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UFC heavyweight Jarjis Danho's MMA journey began after fleeing Syria at age six

Control Master Management

In the globalized world and societies we live in today, it is not difficult to find athletes who represent multiple nations, instead of just their native land. In the case of recent UFC signee Jarjis Danho, he fights out of Germany, but also represents his Syrian origins.

If you ask Jarjis, he would tell you that the blood of Tudiya, the earliest Assyrian king named on the Assyrian King List, runs through his veins. He is both Arab and German, and proudly represents both worlds as he prepares for his UFC debut against Daniel Omielancruk on Feb 27 in London, England.

Though Arab in appearance, Jarjis lived the vast majority of his life in Hamm, Germany. His parents fled there as refugees when he was six years old, after they decided that life in Syria as Orthodox Christians during the Gulf War would be too dangerous to bear. Though Jarjis' memories of Syria are few and far between, he clearly recalls the difficulties that his family faced during that trying period in their lives.

"The first years here were full of uncertainty," Jarjis told BloodyElbow. "We tried to survive day by day, never knowing whether we'd be allowed to stay. I eventually made a deal with the foreigners' registration office that they would let me stay if I managed to carry my own weight and provide for myself and not live off the State's money. So I started working odd jobs at age twelve to help provide for my family."

"The first years here were full of uncertainty. We tried to survive day by day, never knowing whether we'd be allowed to stay."

Not yet a teenager, Jarjis had already been thrust into the harsh reality that surrounded him. He spent summers working in the family restaurant - two pizzerias in Paderborn -- and dedicated the majority of his free time to helping his family steer through the turbulent stage of their lives. It was partially the reason why he became a late bloomer in martial arts: he simply didn't have the time to dedicate himself during his teenage years.

Following a stint as a bouncer, Jarjis decided to try his hand at professional fighting. At 6'2" and nearly 300 pounds, it was an organic decision that quickly reaped rewards. He had already dabbled in football and wanted to continue using his size in athletic endeavours.

"I've played some football in my youth and lifted (heavy) weights for a long time. Eventually I started getting bored with that and got into boxing and later MMA. My coaches realized my raw potential and signed me up for my first fight. In a country starving for heavyweight talent, I was too big not to get noticed!"

Aware that he might have found a new career path, Jarjis began training at the Hammers Gym in Nuremberg. Given that it was quite a distance from his home in Paderborn, Jarjis came to the decision that he would try his hand at MMA and see if anything came of it.

It took all of 10 seconds for him to realize he had found his calling.

"I had my first fight at 28. I don't remember much as it went pretty fast! (laughs). I slammed the guy unconscious in ten seconds. The rest is history."

Though he didn't start martial arts until the age of 27, Jarjis didn't necessarily view that as a disadvantage.

"I had my first fight at 28. I slammed the guy unconscious in ten seconds."

"A lot of the fighters who are my age have been through countless wars already and have suffered a lot of injuries over the years. I am fresh and healthy going into the most important phase of my career."

With an unblemished 6-0 record and a short stint in the Middle East's top promotion, Desert Force, Jarjis believes he is physically prepared to pursue his career aspirations in the UFC.

"Without getting the chance to fight for Desert Force, I would probably not be in the UFC today. You won't believe how difficult it is for an up-and-coming fighter to find fights out here at heavyweight. Especially if you have a small record and are considered pretty dangerous. So I believe those two fights I did for them really helped me to push my career into the right direction."

While a championship belt is his longterm goal, Jarjis is too much of a pragmatist to fill his own head with unrealistic expectations so early into his UFC tenure.

"I want to fight the champion one day. But I am realistic about the fact that I'm only starting out and I still have a lot to learn. I do think I have the skills and the power to beat a lot of guys outside out of the Top 10 already."

Nevertheless, with the blood of the earliest Syrian kings running through his veins, Jarjis is determined to make his people - both Arabic and German - proud of the poor refugee who made it in the UFC.

"I know that it is filling them with joy, happiness and pride to see me competing on the biggest stage of combat sports."

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