Bellator Kickboxing

Ognjen Topic reflects on Saenchai and the ‘mentality of fighting’ for success

Ognjen Topic recently fought Muay Thai legend, Saenchai, last month at Yokkao 22 in Honk Kong and unfortunately, lost by decision. There aren’t many Farangs that are given much of a chance in the minds of Thai boxing fans when matched-up against the +400 fight veteran but then again, Topic is regarded as ‘one of the best technically gifted Thai fighters’ of the current crop (by none other than Damien Trainor who, was coaching at CSA Gym during November).

However, Topic himself was the first to admit that the fight didn’t unfold anywhere as what he would’ve liked or had planned:

“I’m not happy at all about the fight but we’re talking about a guy that’s been doing it for a very long time and he has quite a bit more experience than I do so, I’m trying to stay positive. It’s difficult especially when you’re competitive individual.”

“Before the fight and during the fight I felt great mentally, physically you know. I didn’t look at him as some, some god of Muay Thai. I just looked at him as an opponent and I prepared myself as I always do. I went into the fight with the mentality of winning and even when I was in the fight, you know it was difficult, I still wanted to beat him so, that’s that.”

It’s interesting that Topic mentioned the ‘mentality of fighting’ because not only is it fair to say that fighting is 99% in the mind but so is having the self-belief and aptitude in achieving our life goals and dreams too. Self doubt can really cripple fighters mentality; a good example of this would be the way how pro boxer, Nicholas Walters surrendered after six rounds against Vasyl Lomachenko, over the weekend in Las Vegas. Topic explained what he does away from the gym in his spare time to help him mentally with moving forward in his fighting career.

“Another thing I like to do is sometime if I have some downtime is I go on YouTube and look up documentaries on any businessman. You know I like I’m into cars so I’ll go look up the guy that started the company Koenigsegg, you know an exotic car company or Pagani. So, you kinda just listen to how they talk and how they began these things, their story and their dreams and how everything came to fruition. Then it kinda you know puts things into perspective you can follow this steps as well from other people and then you can learn from them.”

“So it really doesn’t matter what profession it is, you can always take something away from any I guess, elite person, on that high level that has that mentality to be persistent and dedicated to their craft.”

Simon Marcus vs Joe Schilling

Simon Marcus vs Joe Schilling

Muay Thai is one of the oldest forms of fighting and as a professional sport, doesn’t gain the high levels of mainstream media coverage compared to pro boxing. The likes of Joe Schilling and Kevin Ross have both previously voiced the difficulties that they’ve faced in their careers before the emergence of GLORY, Lion Fight, Bellator Kickboxing and Muay Thai Grand Prix in recent years. Even kickboxing has struggled especially since the “Golden era” of the ‘old skool’ K-1 days in Japan.

However the tide would seem to be turning for both Muay Thai and kickboxing especially now that the UFC have, for the first time ever, partnered with another sporting promotion i.e. GLORY Kickboxing to be their PPV online media partner via UFC Fight Pass for streaming, GLORY Collision: Rico Verhoeven vs Badr Hari.

Even UFC colour commentator, Joe Rogan has been voicing his support and love for K1/Thai rules and recently had Kevin Ross, Gaston Bolanos and their coach (CSA Gym owner), Kieran Fitzpatrick on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast which, Topic was delighted about for the long term benefit of the sport.

tsc-ep-39-gaston-bolanos“It was great. I really hope that a lot of people tuned in. Kevin Ross really gave a really good explanation on you know, Muay Thai and the difference between the striking between Muay Thai and MMA and it pretty much how all of us Muay Thai fighters feel you know but we never really have a stage to say that; and I think he kinda opened up Joe Rogan’s eyes as well, you know with clinch and things like that because it doesn’t seem like a lot of those guys understand and know the difference between the two, the two sports. So its great that they were on the show and they were able to kind of give that differentiation.”

 

Enfusion Live champion, Andrew Tate, alleges Joe Schilling has always been ducking him

Andrew Tate will defend his 90kg Enfusion Live world championship in The Hague, Netherlands on December 3, against Enfusion’s current 85kg world champion, Ibrahim El Boustati who, is undefeated in all 44 career fights he has had to-date. Known as “The Beast”, for his aggressive and pressure fighting style, El Boustati has torn through the 85kg division including, a recent decision win (under controversial circumstances) over GLORY kickboxer, Filip Verlinden.

For those who may or may not be aware, Andrew Tate is a four time world champion and initially from a full contact kickboxing background who, made the smooth transition to K1 rules. He was also born in America but emigrated to the UK as a teenager with, his mother and younger brother when their parents’ marriage broke down. It was in England where he began his kickboxing career from scratch under the guidance of his coach, Amir Subasic, developing into a world class fighter.

However, “Cobra Tate” is returning from a lay-off of two years but insists that the lengthy time away from the sport has done him wonders in allowing his body to repair itself from numerous past injuries.

“I’ve had a couple of years off. Im not just a fighter, I have some money to make outside of fighting. I’ve enjoyed the break. It’s good to let all the injuries after 10 years. I’m not coming back to do anything other than defend this belt. I’ve had a lot of time off and I feel like a new man. I’m really looking forward to fighting again.”

Andrew Tate

Andrew Tate v Ibrahim El Boustati – Image: Enfusion Live, Fightsense

Tate is well known for being able to ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’ with some of his past and current rivalries in and out of the ring. He is a kickboxing promotion’s dream of a champion who, isn’t shy of expressing his strong opinions and backing up his promises of knocking out opponents in the ring too.

So, why haven’t GLORY Kickboxing signed him up to fight for them in recent years especially in the USA when taking into account he is an American who, proudly wears the stars and stripes on his fight shorts too?

“I was supposed to fight for GLORY many times. I signed contracts but fights never materialised many times.

That wasn’t all that Tate had to say on the subject of both GLORY and their former middleweight champion who, prior to signing for Bellator Kickboxing, was the public face of GLORY in the US, Joe Schilling; next fighting at Bellator 167 in a kickboxing bout on, December 10 in Italy.

“Joe Schilling’s been avoiding me since forever. I don’t even want to talk about him, he’s just afraid to fight me and he keeps getting knocked out anyway. I would’ve spanked him.” 

“So he knows I would’ve spanked him. He knew he was gonna get sparked that’s why he wouldn’t fight me. Before GLORY existed we were supposed to fight.”

Enfusion was set-up and still run by, Edwin Van Os after he sold his previous promotion, It’s Showtime which, has since been rebranded and relaunched as GLORY Sport International. Enfusion are a Dutch based promotion with a wealth of exciting and very talented young fighters that are not tied into exclusive contracts either, allowing them to fight in other promotions such as Kunlun Fight in China and K-1 in Japan.

“I think that Enfusion have done a really good job in growing organically you know. Getting as big as they can without spunking loads of money. Another thing Enfusion have done really well is they have built their own superstars. You can name some of the big names for Enfusion; they done a really good job with promoting people like [Mohammed] Jaraya and Ibrahim [El Boustati].

After defeating Verlinden at Enfusion Live 41 earlier this year, El Boustati’s next major challenge is to step-up in weight class and take on Tate in what will be a clash of two champions. The match-up will certainly be fascinating to witness since Tate has a fighting style that has caused countless problems for past opponents; with his mastering of distance and countering with powerfully fast and long limbs, from a more bladed stance than you’d expect from kickboxers nowadays.

“He’s done really, really well. He’s never lost. I can’t say anything about the guy. He’s had a very, very successful career; and, I’m very much looking forward to fighting Ibrahim – let’s see why he never loses.”

Enfusion Live 44 can be steamed online from Enfusionlive.com on December 3 and the Striking Corner will keep you updated on the event in due course too.

Episode 39 – Gastón Bolaños

In this episode of The Striking Corner, Vinny and Eric once again bring Muay Thai fighter Gastón Bolaños to the podcast. A native of Perú but now living in San Francisco, Gastón is a star in the US Muay Thai scene and is now looking to take his world class Muay Thai skills to MMA and Kickboxing under the Bellator banner. In this podcast Vinny and Eric talk to Gastón about leading “The Peruvian Takeover” and showcasing the talented fighters that the Peruvian Muay Thai scene has produced and putting them on display for American audiences. Gastón is a down to earth, classy, and just all around good guy whose passion for Muay Thai is without question! We talk about how he wants to use Muay Thai to inspire and motivate those around him, and how in many ways inside the ring he may be “The Dreamkiller” but outside the ring he is looking to make other people’s dreams come true.

Yokkao 19 & 20 – Post event review: ‘Pinca The Conqueror’ humbles Harrison and Watson ‘sherlocks’ Hodge

Fabio Pinca returned to the UK on, October 8 and secured a unanimous decision win over home favourite, Liam Harrison at Yokkao 19. These two legends of western Muay Thai were supposed to fight one another in France over the last 11 years, with Pinca suggesting in his post weigh-in interview that Harrison wasn’t too keen on taking the fight outside of the UK in the past.

The opening round was cagey with both fighters feeling each other out to begin with but from the second round onwards the tempo accelerated and both would increasingly engage one another. Pinca managed to cut Harrison on his left cheek (below the eye) in the third but the ring-craft, speed and tenacity displayed by both men was sensational. However, range control, switch hitting and that left kick of Pinca’s were decisive factors for the decision going against Harrison who, was always threatening with his explosiveness, fast hands and deadly low kicks.

Fabio Pinca vs Liam Harrison

Having previously defeated Reece McAllister at the Tanko Main Event in May (by decision), plus, Charlie Peters on Lion Fight 27 in the USA (at the start of the year) and now Harrison at Yokkao 19, ‘Pinca The Conqueror’ is clearly at the height of his powers. At 65 kg, it isn’t too easy to think of who else could even ask more challenging questions of him.

In his post-fight interview with K1ANOOP, Pinca confirmed he’d signed a multiple fight deal with GLORY Kickboxing and will next fight on the GLORY Collision event headlined by, Badr Hari vs Rico Verhoeven in Germany on, December 10.

Jordan Watson didn’t hesitate to show what his hands could do against Ben Hodge with some lovely body hooks landing throughout the fight. Hodge was under more pressure than Watson but the fight was by no means a one sided affair. Hodge was coming off a recent win over Saiyok Pumphanmuang at Thai Fight London in September, where he demonstrated his technical proficiency and good counterattacking skills on the back step. Something that would have given Watson more problems on the night (had Hodge found his range sooner) in-preparation for Giorgio Petrosyan who, he faces next at the Bellator Kickboxing event on December 10 in Italy.

Jordan Watson v Ben Hodge Yokkao 20

Jordan Watson v Ben Hodge

However, Hodge admitted in his post-fight interview that his emotions got the better of him in the ring – triggered off by the weigh-in drama the day before which, resulted in the fight no longer being a title defence for, Watson’s 70kg Yokkao world championship. Hodge summed up perfectly that both himself and Watson are intelligent fighters with intelligent coaches, so, the fight was always going to be determined by who, was more successful, in applying their tactical approach on the night at Yokkao 20.

Manachai surprisingly bulldozed his way through Panicos Yusuf for five rounds which, certainly came as a shock considering that Panicos is no pushover and can certainly stand his ground. Most of what Panicos tried to pull off on the night didn’t have any real impact on Manachai and it was as if the Thai was at times playfully throwing Panicos around – something I wouldn’t have fought would happen so easily. However, whenever the Thais come to fight in the UK, they always seem extra determined to give the Brits a damn good hiding.

Panicos Yusuf Yokkao 20

Panicos Yusuf vs Manachai

Maybe it wasn’t Panicos’s night and anything that could go wrong for him unfortunately did which, can happen. Or, is Manachai actually a hell of a lot better than the matchmakers had thought he was? Also, Panicos has become a lot more involved in the commercial world of combat sports as one of three directors of Tanko Management – has his commercial ambition taken away some of his hunger to fight like he use to?

Jack Kennedy continues to build even more momentum with his unanimous decision win over the powerfully talented Nathan Bendon. These two top quality fighters fought like a pair of tigers in the ring and the fight was full of entertaining yet technical violence. The bout was even dubbed as ‘fight of the night’ by colour commentator, Vinny Shoreman which, certainly sums ups how stacked the overall fight card was, especially when considering the likes of, Harrison and Pinca were one of two main events.

Bendon started well in the first couple of rounds but as the fight eventually went the distance, Kennedy was more efficient with his overall Thai boxing and seemed to frustrate Bendon. The future is very bright for both fighters, especially for Kennedy who, had recently won a 4-man Super Muay Thai tournament in Thailand prior to Yokkao 19 & 20.

Steven Long tremendously turned around his fight against Daniel Jedrzejezski after being cut in the outer corner of his right eye, in a terrible opening round for Long. However from the second round onwards it was all bout Long’s effective clinch-knee entry to pressure and eventually dominate Jedrzejezski.

By the end of the third round, Long’s clinching was proving too difficult for Jedrzejezski to deal with who, found himself on the end of another knee to the body that dropped him to the canvas. After surviving the count, he would find himself on the end of yet another knee but was fortunately saved by the bell as he buckled in discomfort. However, when the fourth round started it didn’t take long for Long to land another knee to Jedrzejezski’s body and the fight was over.

Overall, Yokkao 19 & 20 was without a doubt the best Muay Thai event of the year so far to be hosted in the UK, with exceptionally talented fighters showcasing their skill on both fight cards. Also, Harrison is reportedly set to return to action next month with further details to follow in due course.

As for the UK, if it hasn’t already established itself as a very strong nation for both Muay Thai (and K1 rules) yet to the rest of the world then apart from mainstream media coverage for the casual fans to take note, Thai boxing purists and global promotions can no longer ignore the UK scene; fast emerging as a global leader in the sport.

Yokkao 19 – Results:

Fabio Pinca def. Liam Harrison via UD, -65kg

Chris Shaw def. Jersey Pinto via UD, fight set at 73kg

Charles Sikwa def, Darren Howieson by UD, -86kg

Adi Woods def. Owen Trykowski via UD, -72.5kg

Steven Long def. Daniel Jedrzejewski by KO, Rd4, -69kg

Yokkao 20 – Results:

Jordan Watson def. Ben Hodge via UD, -70kg

Manachai def. Panicos Yusuf via UD, -63kg

Jake Purdy def. Brad Stanton via MD, fight set at 69kg

Amy Pirnie def. Ludivine Lesnier via TKO, Rd2, -50kg

Jack Kennedy def Nathan Bendon via UD, -65kg

Myk Estlick def. Carlos Campos via UD, -61.5kg

Jordan Watson and Ben Hodge breakdown their explosive clash at Yokkao 20

Jordan Watson vs Ben Hodge headlined Yokkao 20 on October 8, at the Bolton Macron Stadium, UK. Watson would be victorious by unanimous decision but the build-up to this huge domestic clash was not without controversy.

This bout was supposed to be a title defence for Watson and his 70kg Yokkao world championship but on the day of the weigh-ins, Hodge was 0.3kg overweight when a two hour extension had passed prompting the Yokkao officials to decide that it would no longer be a title fight. This decision had left Hodge fuming in the stadium’s hotel sauna when he was informed by his coach, John Jarvis.

Although Hodge would remain diplomatic outside of the ring come fight day. Once in the ring with Watson in-front of him, the two would not only throw each other out of the ring but also exchange plenty of verbals with one another too. This fight already had a ‘North vs South’ sporting rivalry in the mix and the overnight weigh-in drama lit a very combustable fuse for the fight to explode.

In the joint post-fight interview (below) Hodge conceded that his emotions did get the better of him when fighting Watson. Considering the gruelling weight cut (Hodge had dropped to a lower weight class than usual) compounded with being denied a title shot the night before, its no real surprise that any fighter’s mindset wouldn’t be effected.

Both fighters made peace and shook hands afterwards in the changing rooms with, Anoop Hothi interviewing them both together about tensions boiling over in the ring and their tactical approaches in outwitting one another. Hodge also gave his opinion on how he feels Watson would do against the defensive Thai boxing genius, Giorgio Petrosyan, on the upcoming Bellator Kickboxing show on, December 10 in Italy.

Episode 34 – Kevin Ross

In this episode we speak with none other than “The Soul Assassin” & “El Presidente” Kevin Ross! He is a man that needs no introduction. A true American Muay Thai Legend, Kevin Ross has faced the best of the best, and win, lose, or draw always brings an exciting fight. He is a fan favorite for reasons that go beyond fighting. He is simply an passionate, inspirational athlete. In this episode we discuss the Lion Fight controversy surrounding Tiffany Van Soest, his recent WMC Intercontinental win over Leandro Duarte, his recent signing for Bellator Kickboxing, the pressure of being considered “America’s Best Muay Thai Fighter”, and much. much, more! Enjoy!