Aussie UFC breakout star’s fight for survival
Nadia Kassem, not so long ago, weighed 42kg.
"Rock bottom," she says.
Which made no sense.
Understanding that only a month out from Christmas, 2017, this gutsy, Wentworthville slugger had not only made her UFC debut in Sydney, but won - defeating fellow Australian Alex Chambers via unanimous decision.
Yet on the eve of that fight, Kassem hit the scales heavy.
Supposed to weigh under the strawweight limit of 52.6kg, she instead came in two kilos over.
"And the stuff Nadia copped on social media afterwards," her trainer Suman Mokhtarian recalls, "UFC fans calling her a fat slut, calling her all sorts of shit … people have no idea the impact that can have."
Indeed, within weeks of the win Kassem had dropped almost 10 kilos.
The social media barrage proving a tipping point for issues running far deeper.
"I've battled depression for 12 years," Kassem told The Daily Telegraph on the eve of her showdown at UFC 234 with American Montana De La Rosa.
"And because I've never considered myself a weak person, it's often been difficult to accept, that you have a problem and need to deal with it."
But still, she has.
In the 14 months since that successful, albeit controversial, UFC debut, Kassem has sorted professional help, sorted depression medication and sorted a move up to flyweight - meaning she will enter Rod Laver Arena this Sunday almost 18kg heavier than at that personal breaking point.
"And I feel it's an important issue for me to talk about now," Kassem continues.
"Not only the fact that I've had a medical lay-off, but that I'm seeing a number of specialists because I understand this will always be an ongoing thing for me.
"Overall though, I'm just happy that, at age 23, I've been able to identify the problem and deal with it. I've done something before things spiralled out of control."
Elsewhere, Kassem also revealed she had required wrist surgery during her extended break after falling off a child's bike - "it didn't even have peddles but I tried to do a wheelie" - and was gunning to once again finish this Sunday with a trademark KO.
Before arriving in the UFC, the 170cm puncher won all four bouts on the local scene via first round knockout.
"And after going through all three rounds with Alex, I thought 'I can't be doing this again'," she laughed.
"Not because there were problems with the gas tank, I was fine.
"But I'm in this to be an entertainer.
"Growing up, I was a big fan of wrestling. Of the WWE.
"So every time I go out there into the Octagon now I want to put on a show."