started competing in little tournaments here and there, and all of that got me to compete in a big national tournament in California in 2015 where I finished fourth overall which was a big step for me.”

But one sport wasn’t enough. After playing baseball all throughout high school, Hashaum had a very rare opportunity appear at his doorstep: play professional baseball for the Pittsburg Diamonds, an independent league team in California.

“My uncle in California has a lot of businesses there and he’s a huge baseball fan. He grew up loving the Athletics and Jose Canseco. He asked me what I was doing this summer and if I was interested in trying out for a local team down in California that Canseco owns. Worst-case scenario I just get to meet Canseco,” Hashaum chuckled. “My uncle set up the tryout with team, since he has connections with them. So I trained really hard in the months leading up to that and then went out there for the tryout. It went well. The manager is Aaron Miles who was a pro ball player for the Cardinals and he said that the team needed speed and I had that, so we’re going to put me on the roster and to expect to be an important base runner. I said absolutely, it was a great opportunity and I love the game. I worked hard, and eventually got myself in the starting lineup and played in left field. The contract is signed of course and I have an opportunity to go back this year, so we’ll see what happens.”

Hashaum was successful for the Diamonds once he placed in the starting nine, hitting .326 in 13 games while playing left field. Now in love with the game of baseball more than ever, Hashuam would love to play for his university, Quinnipiac, but after signing with the Diamonds, he has forgone his amateur status.

Now a senior at Quinnipiac, Hashaum has quite the schedule. Classes, homework and training for two sports, all in the hopes of being a UFC Champion and making his family proud.

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Monday morning- 6 A.M.

Hashaum wakes up to his alarm, which is blaring the sounds of Scottish bagpipes or the Mortal Combat theme song, whichever het sets the night before. It’s time to have a healthy breakfast and go on a run to get the day started.

“Egg whites, oatmeal and water. Lots of water.”

Hashaum laces up his Nike Pegasus 31’s and throws on some athletic garb. Three miles at 6:50 mile pace, a few sprints up and down Quinnipiac’s York Hill campus and a hot shower later, it’s time for class.

The early start is crucial to Hashaum.

“I try to wake up as early as possible. I know there are so many other people out there working so hard, so I have to be working too. So I try to wake up as early as I can and get a breakfast in, because that’s really important, and then I get some cardio work in to start the day.”

Monday afternoon: 1 P.M.

Hashaum is done with classes for the morning. He’s got some time to rest before night class.

Or he can work on fielding…. for next summer with the Diamonds.

Hashaum goes to secluded spot on campus with a couple of his friends who have a catch with him. Then they get to work. They have Hashaum going in circles for fly balls and diving side to side for grounders. Anything for their friend to be successful.

“We really support him,” Bradley Groleau, Hashaum’s best friend said. “We know how hard he works. He wants to be so good so any way we can help we want to do. He never stops working.”

“I look up to him a lot,” Liam Barry, another one of Hashaum’s friends, said. “To do all of the stuff he does is crazy. And it’s not like his grades are bad or anything or like he doesn’t care about his schoolwork. He really cares about that too and is a very smart kid.”

Then Hashaum gets in his car and drives to the nearest batting cages. He takes some swings. Half normal, half choking up. Half lefty, half righty. All part of the daily routine.

But Hashaum has to make time for studying too. There isn’t a ton of time to get schoolwork done, but he manages, and maintains a 3.4 grade point average, and expects to finish with a 4.0 for the Fall 2016 semester.

“Getting in the schoolwork is the hardest part,” Hashaum said. “When you throw class, MMA work and baseball work, it becomes a lot. It’s tough to find time to study but I have to get it done for my parents. They support everything else but the one thing they won’t stand for is bad grades. This semester has been great so far.”

Then more class, then back to work.

Monday evening: 8 P.M.

Now the training for martial arts begins.

“I train four times a week at my dojo. It’s a lot of work but it is awesome. I’ll get my martial arts work in and then I’ll come back and hit the gym at school and get the strength training in which will not only help with the martial arts but also the strength and speed needed for baseball.. And there’s homework… it becomes a lot.”

This is the daily routine for Syed Ali Hashuam. He knows the only way to get to the UFC, MLB or in law enforcement with a Criminal Justice degree from Quinnipiac is to always be working, because someone somewhere is.

“There’s people out there right now working to get to places I want to be. So I am always trying to better myself because if I’m not other people will get ahead of me, and I want to be the best. The UFC is a long way away, but it is my dream. I want to be in the UFC, and I want to be the first Pakistani champion. I want to make my family proud and I am so proud to be Pakistani.”

One thing is for sure, Hashaum will get a degree in Criminal Justice from Quinnipiac in May, and another shot at playing with the Diamonds in the summer.

“Education is very important to me and my family. Getting the degree will be a big deal for me. Everything else is so important to me too and I’m passionate about it, but the degree is very special.”

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