Me and my Philippines: mixed martial arts fighter Ali Khatibi

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter on life with actress Cristine Reyes, scaling Mt. Pulag, and his favorite places to hang out

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter Ali Kathibi. Photo by Daniel Soriano
Now that I have a new baby, my day typically starts at around 5:30am or 6am, depending on what time my daughter Amarah wakes up. I try to take her outdoors whenever I could to get some sun. 

My days tend to be busy. My fiance (actress Cristine Reyes, mother of daughter Amarah) and I are building a house in Portofino right now so I always go to the site to oversee construction. I also juggle my time running my businesses— a used car business, a hog farm in Batangas, and Elorde Fight Factory, which I partly own, a mixed martial arts center in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. I teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu every Monday at Elorde and  teach the sport at Domuschola International School. Evenings are for training.

I spend most of my free time now at home with Cristine and Amarah. On rare occassions when I'm able to go out, I go to The Pool Club and Valkyrie, both part of the giant clubbing complex, The Palace. I think the two are some of the coolest clubs these days.

Kathibi with his fiance, actress Cristine Reyes

I plan to compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu this September at the Asian Open in Nagoya, Japan. I also plan to compete next year in the US. I go to Elorde Fight Factory and to to BAMF Mixed Martial Arts Center in Paranaque to train under head coach Alvin Aguilar.

Kathibi training at BAMF. Photo by Daniel Soriano
The highlight of my career as a fighter was when I won the Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC) for mixed martial arts in the featherweight division back in 2008.

Kathibi in the thick of training. Photo by Daniel Soriano

I miss motocross racing. I don’t get to do it as often as I'd like to. I don’t have time and Cristine won’t let me. I used to motocross race once a week, or twice if I wasn’t too busy. There are several motocross race tracks close by where I love going — one in Bicutan, one in Taytay, Rizal, and one in Molinao, Cavite.

My love for racing perhaps started when I was 13. I would sneak out of the house and join drag races. Later on this love for racing led to off-road motorcycle racing.

Anyone can motocross on any race track whether you’re a beginner or a professional. If you’re interested to get started, contact motocross veteran Glenn Aguilar.

I have a new KTM KXF 250cc bike, a 2013 model. It’s an Austrian bike brand, and a good one. Most bikers prefer Japanese brands though. I wear the proper gear, of course. For helmet, I use Suomy helmet, and Oakley goggles.

One of my favorite trails is the Taytay route that takes you all the way to Laguna, passing by the Sierra Madre mountain ranges. It has lots of twists and turns. Pretty exciting. The best part is when you go on a Sunday and get to traverse this trail along with other groups of bikers.

I’ve been to Lanao del Norte, the motocross capital of the Philippines. First of all, Lanao del Norte is beautiful. It has its own oval, its own stadium, with a very good race track at the Mindanao Civic Center Sports Complex in Tubod. Professional bikers go there to race and hold exhibitions.

Another beautiful motocross destination I’ve been to is Quirino in Isabela. They’ve made a track through the mountains. It’s very rough and rugged. Here you can do steep jumps so it’s pretty exciting. Actually there are two tracks in Quirino. One oval is right in the middle of the mountain, which is surrounded by a trail.

I’m more of a dirt and mountain type of person but I also love going to the beach. I ride a big bike to go to scenic places like Baguio, La Union, Subic. I’ve been all over.

Kathibi and friends trek Mt. Pulag...

...and reach the summit!

My most memorable travel was perhaps my trip to Mt. Pulag in 2014. It was a tough, and very intense two-day climb, but the view from the top was breathtaking. On the first day, we trekked for four hours, passing by a freshwater stream. On the second day, we trekked for eight hours all the way up to the summit. We camped for the night. It was wild camping so there were no toilets and you had to do your business in the woods.

My top three favorite beach destinations would be Boracay, Palawan, and Punta Fuego in Batangas.

I like Boracay for its water activities like fly fishing, jet skiing, parasailing; and the nightlife. My favorite bar is Epic where you’ll find a lot of Manilans hanging out. My favorite restaurant there is True Food for good food and ambience. I love their curry dishes. When on the island, I stay either at Boracay Coco Huts in Station 2, a charming mid-range beachfront resort, or at White House, a beachfront resort in Station 1.

Palawan is beautiful, with a very well-preserved environment. The waters are crystal clear, perfect for snorkeling. One of my memorable experiences there was riding a boat across a river and through a cave inhabited by bats. It was pretty cool.

Lower Beach, Punta Fuego

I love going to Punta Fuego for its beach and water sports, and it's just a short drive away from Manila. I usually go there with friends. 

Fort Ilocandia in Ilocos

One of my favorite hotels is Fort Ilocandia in Ilocos. It has a big garden and an old-world feel.

I’m a fan of historic and cultural tours so I had a great time touring Ilocos. Vigan was great. Corregidor in Bataan is also a nice place to tour for a bit of history.

I’m half Iranian but I haven’t been to Iran. I wish to be able to go there some day.

My Dad takes us to this wonderful restaurant in Malate called Shawarma Grill (+632/ 523 0695). They serve Arabic food. I love their grilled lamb.

If you want to just sit back, relax, and listen to good music, go to 12 Monkeys at Century City Mall in Makati. My good friend, musician Champ Lui Pio, is one of the owners. The likes of Parokya Ni Edgar and Urbandub play there on weekdays. On some nights, there’s jazz. It’s a venue that sets the stage for all kinds of musicians and music. On weekends, the place becomes more of a hip hop, dance-the-night-kind of place. And the food is good. Try their Midnight in Pares [the restaurant’s version of pares, a Filipino beef dish paired with steamed rice] and Spam Fries [a Spam-based appetizer cooked tempura-style].

When I travel, I pack sandos (singlets or sleeveless shirts), white shirts, shorts, boardshorts, slippers, and only my iPhone as gadget.

About Ali

Ali Khatibi is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter with a purple belt in Brazilia Jiu Jitsu. He is a former featherweight division champion of the Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC). 

Interview by Monica De Leon

Originally published in InFlight Traveller January to March 2015. Updated August 2015