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'I’m a Zionist, I’m Jewish, and we can fight' – Israeli MMA fighter wins Houston 'Fury Fighting' championship

Shimon Smotritsky raises awareness of war against Israel

Professional Jewish-Israel mixed martial arts fighter Shimon Smotritsky at the Fury FC 92 fighting competition in Houston, Texas. June 16, 2024. (Photo: Shimon Smotritsky)

Israeli mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Shimon Smotritsky won the Fury Fighting Championship in Houston, Texas on Sunday.

Smotritsky, a 23-year-old athlete from the city of Holon, said he entered the championship as a representative of the hostages that were abducted by Palestinian terrorists during the Oct. 7 invasion and terror attack.

The Israeli MMA fighter, wearing both a Star of David and a Bring Them Home dog tag, joined the competition to bring awareness to the tragedy that is playing out.

“I try my best to bring awareness to the world of what's happening in Israel, bring awareness of the hostages, of the whole situation,” Smotritsky told The Jerusalem Post. “I always fight with the Israeli flag and the Star of David, but this fight I also fought with the ‘Bring Them Home’ logo.”

Smotritsky said he had always been proud of who he was.

“Even before the war started, I was always 100% Zionist, 100% Jewish. I never hide it. I'm super proud of it.”

After winning the game against his 33-year-old  American opponent Aaron Phillips, Smotritsky wrapped himself in the Israeli flag.

Since the outbreak of the war, the Israeli champion said that he had faced several challenges because of his Israeli and Jewish background. He had received hateful messages online, which didn't bother him as much as other competitors ignoring him because of his Jewish and Israeli identity.

The Israeli fighter values using his fame and platform to raise awareness about the hostage situation in Gaza.

“It means the world to me. This is a huge part of my motivation to fight and win. I wanted to show people that I’m a Zionist, that I’m Jewish, [and] we can fight,” he said.

“The thought that, because of me, hundreds of thousands of people watching UFC Fight Pass live saw this message, and that it maybe did something to them, makes me proud.”

There are those, however, who have supported Smotritsky during these challenging times, especially the world-famous fighter, and one of Smotritsky’s training partners, Sean Strickland.

“He supports us, he supports Israel. He knows that we are on the right side in this conflict,” Smotritsky said. “He’s definitely on our side.”

Smotritsky's identity as a Jew and an Israeli drives him to excel, particularly because there are not many Jewish mixed martial arts fighters.

“I’m fighting for my dreams, to become a UFC world champion. And what drives me is the fact that I’m Jewish and there’s not many Jewish fighters,” Smotritsky told The Jerusalem Post in August 2023.

“No one can bully us. We are warriors like King David, like Solomon. We have great warriors in our history, and it gives me great motivation to show that to the world.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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