In a recent virtual face-to-face press conference, the men involved in the 4 upcoming ONE Championship title fights revealed to Verdict MMA media who most influenced them as martial artists. The conference featured fighters such as John Lineker, Kade Ruotolo, Zhang Peimian, and more. Let's hear what they had to say:
When asked who, the Bantamweight champion answered Brazilian legends Acelino 'Popo' Freitas and Wanderlei Silva. Freitas is a Brazilian boxing icon who won titles including the WBO Junior Lightweight and the unified WBA Super Featherweight championship. With a record of 41-2, Freitas enjoyed a lengthy career spanning from 1995-2017. In that time, he had fought with over 91 million Brazilians watching.
Wanderlei Silva is a much more recognizable name in the MMA Community. He held the Pride Middleweight (then 205 lbs) championship and challenged the Grand Prix at Light Heavyweight (then 265 lbs). His aggressive style and knockout ability made him a fan-favorite instantly with wins over Rampage Jackson, Michael Bisping, and Dan Henderson. 'The Axe Murderer' was a true pioneer of MMA in the early 2000s and the sport would not be what it is today without him.
Upcoming title challenger Fabricio Andrade chose an answer that matches his outward bravado and trash talk, Conor McGregor. McGregor popularized MMA to a new level with his masterful skills on the mic and his ability to back it up in the octagon. He set the record for the fastest title-fight knockout when he ended Jose Aldo's decade-long unbeaten streak in just 13 seconds after the two had built up bad blood for months. He then became the 1st ever fighter to hold 2 UFC titles simultaneously when he defeated Eddie Alvarez similarly by knockout at UFC 205.
ADCC champion Kade Ruotolo chose a very meaningful answer, Nate Diaz. "I think the first one that sticks out is Nate Diaz, for a specific reason. He's been in the sport since I can remember watching MMA events or even Jiu Jitsu events and for him to be at the top pretty much his entire career and doing it naturally, I think it's an amazing thing. It's not something that the general population knows, (the amount of) athletes out there abusing supplements and steroids and things like that. To see Nate Diaz competing at the highest levels. . . and doing it naturally it's very inspiring. It's the same boat my brother and I are in right now in a world of Jiu Jitsu where everyone is on steroids it feels like." - Kade Ruotolo on Nate Diaz
Title challenger Sinsamut Klinmee offered his thoughts on the matter and chose family above all. "My family. We help each other. My dad was a fighter, they are all champions, all of my family. They set an example, and that's the way that I would like to follow. It's a motivation for me to head forward and want to be the champion." - Sinsamut Klinmee on his family and their influence on him
Ahead of his title fight, Zhang credited Buakaw Banchamek as his biggest influence. Buakaw is widely regarded as one of the greatest Kickboxing and Muay Thai fighters in history. He pioneered Muay Thai to the mainstream audience in the West and amassed over 275 fights. His consistent schedule and entertaining fighting style brought new eyes to the sport until even the average martial arts fan knew who he was. He still competes to this day and has recently signed a new deal with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
"My father. He started me out as a little kid. At 2 years old I started training, so I've been in his footsteps since I was a little kid. Also a lot of boxers and kickboxers like Nieky Holzken, I've been watching since I was a little kid. I would say all of them." - Jonathan Di Bella on his father being his biggest influence. He chose the man who helped him begin his journey as a martial artist and inspired him to push to his ONE debut and title fight at.