Teased as a youth for his flabby body, Mada did something about it, and what you see today from WWE’s newest recruit is the fruits of his dedication, education and labor.
With a unique look and muscular physique, the 6-6, 240-pound Mada impressed those evaluating and watching during the latest version of “WWE Tough Enough,” and though he did not with the competition, he landed a developmental deal with the sports entertainment empire.
It’s been some journey.
Growing up in New Zealand, Mada not only battled obesity but the ridicule from it.
“Growing up I was always the fat kid struggling with my weight with eating problems,” Mada wrote on his personal fitness website. “I once ate 34 slices of pizza at an eating contest and won, of course. I was teased with zingers like, ‘You have more rolls than a bakery’ and ‘You look like a girl with your boobs.’
“Through it all, I continued to eat poorly. I was terrified to take my shirt off in public. I faked an illness anytime we went to the beach. I didn't enjoy a lot of things growing up, and I soon realized I was heading down a very dangerous path. If I continued, there’s no way I would be able to live a long or healthy life.”
Mada turned things around, learning about proper diet and nutrition and how to workout.
“I was about 14, 15, and I had a big growth spurt, and I gained a lot of weight. I was about 320 pounds,” Mada said. “Being outside, being at a beach, being at a swimming pool is part of everyday life in New Zealand. So you always have to take your shirt off. At that age, kids are pretty mean. I got called everything under the sun, and I was always scared to take my shirt off. I was always embarrassed. I always had a sick note to get out of swim class. I stopped going to the beach with everybody else, because I was so scared to take my shirt off.
“It finally got to a point where I was sick and tired of looking like that. I never wanted somebody to point at me and make fun of my body ever again. I wanted people to point at me and say how good I look, instead.”
Mada found inspiration from a familiar face and body.
“It was Batista. I was watching WWE, and I just admired his body. I was like, ‘Wow, that guy’s body is incredible. I want to look exactly like that one day.’
“That’s when I started researching all about fitness, nutrition, health -- what to eat and what not to eat -- and working out. It started out slow, a little bit here, a little bit there. I didn’t know where I was going with it. It was more trial and error. It became a lifelong journey, and I love fitness so much and helping others get in shape.”
He practices what he preaches, and it shows. Mada carries just 5.5-percent body fat.
Big and tall for his age, Mada excelled in sports, especially basketball as a youth.
“I was always huge,” he said. “I was a 12-pound baby, so I started out real big. I was about this height [6-6] since about the age of 15. So I was 15-years-old, 6-6, 320 pounds, and I was dunking a basketball. You can imagine that was a scarey sight for that age. I’ve always been really big. It’s just in my genetics.”
Born in Cairo, Egypt, Mada’s family moved to New Zealand when he turned 9, and he spent 10 years there.
“My first sport was actually soccer. My dad was a huge soccer fan,” Mada said. “Being from Egypt, soccer is almost a religion there. I played tennis, hockey, rugby, soccer, basketball, but around the age of 12, 13, that’s when basketball took over, and I started representing New Zealand and going overseas. That’s when I started seeing a lot of success with it.”
Mada competed for the New Zealand national basketball team at the 2007 World University Games in Thailand, where they also performed New Zealand’s national war dance, the Haka, in front of 60,000 people including the King of Thailand in the stadium.
YouTube 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup
New Zealand Basketball Team Haka
Mada played college basketball in America and then signed contracts with professional teams in Egypt and New Zealand.
“Growing up in New Zealand and playing basketball in New Zealand, it’s very hard to get a scholarship to an American College,” Mada said. “It was definitely a dream of mine. Not many people from New Zealand get that opportunity, and I got lucky. The assistant coach at the time for the college played a few years in New Zealand professionally.
“He was recruiting, and he was like, ‘Let me think outside the box and see if New Zealand has any talent.’ He happened to stumble upon me. He got some footage, and he loved what he saw, and the next thing you know I’m here in the states.”
Any New Zealand kid would think college ball in New York meant New York City.
“I ended up in Buffalo,” he said, “and I was like, ‘Where am I?’”
Houghton College, an NAIA affiliate.
He added: “This was a lot smaller than I thought, than Madison Square Garden, and it’s freezing.”
The colder weather presented some perks.
“The first time I saw snow in my life was there,” he excitedly said. “I remember the coach shut down practice and let me run outside in the snow. I was like a little kid running around and making snow angels.”
Mada grew up a fan of college basketball and the NBA, and he -- like most kids who played basketball in New Zealand -- dreamed of playing American college ball and in the NBA.
“I knew everything about the NBA and college basketball,” he said. “I was always a big fan of Shaquille O’Neal, because he was bigger than everybody else like I was growing up. Of course, the great Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. I was a Bulls’ fan, too. After Shaq got older, I stayed a Lakers’ fan. I’m a huge Kobe Bryant fan.”
Just by his shear size alone, Mada dominated on the courts in New Zealand. American basketball is a higher level of play, but in college, American college, Mada more than held his own, receiving All Conference honors. Even with his college accolades, the NBA was not in his cards.
“I knew I gave it everything I got, and I got professional basketball contracts offered to me, before my senior season,” he said. “It was a Blessing. I got to continue doing something I loved and got paid for it.”
He also excelled off the court.
“Academics was huge in my family,” Mada said. “Both my parents [Tarek and Maha] were doctors, and I was doing algebra by the age of 8 or 9. With my parents, their style was you had to get an ‘A,’ or it was a failure. I liked that kind of pressure they put on me, because it made me succeed -- not just in the classroom but also outside the classroom, on the basketball court, inside the ring. I always want to be the best that I can be. So I like that they instilled in me the importance of academics at an early age. It was definitely a huge part of my childhood.”
Mada, who also learned about health from them, graduated with a 3.5 GPA from Houghton College, earning a bachelor’s degree in business.
Playing pro basketball in his birthplace, Cairo, Mada survived the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 (See Part 1).
His passion for basketball ended with that revolution as he almost lost his life. He 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.
“Since that [revolution], I live life as if everyday is my last,” Mada said, “and I always want to do something that I love.”
He transitioned into fitness. Not only was it something he loved, but he also found the love of his life, Maryam, because of it. They met a gym in the Northern Virginia/Washngton D.C. area, where his parents resided.
“We got married, and we moved to L.A.,” he recalled, “and I was very successful in the fitness world very fast.”
Mada trained celebs like Momoa. With his physique, look and celebrity friends, Mada also landed a part in the movie “The Bad Batch” with Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves and Momoa, set for release in 2016.
“It was the director’s idea for the Mohawk,” Mada said. “The movie is a post-apocalyptic, cannibal, love story, and I play this crazy bad guy. She called me up and said, ‘You need to get a Mohawk.’ I usually have a shaved head. I said, ‘Sure, I can grow a Mohawk. I’ve done it before.’ Couple of weeks go by. My hair is long, and she says to dye it blonde. ‘Blonde?’ I was a little nervous. I didn’t think I could pull it off.
“I got my wife to get a hair dye kit, and I did it at home. When I got out the shower and took a look, I liked it. I said, ‘I think I’m gonna keep it.’ I love the look. It makes me stand out even more, and it suits me.”
With basketball, fitness training, acting and a blonde Mohawk in his repertoire, Mada set his sights on an even bigger passion.
“A guy, EJ, approached me about the whole [WWE] ‘Tough Enough’ opportunity,” Mada said. “I’ve always had a passion for wrestling. I just never knew how to get into it. In New Zealand, it wasn’t really big at all.”
When you think of the annals of New Zealand pro wrestling, legends Tony Garea and the Sheepherders (The Bushwhackers) come to mind, but New Zealand is not known for pro wrestling.
“Everybody who sees me, especially after I got the Mohawk for the movie, says you look like a WWE superstar. I was like, ‘I wish,’ but I didn’t know how to do it. ‘Is there a tryout?’ I looked it up on Google actually. I didn’t know any wrestlers at the time, and then the opportunity for ‘Tough Enough’ came along. It was surreal because everybody kept telling me that I should do it. I didn’t know how to do it, and then all of a sudden this opportunity just presents itself. So it was just amazing.”
Initially, not everyone shared his feelings.
“At the start, my parents were very typical Egyptian parents, very over-protective of me,” he said. “They didn’t want me to get hurt. They wouldn’t let me play rugby growing up. I had to sneak around to play it. They were very cautious for me.”
WWE grew on them.
“The next thing you know they’re all for it,” he gladly said. “My dad started a Facebook page in Arabic for me, and he runs it, and it already has 150,000 likes on it. That was since I started ‘Tough Enough.’ It’s for all my Egyptian fans, my Arab fans, and he’s all for it. He loves it. He’s as dedicated to this goal, to this dream of mine, as much as I am. So it’s good to have their support.”
They’re proud of all he’s already accomplished and now striving to accomplish, training at the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando.
The Mada Mantra
From his personal fitness website
“There’s no way I could ever look like that. He's just lucky or I’ll have to work my ass off to even come close to getting a physique like that.
“The truth is: I didn't always look this way. Growing up I was always the fat kid struggling with my weight and eating problems. I once ate 34 slices of pizza at an eating contest -- and won, of course. I was teased with zingers like ‘you have more rolls than a bakery’ and ‘you look like a girl with your boobs.’ Through it all, I continued to eat poorly. I was terrified to take my shirt off in public. I faked an illness anytime we went to the beach. I didn't enjoy a lot of things growing up, and I soon realized I was heading down a very dangerous path. If I continued, there's no way I would be able to live a long or healthy life.
“After being so self-conscious of my image all those years, it made me want something that was exceptional, not normal. I never was normal, so why start now I figured. I wanted to change my body, and I was willing to work hard to make it happen. No one ever believed I could do it though. No one believed I could lose any weight, yet alone have a sculpted six-pack. This doubt, this ‘hate’ just made me want it even more.
“I tried every diet and training program imaginable. I starved myself and ran myself into the ground. I was working very hard but not very smart. It wasn’t until years later where I started to eat and train correctly. I attained my physique 100 percent naturally. I learned so much on my path of achieving the body that I have always dreamed of, I now eat, sleep and breathe fitness. Now I want to help everyone else that has a similar dream. I want to help inspire and motivate others to reach their health and fitness goals.
“I believe it’s possible to do anything you want in life. If you have the will, there is a way. With hard work, perseverance and faith, nothing is impossible.”
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