As a ravenous consumer of anything combat sports related, I am always on the lookout for the next big thing; be it an up and coming fighter with an interesting story, or a new promotion with an interesting angle. Karate Combat is bringing just that to New York City.
The first mainstream, professional full-contact karate league will host its next event, Karate Combat: One World, at the observation deck of the One World Trade Center, next Thursday, September 27th. It’s the first ever sporting event held atop the building and will set a world record for the highest sports event from ground level.
With karate slated to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020, it seems like just the right time to create a stage for the best karatekas in the world to show their stuff.
I got a chance to speak with Elhadji N’Dour, aka Black Magic, aka one of the most exciting fighters on the card. He’s also a New Yorker who owns a dojo in Long Island. He fights on the main card Thursday night, against Adilet Shadykanov.
Check out his last fight, and below that, read on for our conversation. I learned a lot about full contact karate, and why this league is so important for the karate community.
So, tell me, how’s training been going?
Its been going well. I’m actually in Germany. I was competing yesterday in the Berlin Open, for the Olympic qualification. To qualify for the next upcoming Olympics in 2020.
How did that go?
I lost unfortunately in the first round to a guy from Belgium. It was a score of 3 – 1.
So, this was for sport karate, right?
Yeah, sport karate. Its different from full contact karate, like Karate Combat. Its totally different.
Can you tell me a little bit about how your relationship with Karate Combat started?
One of my friends hooked me up with them. I met with the President, Michael in New York. He saw all the videos of my previous fights, and he actually wanted me on the card.
I’ve been doing sport karate since I was four years old. I’ve lost so many fights due to disqualification because I would knock people out. Its very frustrating in sport karate, because you can’t actually hurt anybody. That’s why when he decided to create this league, I was very excited.
Can you explain what the rule differences are between sport karate and full contact karate?
Well, sport karate is based on points. But you can’t go full contact, its like semi contact. Karate Combat allows you full contact. It only allows karate techniques but full contact.
My first fight was their first event in Budapest, in January. I ended up losing that fight because they deducted some points for some part of the body that I shouldn’t have punched; by the neck and stuff. I actually won the fight by points, but after they deducted points, I ended up losing the fight. After that, they adjusted the rules to make the fights better.
That was hard for me, but I accepted it. Winning a fight or losing a fight doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is that when I fight, people are excited to see me fight.
My next fight was with Andras Virag from Hungary. I won that fight by knock out, so they gave me this fight in New York. I’m very excited to fight in my home town and on top of the Freedom Tower.
When I heard that I was blown away. Karate Combat’s production value is top notch too. If you watch their previous events, it really feels like you’re in an old movie Kumite.
Yeah, it looks like a crazy movie!
How many full contact fights have you had before you started your career with Karate Combat?
Well, I was born in Senegal. If you know about Senegal, we are born fighters. We have our own form of wrestling, in which we fight with empty hands; no gloves. I was fighting in the street like crazy, every day. And you know fighting in the street is not semi contact. Everybody is trying to hurt you, and if you have even a little bit of fear in you, you are not going to survive the streets of Senegal.
And the police can see you fighting in the street, and if they see there are no weapons, they are going to say, “okay guys, good luck!” That’s how we handle our problems.
But when I started sport karate, I didn’t fight that much in the streets. I was too focused on my training.
What was the transition like from sport karate to full contact? How do you approach the game differently, mentally and emotionally?
Personally, I see myself more in Karate Combat than in sport karate. If you know, Karate means empty hand. Karate Do is a way of life, and I choose this for myself; to fight. When we practice, we practice so hard to try and hit the target, but, unfortunately, when we get to a tournament, you are not allowed to hit. But in Karate Combat, it gives me the freedom to hit! It gives me the freedom to do what I practice. You understand?
It shows in your fighting style. I was watching your last fight with Andras Virag. That was a really fun fight to watch!
Thank you. I appreciate that. Anybody who knows me, knows that I’d rather die going forward than backing up. I’m not a back up fighter. I love to fight. This is the sport I love to do.
Do you have any aspirations of entering in to mixed martial arts?
In the future, why not? Karate Combat is full contact. With the experience I have doing wrestling, and this Karate, I think if I put in a little bit of work, I think I’d be good.
How much do you know about your opponent?
I’ve actually never seen him fight. I’ve just seen on of his videos recently during the Asian Games. That’s all I’ve seen on him. I don’t really look in to my opponents, because its not important what they did in the past. I look for the present and the future. I expect for them to come and fight me, and I bring everything.
So, you’re saying your own plan should be enacted, no matter what they’re bringing. And to not expect anything, so you aren’t surprised by anything.
Yes. Correct. I train to be prepared for anything. Whatever he brings, I have an answer.
I’m very excited about this fight because its in my home town. I’ve been living in New York now for seven years. I consider myself a New Yorker. I’ve got so much support from New York, and from people all over the United States. I’m a three-time US National Champion. I’ve won the US Open so many times. I won the Chicago Open, the New York Open, Miami Open.
In 2015 I opened my own Karate school. Thanks to God, I’ve created a family there, to show people to love each other, and not hate each other. We’re taking kids off the streets and putting some knowledge in their heads.
We’re helping the parents to actually build discipline and respect in their kids. I got that kind of help that pulled me off the streets, and put some knowledge into me, so why not do it for the kids.
I have three of my junior members that made to team USA for 2018. I brought twelve students to Reno, NV and we won 20 medals. I have five kids that went to the team trials and they all made it to the team. I’m really proud of them, and I love what I’m doing.
That’s a beautiful thing man. Where is your school?
My school is in West Hempstead, Long Island. Its called EGN Karate Do (www.egnkarate.com).
Do you have any sponsors who you’d like to quickly mention?
Yes! I would like to give a big thank you to Robert Jesberber, and Mid Island Collision, (http://www.midislandcollision.com/). Its him who helped me to do all this travel and sponsor my team to do the Olympic qualifications. I really can’t thank them enough.
I’d like to thank my parents and my fiancé Aurelie Roy for all the help and support. She’s my everything. She makes me who I am today. I’m really thankful to have her in my life. Also my whole EGN family, David Fullman, Angelo Adke, Erich Rotbart, Jennifer Rotbart, Claudine Fullman, and Linda Witte for all their help with the team. I do it all for them.
Any parting thoughts for your opponent?
Anyone who signs up to fight Black Magic, you know you’ve got a big deal. I know I’m a big deal, because I choose to be a big deal. He better be prepared because my hands and my legs have so many victims, and he is going to be one of those victimized by my hands and my legs.
Well, good luck on your fight next week. Hope you’re training well and staying healthy.
Thank you very much.
Karate Combat: One World will stream live at Karate Combat’s site karate.com, on its Android and iOS apps and new Roku channel, along with partners UFC Fight Pass, CBS Sports Live, DailyMotion, Dr. Oz’s CombatGO, FITE, YouTube, Pluto TV, Eleven Sports, Klowd TV, The Fight Network, and more. Three million people viewed Karate Combat’s Miami and Athens events.
You can learn more about Karate Combat at Karate.com.