As ONE Championship continues its prime-time broadcast on Amazon Prime, decorated champion Reinier de Ridder puts his title on the line as he faces Anatoly Malykhin. We spoke to him ahead of the event, which takes place on Friday, December 2nd in Manila.
Reinier de Ridder began training in Judo at the age of 5. His parents signed him into a Dojo, where he trained until he was around 16. Other things came in the way, “girls, partying, and stuff for a couple of years.” Following a relocation, he signed up to a new Judo club at the age of 18 or 19, but couldn’t find one. Instead, he joined a BJJ club and after one class he thought “this doesn’t work.” Training with some beginners while he had his Judo background, he beat them all. “I thought ‘this jiu-jitsu stuff is bullshit! I’ll try something else.” So he moved on to rugby, but that wasn’t for him either.
[Fighting] does something on an emotional level to everyone out there: some people look away, some are drawn to it, but fighting never leaves you bored.
Eventually, someone told him to try another BJJ gym. Never mind the one he had tried before, that was the wrong club. He was pointed in a new right direction, tried the gym, and realised he was being beaten by much smaller practitioners. He fell in love with the game, and the rest – as they say – is history.
THE ALLURE OF COMBAT
Having chosen to step back into a martial arts setting after having taken a break, I ask him why he thinks we are drawn to combat sports. “It’s a very interesting question. I think it is something primordial, very primal in our minds and bodies. It’s a part of what we are made to do. It does something on an emotional level to everyone out there: some people look away, some are drawn to it, but fighting never leaves you bored.”
Amongst those who have excelled in the world of martial arts we often find the Dutch. I ask Reinier if he has any thoughts on that, and he sees an apparent paradox: there isn’t much media attention given to the sport, and there is no strong Government support for the sport. Yet, they do so well in competitions. “Maybe it’s because we were some of the first in K1 and Pride. We have a good base in the sport, but I’m not sure. It’s not because we are naturally bigger people, and it’s not just ethnically Dutch fighters, but also the Moroccans, the Turks, and everyone in Holland who fights well. I guess we’re just good at this stuff!”
THE ROLE OF JUDO IN MMA
As a trained Judoka, we turn to discuss the role of Judo in MMA. How good is it as a base in MMA? “I think it is very important in providing balance, strength, and hip strength. The way we stand as Judokas, our base is very different from guys who come in from kickboxing in MMA. On a technical level, it’s like every other sport that brings you into MMA: if you are able to adjust it accordingly, you will be very successful with it. There’s a lot of stuff in Judo that just doesn’t work for MMA. But there is a lot of good stuff in there as well, and it all depends on how well you are able to mould it into your MMA game. Almost all the takedowns I do – to this day – have some Judo flavour to them. I like trips, I like throws, and I think those are very useful because they are less high energy than a big double.”
Zooming in on the forthcoming bout, Reinier faces Anatoly Malykhin who is stepping down a weight class to challenge the incumbent. How does Reinier feel about that and how does he prepare for eventual challenges? “He’s dangerous. He knocks people out. He is short, strong, explosive and on a good run. He is very confident, but he is nothing special. Everybody has power. Everybody is explosive nowadays. They all think they will knock me out. It’s more of the same.”
There’s a lot of stuff in Judo that just doesn’t work for MMA. But there is a lot of good stuff in there as well, and it all depends on how well you are able to mould it into your MMA game.
Does this mean Reinier enters with a special game plan or is it the same? “It’s always the same: I hit him with some good stuff, take him down, and choke him out.” Simple! The prediction is clear, but Reinier thinks the first few minutes of the fight will be explosive. “He likes to push the pace as I do, he likes to come forward and put some pressure. So you will see two guys battling it out from the first few seconds. I think in those early exchanges the fight will be dictated, so the first minutes are most important in this one. I see myself finishing him at the end of the first.”
Reinier adds that Malykhin will likely want to keep the fight standing. “He has some wrestling, in his first few pro fights he showed some wrestling, but he is mostly a boxer. I haven’t seen him very active on the ground. Once he gets people down he just stays in the guards and tries to ground and pound from there, but I haven’t seen him on his back. I don’t expect much from him when he is on his back.”
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