Some of the baddest dudes in the world are not theses big, juiced-up, muscle-bound clowns people see hanging out the local gyms or driving the big lifted trucks. In reality, most of them, especially ones that don’t train, would get rolled up by a 125-pound pro boxer or a computer programmer who also has a black belt in jiu-jitsu. It is true that not all heroes wear capes. It is also true that not all badasses wear barbed wire tattoos and mohawks.
Speaking to one of the world’s greatest combat athletes over the phone, nobody would ever know that Surinamese-Dutch kickboxing champion Regian Eersel even does what he does for a living. He is a soft-spoken, unassuming father of two daughters. He and his girlfriend are raising their young family in the Netherlands, where his family moved from Suriname 25 years ago. When he was a kid, he wasn’t even planning on being one of the best fighters in the world as his future profession.
“When I was eight years old, I started with Taekwondo,” Eersel told Combat Press. “I did a couple fights – or, let me say, ‘tournaments,’ because you fight more than once in one night. I really liked that. After Taekwondo, I started with rugby. I even got selected by the Dutch junior national team. But, because I didn’t do good on school – my grades went very bad, and my parents said, ‘You have to go off of rugby and focus on your school.’ So, I did and my grades went up, and, then, they said, ‘Okay, you can go back on rugby or choose another sport.’ Because I always watched the K-1 [kickboxing] shows on television, I thought I might try that because I always watched it.
“I saw legendary fighters fight inside the ring in front of thousands of people in Japan, and I was thinking like, ‘Hey, maybe I want to do that also,’ – you know, traveling the world and fighting in front of thousands of people – and get paid, of course. I already had a fighting background, so I just started with kickboxing, and I fell in love with it. It is the same like when you fall in love with a woman, you know? It’s the same thing, and I just fell in love with the sport. I still love it, and that’s why I’m a fighter.”
Eersel began his training at Sityodtong Amsterdam when he was a teenager, and that is still where he trains today. Now 29 years old, he has been fighting professionally since Nov. 2013, and his combined kickboxing and Muay Thai record is 58-4 with a whopping 26 knockouts. He has fought on four continents, has held and defended titles in both Lion Fight and ONE Championship, and is the current reigning ONE lightweight kickboxing champion. The native of South America has not lost a fight since Mar. 2016.
“I think I’m so successful because of the way I train and the way I think,” Eersel said. “Like, mentally, I’m a very strong fighter. The way I train is not the standard kickboxing style. I describe my style as aggressive and unorthodox. I can punch from any angle in any situation, you know? And, I kick like that also. I don’t have a standard pattern. It’s hard to read that, I think. When you fight, you have a standard pattern. I don’t have, like, a standard pattern. Mentally, I’m a very strong fighter. You can see it in my last fight also. I got an eight-count in the second round, and I got up and put the gas pedal fully down. I don’t like losing, and, if I’m training good, I’m a problem.”
Eersel won the ONE title in May 2019, when he bested fellow Dutch champion Nieky Holzken. Holzken, the long reigning GLORY Kickboxing middleweight champ, was on a two-fight winning streak since entering ONE, and the clash was a long time coming. Eersel won the rematch with Holzken only five months later, and since then, has defended his belt three times against Mustapha Haida, Islam Murtazaev, and, most recently, Arian Sadikovic last April. While another title defense seemed imminent, a new opportunity was presented.
ONE Championship has both kickboxing and Muay Thai divisions, covering all of the major weight classes. It was announced earlier this year that they would finally be crowning an inaugural ONE lightweight Muay Thai champion. Tomorrow night, live at ONE on Prime Video 3, Eersel will be challenging the Thai fighter Sinsamut Klinmee for the inaugural strap. Eersel, a former Lion Fight champion, welcomes the opportunity.
“I was grateful,” said Eersel. “This is a new opportunity for me, a new challenge. I like challenges. In life it’s also a challenge, and, if you don’t have a challenge, you don’t live, in my opinion. I was grateful and excited to fight for a Muay Thai world title.
“When they said the opponent was Sinsamut, I was even more excited. He’s a breakout star. He knocked out his last two opponents. That’s good for him, but it’s also a challenge for me. It keeps me sharp, and I have to be sharp in this fight, and it’s only good for me. You know, for me, the better the opponent is, the better I am.”
Sinsamut is the younger brother of Sudsakorn Sor Kilnmee, who is one of the most famous and most active Thai kickboxers in history. The younger sibling entered the ONE Circle for the first time in Mar. 2022, and knocked out Holzken in the second round. Four months later, he knocked out Liam Nolan, also in the second round, which led to his upcoming title clash with Eersel. The Dutch kickboxer is ready to win a second crown, and continue his dominance across both sports.
“If I win this world title, I’m planning to defend both titles, of course,” Eersel elaborated. “I think the kickboxing lightweight division in ONE Championship has a good future. ONE Championship does their best to find very good fighters. You can see it in my last two fights. I fought the Russian guy, Islam. I fought Arian. I think, in the future, they will find more fighters like that. I think, in a couple of years, the division will be stacked. I’m very excited about it.”
Eersel has had an amazing career thus far. Tomorrow night, he has the opportunity to add another belt to his mantle, and that would be a long way to come for a kid that once dropped out of rugby to better his grades. His parents may not have been super happy about his choice to pursue a kickboxing career, but they have since come around.
“In the beginning, they were skeptics,” said Eersel. “But, when you book success after success – you know, winning some time titles and they see you earn money with it – they are now very happy for me, and they support me a lot. I finished my school when I was 19 years old, and then the focus was on kickboxing. So, my parents were a little skeptical, because they say you have to go to school – you know, get a paper and then get a job – and, I was like no. I want to do kickboxing. But, now, you know, when you chase your dream, you will get there. I live my dream now.”
Eersel has a big test ahead as he drops down to the smaller gloves to take on his younger Thai adversary. However the fight ends, he does not see it going to the judges’ scorecards. He predicts one of the two getting knocked out, and he, obviously, plans on it being the other guy.
“First of all, I’m going to write history,” Eersel explained. “If I win this fight, I am the two-sport world champion of ONE Championship in the lightweight division. Second of all, my style is very aggressive. I only go forward, and I fight now with four-ounce gloves, in Muay Thai, with elbows and clinching. And, I’m fighting a Thai guy. The Thai guy is also a very good fighter. It will be a clash, and you are only going to see violence. That’s what people want to see.”
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