In one of his first acts as a Canadian citizen, Mostafa Sabeti knocked somebody out.
Did it in record time, as a matter of fact. But before anyone alerts the authorities, know that it was all nice and legal – encouraged, even.
Sabeti, 30, was competing at World Kickboxing Association Canadian National Championships in Montreal, where he won a gold medal in the 90-kg full-contact division and set a national record by knocking out an opponent just 18 seconds into the match.
All this after being sworn in as a Canadian citizen just a week before.
“We did very well, for first time,” Sabeti told Peace Arch News Monday.
The whole whirlwind experience was the culmination of more than eight years of stress and struggle for Sabeti and his wife, Solmaz, who came to Canada four years ago from Iran, after applying to immigrate here more than four years before that.
Sabeti’s performance in Montreal earlier this month was enough to impress Team Canada coaches, who invited him to join his new country’s national squad immediately.
“I have my Canada jacket, my (gym) bag, and I signed my invitation – I am ready to go,” Sabeti said. “I cannot explain it in words, what this means. I am just very, very excited.”
Sabeti is a former world champion kickboxer, whose Iranian passport had caused him to miss out on several fighting opportunities; Iran is near the bottom of the Henley Visa Restriction Index, which ranks countries based on its citizens’ freedom to travel.
He first visited Vancouver in 2002, to fight at a world kickboxing event. Four years ago, not wanting to waste any more of his athletic prime sitting on the sidelines, Sabeti decided to apply to come to the Lower Mainland.
While living in B.C., he’s been unable to reach his ultimate goal of competing for Canada on the world stage – until June 10, when he became a citizen.
“I was worried because I was 26 when I came here and am 30 now. Some professions, it doesn’t matter what age you are, but me, you can’t compete as well the older you get,” he said. “But I’m only 30 – that’s not too old.”
Kickboxers can compete in the amateur ranks until age 35, after which they can only fight professionally. And for Sabeti, the amateur events – such as world championships and the Olympics – are the most important.
Professional bouts are nice, he told Peace Arch News earlier this year, but the Olympics “bring more glory to your country.”
The first opportunity for Sabeti, who runs Golden Glory Martial Arts Academy in White Rock, to don the Maple Leaf in competition will come at world championships, scheduled for Germany in August.
But before that, he had another special event on the calendar – celebrating his first Canada Day as a Canadian citizen tomorrow (Friday).
“My first Canada Day as a citizen, I just want to celebrate,” he said.