In 2011, Mada’s outlook on life changed for the better. Nearly dying can do that to a person.
“I used to complain that I hate going up to the 10th floor. The elevator is so slow,” said Mada, one of WWE’s newest recruits.
Living that high helped save him.
The 6-6, 240-pound Mada -- a “WWE Tough Enough” alum -- resided in a 10th floor apartment when playing basketball professionally in his native, Egypt. He lived a dream of playing pro basketball, but it came at a price.
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In the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, protesters from various socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. They conducted demonstrations, marches, occupations of plazas, riots, non-violent civil resistance, acts of civil disobedience and strikes.
The revolution -- which included Islamic, liberal, anti-capitalist, nationalist and feminist elements -- caused violent clashes between security forces and protesters with more than 840 people killed and more than 6,000 injured. Citing police corruption, protesters -- wanting free elections and democracy -- burned more than 90 police stations. The protests occurred in several cities, including Cairo, where Mada was born and later lived during this tumultuous time.
“One of the worst days was when they came down my street,” he recalled. “I was very close to everything that was going on.”
Tanks outside. Machine guns blasting. Dead bodies everywhere.
“We were 10 floors up, and they didn’t come up further than two floors,” he said. “If they had come all the way up, I don’t think I would be talking to you today.”
He continued: “That really changed the course of my life, just them deciding to by-pass the higher floors...Being up so high was actually a Blessing in disguise.”
Mada doesn’t mind slow elevators anymore.
He said: “This a great way to look at life. No matter what happens, no matter how bad the outcome of something you always got to look at the positive side, the bright side.”
For someone to actually experience first-hand something you would see on CNN, History channel, PBS -- something so devastating, so emotional, so scary -- and then escape makes you feel good when that person succeeds.
Feel good for Mada.
His passion for basketball ended with the revolution, but his zest for life started a new journey. A college graduate, Mada is a personal trainer in Los Angeles, shaping celebrities like Jason Momoa (Aquaman, Game of Thrones). He is also an actor, a son, a husband, a father, an NXT prospect and a WWE hopeful.
“I was lucky the New Zealand Embassy came and got me out after a week,” said Mada, 28, who lived in New Zealand during his youth. “It was a week with no food, limited water. I was boiling the water just to be able to drink it. I lost about 20 pounds.”
How tough also when you lose communication with your loved ones during any ordeal.
“I’m so happy the phones weren’t working, because there was a point where I just knew I was going to die,” Mada said, “and I went to call my parents. I was like, ‘Please work. I want to just say good-bye at least,’ but they didn’t work. If they did work and I make that call, my mom would probably have a heart attack. I’m glad the phones weren’t working at the time.”
Later, contact worked with the New Zealand Embassy.
Big for his age, Mada excelled in basketball, growing up in New Zealand. He played for its national team at the 2007 World University Games in Thailand. Because of his parents -- doctors -- academics played a major role in his upbringing. A model student athlete, Mada represented New Zealand honorably and proudly. The country thanked him by helping him.
“They put me on a flight,” he said. “I ended up in Germany, and from there I had to find my own way home.”
He happily did for a very welcome Homecoming.
The unique looking Mada is currently training at the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando.
(More on Mada in Part 2)
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