From Prison to the King’s Palace: Abu Azaitar’s UFC Hamburg debut marred by criminal past

On Sunday, July 22nd, the UFC will return to the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany for a fight night headlined by a light-heavyweight match-up…

By: Karim Zidan | 5 years ago
From Prison to the King’s Palace: Abu Azaitar’s UFC Hamburg debut marred by criminal past
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

On Sunday, July 22nd, the UFC will return to the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany for a fight night headlined by a light-heavyweight match-up between former champ Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and Anthony Smith. The main card will also feature the long-awaited debut of German-Moroccan fighter Abu Azaitar, a talented welterweight with a disturbing criminal past and concerning ties to some of the most notorious men in Germany.

Born in Cologne to parents who immigrated from Morocco, Abu Azaitar (born Abu Bakr Azaitar) grew up with a traditional Islamic upbringing. He attended the King Fahd Academy, a school located in the southern suburbs of Bonn that taught courses in Arabic according to the Saudi Arabian curriculum.

The controversial school, which shut down in 2017 of its own accord, was funded by the Saudi government and suspected of “attracting Islamists to Germany.” In 2003, the school was investigated for alleged ties to the terrorist network al Qaeda and other fundamentalist groups. While the school continued to operate afterwards, it faced government scrutiny, media criticism, as well as riots and protests in 2012.

In November 2003 — the same year that the King Fahd Academy was investigated — Abu Azaitar and his brother Omar, appeared in juvenile court in Cologne, Germany, where the former faced charges of inflicting dangerous bodily harm and the latter for gang theft. The two brothers had become infamous for their exploits and were known as the ‘brutal twins’ because of their violent crimes and how difficult it was to distinguish between the brothers.

Abu Azaitar, who was 17 years old and recently graduated, was accused of brutally attacking a businessman, threatening his life by dousing him in gasoline, and stealing his Ferrari. He was sentenced in June 2004 to two years and three months in prison. His brother, Omar, however, was given 20 months on probation.

“When my brother and I were imprisoned in 2003, we quickly established contacts,” Abu Azaitar told rundschau-online. “One of our roles was to be the protectors of the German prisoners against some unscrupulous groups of foreigners.”

According to reports, Abu Azaitar served his sentence and was released in 2006. However, his trouble with the law did not come to an end. That same year, Abu and Omar Azaitar were accused of participating in a brawl at a martial arts gym, where they violently beat a man until they broke his nose. Abu Azaitar also faced accusation of assaulting his girlfriend at a Christmas market and punching her repeatedly until her ear drum burst.

By 2007, however, Abu Azaitar dedicated himself to mixed martial arts as a way to steer clear of the criminal circles he had fallen into as a teenager and the street fights he took part in.

“Everything is faster on the street. There are no rules. If one is a seasoned thug, he will prevail,” Abu Azaitar said in 2014. “In the ring, on the other hand, there are rules, respect and a fight time that is respected. By now I clearly prefer the ring.”

Photo by Sebastian Reuter/Getty Images for Tres Click

Two years after dedicating himself to MMA, Abu Azaitar made his debut on the German regional scene, losing via disqualification to Volker Dietz. He did not compete again until 2011, when he won three consecutive bouts that year. He won two more fights in 2012 before suffering his first professional loss to Marcin Naruszczka at Respect FC 8.

By 2016. Abu Azaitar had competed for some of the most notable promotions in Europe, including Cage Warriors, KSW, and Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB). He eventually signed with manager Ali Abdelaziz and debuted on U.S. soil for World Series of Fighting (WSOF). Following back-to-back wins for WSOF, which brought his overall record to 13-2-1, the German citizen signed with the UFC. And while he was originally scheduled to make his promotional debut against Siyar Bahadurzada at UFC:Rotterdam in 2017, Abu Azaitar withdrew from the bout for reasons still unknown.

Since then, Abu Azaitar has made headlines for his friendship with a popular German rapper, his alleged ties to criminal clans, and his appearance alongside the king of Morocco.

For King and Clan

On April 21, 2018, all three of the Azaitar brothers — Abu, Ottman, and Omar — were invited to meet King Mohammed VI of Morocco at the Rabat Royal Palace. Dressed in black suits with the Moroccan flag pinned to their jackets, the three brothers were pictured holding up the the German MMA Championships (GMC) belt with the king standing amidst their beaming faces.

According to Moroccan media reports, King Mohammed VI wanted to meet with Abu and Ottoman because of their recent achievements in MMA. Abu became the first Moroccan national to sign with the UFC, while Ottman claimed the Brave FC lightweight title and extended his unbeaten record to 10-0. Omar Azaitar accompanied them as Ottman’s manager.

The meeting with King Mohammed VI took place a few days following his return from France, where he spent several weeks recovering from successful heart surgery. The brothers even attended Friday prayer service with the King and his family and stayed long enough for Abu Azaitar to complete a portion of his UFC training camp in Morocco.

Abu Azaitar has since posted several pictures of himself alongside the Moroccan king. One of them carried the caption: “Your Majesty, Our dear King Mohamed VI .. I can’t thank him enough for everything he has done for us. He is one exceptional role model for all of us. We incredibly respect and appreciate him as a great personage. Both the realest sportsman himself and a one of the biggest supporter of sports! My beloved King, may Allah take you and your family under his protection and always keep you healthy! What a pleasure and honor to be side by side with our king, who we love so much.”

A post shared by Abu Azaitar (@abuazaitar) on

King Mohammed VI was not the only royalty that the Azaitar’s have encountered during their professional careers. Abu Azaitar posted a picture of himself alongside Prince Albert of Monaco. He is also pictured alongside Shekih Khalid bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini prince who founded an MMA promotion (Brave FC) and a fully-funded MMA gym (KHK MMA) in his country. Azaitar referred to the prince as his “brother.” Abu Azaitar was also invited to a fundraising gala dinner in Dubai by the First Lady of the Islamic Republic of Gambia.

While Abu Azaitar’s social media accounts are filled with pictures of his interactions with royalty, as well as celebrities such as Floyd Mayweather and Cristiano Ronaldo, he has also associated with some of the more notorious men in Germany.

In an interview with TV Strassensound in 2016, Abu Azaitar talked about his friendship with Farid Bang, a controversial rapper who used anti-Semitic lyrics in his latest award-winning album. When asked about Bang’s new signing, 19 Karat, Abu Azaitar let slip his ties to Sammy Miri, an alleged member of the Miri Clan, which is a Mhallami-Lebanese criminal organization that is prominent in Germany and rivals the Hells Angels.

”18 Karat is a good friend of mine, also a very good friend of a friend of mine, Sammy Miri. Sammy is like a brother to me, he’s also a family friend. And that’s why it’s better to work together, the guy [18 Karat] is very talented”

In 2016, another alleged member of the Miri clan, Ayman Miri, also posted a picture with Abu and Omar Azaitar, referring to them by their infamous title in German media: the ‘brutal twins.’ Apart from that, a picture of Abu Azaitar posing with Sammy Miri is still visible on the fighter’s Facebook page.

Morgen Bochum mit bro Sammy Miri

Posted by Abu Azaitar on Friday, June 6, 2014

Abu Azaitar is pictured here with Arafat Abou-Chaker, the alleged leader of the notorious clan. Azaitar also chatted with Arafat on the alleged gangster’s social media livestream in February 2018, months after he had already signed with the UFC.

The Abou Chaker clan is an organized crime family that operates protection rackets, drugs and arms trades, as well as the sex trade. Of Palestinian origins, it is believed that there are over 200 extended family members in the crime group, most of whom reside in Lebanon, Denmark, and Germany. According to one report on, Abdullah Abou Chaker’s crimes are so extensive that the Berlin police department assigned a separate case worker to focus specifically on him.

It should be noted that Abu Azaitar has not been implicated in any crimes since devoting himself to MMA. However, he does appear to have been friendly with some of the most notorious mafia groups operating in Germany.

While the UFC did not offer an official statement, one source within the promotion told BloodyElbow that the “UFC goes through a lengthy process to review the backgrounds of its fighters and spends a lot of time making sure the fighters adhere to UFC’s Athlete Code of Conduct. Azaitar has not violated UFC’s Athlete Code of conduct.”

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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