Rabat – Mehdi Kabbadj, 26, became the first Moroccan bodybuilder to secure a Pro Card in the IFBB’s Men’s Physique division on August 31.
In order to get an International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness (IFBB) professional card, a bodybuilder must win a regional contest in a specific division that will qualify him to compete at the national level. Competitions at the national level award one Pro Card to the bodybuilder who wins the “overall.”
Before he became a professional bodybuilder, Mehdi Kabbadj was an undergraduate computer science student.
In pursuit of a better life and more opportunities, the ambitious young bodybuilder moved to the US seven years ago as an international student. At the time, he was not a bodybuilder, and he focused entirely on academic success, earning an associate’s degree in computer science.
How bodybuilding changed Kabbadj’s vision in life
Kabbadj told Morocco World News that when he first started bodybuilding he was just like any other beginner who wants to improve his shape to look good and feel better. He did not count his calorie intake or follow a nutrition program. For him, going to the gym was just as an outlet to de-stress.
With time, Kabbadj’s love for the bodybuilding world grew to the point that he could not imagine his life without it.
Kabbadj told MWN, “I fell in love with the results, and the more effort I put into bodybuilding the more results I was able to see.”
He added, “The more I got into the fitness industry the more I wanted to learn, I started picking up books related to anatomy, physiology, nutrition, biomechanics and such, which allowed me to speed up the process of reaching better results in a short period of time.”
Kabbadj switched from eating three times a day to eating seven times a day. He weighed every meal to perfection. By experimenting with various diets, the athlete learned how his body reacted with each one of them.
Kabbadj said his goal, besides being a prominent athlete, is to create a legacy. He described himself not only as a competitive person who always strives to improve, but as one who wants to impact others positively.
Kabbadj’s competition journey
Kabbadj started his competition journey about three years ago, when he first stood on a bodybuilding stage.
Last year, Kabbadj performed exceptionally at the regional level. He won four first places and one overall win in California. Each win qualified him to compete at the national level.
“It is hard for internationals or green card holders to find shows in the United States that will allow them to compete at the national level, as there are rules to which shows they can do,” he said.
Kabbadj’s performance at the regional level was outstanding, but he did not feel ready to move up to the nationals. So he took time off to work on his weaknesses and to improve his strengths so that he could be “undeniable” at the national level.
After seven months of off-season, during which he lifted heavy weights and ate “clean food” in order to gain weight and put on more muscle, Kabbadj decided to requalify at a regional show in his area.
At the regional competition, Kabbadj won the overall in the men’s physique division.
The Men’s Physique division was first introduced in 2012. It differs from regular bodybuilding as competitors wear knee-length shorts and have a “moderate muscular body” of 5 percent body fat. Judges focus on the harmonized structure of the abdominal muscles, chest, shoulders, arms, back, and calves.
Soon after Kabbadj won the regional show, promoters invited him to compete at IFBB’s World Regional Championships in Singapore on July 31.
The show allowed 20 countries from all over the world to enter with their athletes and overall winners, with only one IFBB Pro Card to be awarded per division.
Kabbadj successfully passed the first phase in the morning, which qualified him to battle for the overall win in the night show. Of course, only one winner in the Men’s Physique division would take the golden Pro Card home.
Later that night, he lost his opportunity by one point.
“It was very tough for me to swallow or accept. I came back to the United States with no clue what would be next,” said Kabbadj.
A few days later, he decided to challenge himself and try again to earn the Pro Card. A competitor can only do 2 or 3 shows before giving the body time to rest and a break from the caloric deficit.
The 2018 NPC North American Championship on August 31 was the next competition that allowed citizens, internationals, and green card holders to compete for the IFBB Pro Card. With only three weeks to prepare, Kabbadj refocused, doing everything he could with 100 percent effort to improve upon his last show.
It was not an easy task since Kabbadj was already at one of his best looks.
“Fast forward to last Friday, battling again for the professional status, I was able to get a job done, not only that I was able to win the overall 2018 NPC North American Championships, but become an IFBB professional, and also the first Moroccan men’s physique professional athlete in the world,” Kabbadj told MWN.
Kabbadj said his next move is to compete in Schwarzenegger’s famous “Arnold Classic,” a competition that gathers the best athletes worldwide from various divisions, including bodybuilding, men’s physique, weightlifting, powerlifting, and bikini.
Kabbadj urged Moroccan amateur bodybuilders to expand their knowledge, to be serious about bodybuilding, and to consider it a job—not just a hobby—in order to gain success.
“It is not just about going to the gym, it is one of the most complicated and tough sports. You have to develop the tools that will allow you to not waste time doing the wrong things,” said Kabbadj.
He concluded, “The more you invest into the knowledge the faster you will have positive results.”