Fitness has become a recent phenomenon and trend in the UAE on a regional scale. Many expats and locals have been interested and practice a healthy lifestyle but it’s always felt like a niche that few would follow. Combined with the one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, the UAE needed to improve its education of fitness and healthy living. Government initiatives and imported knowledge has really started to bring about this change and this is where my next guest comes in. A local expat who’s spent the majority of his life in the United Arab Emirates, in the suburbs of Sharjah, committing himself to improve, educate and transform the stigma and consequences of unhealthy living and fitness in the UAE. I bring to you Leon Basha.
Where It All Began
Sitting in the corner of his favorite mandi restaurant we sat down after a delicious dinner and started to chat about his life and how the journey has been so far. Here’s some background information on Leon before we move into his story:
Leon is a passionate footballer, personal trainer and entrepreneur. At the age of 26, he never thought he’d still be in the Emirates 16 years later, calling it home. A multi-cultural individual hailing from the United Kingdom and Iraq, Leon lived in the United Kingdom before he moved out to the United Arab Emirates in 2001. He supports Arsenal Football Club, (yes, he holds the same frustrations that every Arsenal fan endures on a weekly basis) dabbled in mixed martial arts and enjoys the occasional podcast over some low-state cardio.
Having been part of the generation that has developed and wants to help transform and shape the next generation through his intimate knowledge of sport, lifestyle and fitness and create a healthier and more knowledgeable population. A buzzing, progressive individual who has a talent to teach and share his knowledge about his two other passions: sports and fitness. By combining both his business aspirations and fitness, Leon decided very early on that he would eventually open up his own gym and personal training facility in the United Arab Emirates but it would require hard work and an immense amount of learning of his craft to break into a growing market with established names already present.
Let’s delve into his life and discover the man behind coach.
Leon’s coaching career has span over 10 years, teaching everyone from 5 to 21 year old adults. Leon grew his network during his time here in the Emirates and eventually found his way to Universal Sport led by ex-professional Sachi Ouhib. He became an integral part of the company and was eventually trusted with the operations and coaching. He identifies this moment as the defining point in his business development:
“Sachi gave me the opportunity to coach and then run the administrative side of the business, which I’ll never forget, it gave me the experience and I learnt a lot running the business side of things helping me with the process of setting up and running my own venture. He’s my mentor and the one to give me a chance to experience one of my goals.”
Absolute pleasure coaching this one, watching him develop over 3 years, soaking up all the advice and getting better every session. . Wish him well and most definately a future professional.. @sammpatchika _____________________________________________________________ #football #coach #development #youthcoaching #motivation #dedication #training #hardwork #leftfoot #bashletics #instalike #instadaily #team #inspired #lifestyle #health #fitness #fitspo
During his fitness infancy, he concentrated on strength, being able to pull the heaviest weights sacrificing cardio, stamina and everything else. Before, his obsession with being the strongest, Leon was overweight, unfit and was determined to change his life. Years of hard work, dedication and commitment enabled him to reach a point where he could be proud of the progress he made but still had a hunger to continuously improve. He saw his life evolve and change for the better in so many ways but it all changed after one life changing moment:
Not many people know this but my dad suffered a stroke and it changed everything. My family has a history of heart problems and I was scared. I used to concentrate on just being the strongest person I could be. Lifting heavy bench presses or deadlifts but I couldn’t move without running out of air and that’s where I decided to improve and dedicate myself
After listening to his ordeal, you start to really understand the man behind dedication and everything that has led him here and how fitness played an integral role in changing his life for the better and how he wants to change lives.
My transformation Tuesday. . Been through all the stages of body composition and gained knowledge on the way.. from overweight to underweight to healthy athletic not many people have been in all 3 stages. . I know which one I prefer 😄😄.. proud but never satisfied.. still on my path! #fitnesslifestyle #fit #health #functionalfitness #transformation #transformationtuesday #journey #weightloss #dedication #motivation #diet #gym #muscle #athlete #bodybuild #fitness #cut #gains #fitnessgoals #myjourney
Goals, Goals, Goals
20 minutes into our conversation, after discussing his history in the Emirates, business and fitness origin story, we moved on his plans for the future. The ultimate gym. Leon’s always wanted to transform the way gyms are run in Dubai and identify gaps in the market. Having trained for mixed martial arts and kickboxing for a few months, he experienced the fighter’s life and even had a 3 round bout in an amateur fight. The man knows no boundaries when it comes to accomplishing a goal. He’s also a big believer of CrossFit and has recently started training for it and is something he definitely wants to incorporate in his own gym. He feels as though it’s undervalued out here in the U.A.E and too inaccessible for people that want to get involved.
Opening up the ultimate gym and being able to provide and cater to people with all kinds of goals is what I want to bring to Dubai. Bash Fitness will be a fitness centre for everyone from Crossfitters, body builders, combat sport athletes. Giving people advice based on their sport like football is something that I want to share and deliver in my gym.
I asked him about the current state of gyms and personal training in the U.A.E and how it would all compare to him and his future gym:
I believe everyone’s got a gift, whether it’s singing, sports or intelligence, everyone’s got a gift. My gift is that I’d like to say I’m an all-rounder – I can pick up with a sport and I can get it. I’m addicted to learning a technique and that’s what I’ve done with fitness. That’s exactly what I want to do at my gym. I don’t want a body building gym for people who can’t move or get tired when climbing up the stairs. You can bodybuild at my gym, you can just body build, but if you want my advice, I truly believe you should do everything. That’s why I fall a bit into Cross Fit because the person that wins the CrossFit games is crowned the ‘fittest man on earth’. You can’t be just a skinny person or just a body builder. The reputation it has is unfair because of improper form and how expensive it is. The current state of personal training isn’t the best. Lots of trainers are looking for a quick dollar. Not caring about their client’s progress and actually caring about their well-being. Not everyone’s about that, there are some very good trainers but it’s something that really needs to change and it’s something I would like to bring to my gym.
The Story Continues
To conclude this story we spoke about the closest people in his life, the one’s who get him up in every morning. A support system including his friends, family, coach and girlfriend has taken him to the next level. A man with principles close to his heart, the amount of time that Leon invests into his passions and work, it is unbelievable that he finds time for his family and friends. It takes a patient girlfriend to support and compromise his dreams after all they are still together almost 7 years later. The progression of all the individuals he’s coached keeps the passion and motivation alive. Sachi, his mentor and coach has and will always be the one he will always turn to for advice because of his teachings and experience. The man who gave him his first real opportunity to do the things he loved to do for a living. The major scare with his father may have prompted him to really focus on fitness and make changes but it’s his family, friends and most importantly the people that have kept him going. Seeing unfit individuals who want change in their lives, the people who want to become the best version of themselves and improve every aspect of their life is what keeps Leon Basha ticking over.
I want to change. As an expat this is now my home and I feel responsible as a coach, entrepreneur and personal trainer to educate and help people that live in my home.
To keep track of Leon Basha’s journey, his upcoming gym and any personal training/advice then follow his socials here: