Nov 1, 2012
(PRESS RELEASE) -- MONTREAL -- FundaFighter announced today that it has added a new pro-endorsement initiative to its growing fighter crowdfunding hub. “Pay It Forward” will see up-and-coming fighters receive backing and support from popular pro fighters whom they train with, are friends with, or who simply want to give back to the sport and support aspiring professional fighters.

The first fighter whose fundraising campaign will get a boost from PIF is Aiemann Zahabi, the younger brother of Tristar head coach Firas Zahabi who is set to make his pro debut Nov. 30 against a soon-to-be-named opponent at SLAMM1 at the Centre D’ Excellence Sports Rousseau in Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada. Backing Aiemann will be his longtime Tristar teammate and training partner, UFC vet and former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres, who predicts that the 24-year-old will be an MMA star in the not too distant future.

“I’ve trained with Aiemann around three years now. Ever since I came down here to train with Firas Zahabi at Tristar Gym, of the biggest factors to me changing my game and getting better was Aiemann Zahabi,” Torres explains. “He has a complete game – wrestling, jiu-jitsu and striking. It’s my personal belief that he’s going to be a superstar in the future. For sure he’s going to be a champ in whatever organization he fights in.”

Torres says that he wishes that a program like this existed when he was coming up, as it would have given him more time to train and eliminated some of the stresses he and many fighters go through trying to carve out a living in MMA while working other jobs.

“[Aiemann] has all of the abilities that I never had when I was younger. [The only] setbacks he has are financial ones. Coming up in MMA when I was younger, I had to go to work full-time, to school full-time, and teach private lessons on the side. It’s hard. Anyone out there who’s a fighter can tell you, it’s hard being a fighter," Torres says. "Having to pay your bills and try to fight professionally is very hard, especially in these times. Now instead of supporting the sport and the fighters in a small way by buying a shirt, or renting a pay-per-view, you can actually support a fighter directly.”

FundaFighter creator Robbie Stein came up with the “Pay It Forward” program after watching the interaction of the two friends who are at much different spectrums of their respective careers.

“We are proud to have Aiemann Zahabi as the first member of this program. Having watched Aiemann train and improve his skills alongside his teammate Miguel Torres over the years, it's been great to see Miguel take Aiemann under his wing,” Stein says. “I hope we see more campaigns such as this one, allowing young guys the chance to finance their training by leveraging the popularity of one of their better-known training partners.”

Stein hopes endorsements like Torres’ of Zahabi will help give little-known fighters a leg up with their fundraising efforts and says that Aiemann is the prototypical fledgling fighter he intended to help with FundaFighter.

“After getting to know many fighters at all levels of their careers from amateur all the way to UFC veterans, it became clear that it‘s a real struggle to succeed in this sport. Being able to afford training gear, supplements and maintaining a healthy diet are all prerequisites if you want to turn MMA into a career. This sport’s next generation superstars are at gyms right now wondering how they can put more hours into training so they can get continually evolve,” Stein points out. “The “Pay It Forward” program teams up today's existing stars of MMA with the future ones, and will hopefully provide the up-and-coming fighter with a better opportunity to succeed."

Zahabi says that it’s the financial struggle he has witnessed his teammates go through over the years that takes one of the biggest tolls on fighters, often prompting many with heaps of potential to walk away from the sport before hitting their strides. He points out that these monetary issues typically are overlooked, due to fans assumptions that all fighters make “Anderson Silva money.”

“Being at Tristar from a young age I've had the opportunity to train with a lot of fighters and be with them throughout their training camps. The training regimens are tough, but what’s harder is the financial struggle fighters go through, which can also have a psychological effect on them,” Zahabi explains. “With a workout schedule that consist of two training sessions a day, six days a week, it’s hard to find a job that coincides with this kind of training regimen. Also, since MMA has become more mainstream the talent pool has increased, so it has become even more important for fighters to be committed to their training and focus on increasing their skill level to be competitive.”

“The thing about all of that is training isn’t free. On top of that getting fights is hard, and even when you do get a fight booked, opponents often get injured and cards get cancelled; many things can pop up that can leave a fighter, who has done nothing but train for months, with no income for all the hard work he has put in,” Zahabi says. “Even if the fight does come through, the pay for your first five or 10 fights is so low that it ends up costing you money to fight. Taking two to three private lessons a week for months runs up a hefty bill, and that excludes your other expenses such as food, gas, and bills. FundaFighter is doing big things for fighters and I’m very privileged to be a part of it. They’re making it easier, financially for guys like me to follow my dreams.”

Zahabi's campaign will run from today until December 1 at


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